For some of us, childhood came with the blessing of having grandma singing us to sleep with one or two soothing tunes in Teochew. But even if you were not so fortunate, you'd probably still have come across on social media an all-time favourite Teochew lullaby "Ong ah ong, ong kin kong" (唪啊唪 唪金公).
You have not? Don't worry, there are several versions circulating on YouTube to make sure you don't miss out...
Before everything else, of course there is the "old grandma" edition:
Here's a "live demo" in a video uploaded by YouTube user "lim daphne":
Might not clinch a Grammy nomination, but it comes with that familiar voice that brings back the memories and always warms the heart.
And then there's the "kiddo" version produced by a popular lunchtime radio show in Swatow "汕头快乐123". It is performed by children from local kindergartens.
For those of us who are slightly older, it is difficult not to fall in love with this cover by Chinese singer Xiaoyu (小鱼)．
You'd probably notice by now that the lyrics in the videos are not exactly the same. That's because every family remembered the song differently. Suffice to say the "correct" version is the one that means most to you, but what do the words say?
Here's our translation for a common version we know:
Rock oh rock, rock my golden master
Golden master grow to become "lao ya" (expression for a man of stature)
Ah Boon and Ah Bu (i.e. man-servants) will help you wear your high boots (sign of a high-ranked imperial official)
Wearing boots lifted high
The pig you feed will be bigger than a cow
Your cow will produce a mare
Your mare will produce pearls (representing continuously growing wealth)
The pearls are as shiny as round
Ah Siah (expression for a rich man's son) studies for the imperial scholar exams
The exams are over, Ah Siah receives the "Tam Hua" title (the third highest awarded in the entire country)
He left with a boy-servant carrying his luggage
He returns with lanterns lighted and flags flying in his honour
The origin of the lullaby is most likely from the Song ((960–1279) or Ming dynasty (1368-1644) periods, when the Teochew region produced an above-average number of scholars who succeeded in the Chinese civil service examinations and became officials of the imperial court. These positions were high coveted as they brought privileges, and opportunities for wealth, and they usually lifted not just the fortunes of the title holder, but his entire household and even lineage.
Now that's high aspirations for a babe in the cradle.