Monday, February 25, 2008

The Lion City, Part Two

Warning: the contents of this post may cause fits in people with quiet tastes. I've built up an immunity to the garishness over the years, but you, dear reader, may only be able to handle these pictures for a few seconds at a time.

Let's ease into it gently, shall we?

An artist from China painting a picture in real time. The style reminded me of those propaganda posters from the 70s.

Lion make glory for illustrious leader!

This is ba gua: marinated, roasted, flattened meat. Juicier than jerky, it's one of my favourite foods, but I can't find any of the good stuff in Perth. So I settle for gorging myself whenever I visit Singapore.

Oh sweet, juicy, meaty goodness! If I had to order my last meal on Earth, this would be it.

Chinatown is full of places where you can buy lucky decorations.

It was a little ... disquieting to see so many anthropomorphic mice in the same place at the same time.

Caution: eye-searing begins here.

This is the inside of a little shop that was selling good luck charms and decorations for Chinese New Year.


And here's another one.

Eyes ... starting to ... water.

These little figurines of lion dancers are great! (Note more rats/mice in the background.)

But not as awesome as these ones. Flick a switch and you've got your own tiny dancer! Whee!

You'll often see the word for luck, fu, turned upside down.

This is because the sentence, fu dao le, "luck turned upside down", is a pun. It sounds like, "luck has arrived".

A large proportion of the Singaporean population is Buddhist, and many offerings are made to old gods, new gods, and ancestral spirits for health, prosperity (gold), and good fortune (gold, please).

Some offerings are made of paper or incense, and burned in these metal containers.

You'll see a lot of these outside people's houses and flats during Chinese New Year and Hungry Ghost Month.

Other popular offerings are sweets and cakes, so that the deities who report back to Heaven have sweet tongues and only good news to report. ("I think we should send them some ... gold.")

I like to eat these too. They're quite yummy. Basically they're brown sugar cakes that have been steamed. These cakes aren't auspicious unless they've "opened up" fully in the cooking process. Because then they're smiling up at Buddha. Of course.

Fresh and silk flowers are bought by the armload for worshippers to put in front of altars.

This bouquet of flowers looked as big as the guy who was carrying them!

Gourds (a symbol of longevity) and bright pumpkins (more gold) with cheerful red stickers on them are also offered up.

As are these oddly shaped fruit.

Why does this fruit remind me of deformed jelly babies? Urgh. Oh yes, and they're gold.

Ornamental pineapples are grown en masse for this holiday. Pineapples are called ong lai in dialect, which sounds like "the king comes". Also, they have a royal crown, see?

Auspicious looks and auspicious words for an auspicious occasion.

The fruit on the right is a pomelo; they're like giant grapefruit but without the tartness. Very refreshing!

This is the year of the Rat, so, naturally, lucky (gold) effigies of rats, big and small, were everywhere. Actually, most of these rats look like mice, perhaps because they're cuter and a have better PR than rats?

Good grief these were shiny. But they only cost a dollar each!

How cute are we? Buy us, buu-uuy uuuusss ...

The first giant rat I saw.

These giant statues are such a hoot. I can't wait for the year of the Cow.

And imagine what the statues for the year of the Snake and the year of the Dog will look like!

May I recommend a good orthodontist? (Also, I think he's sitting in a giant pineapple-half.)

Everything is marketed towards bringing you prosperity (gold), although I'm sure some products were a little tongue-in-cheek.

I think McDonald's had a "prosperity burger" as well, with special "prosperity sauce". But I didn't think to take a picture of it at the time. Also, the "prosperity sauce" looked a little suss.


Anonymous said...

My god ba gua is delicious. If I didn't react Very Badly to fatty food I would have eaten a bucket load when I was over there. It's like bacon only better.

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I kept thinking "Huh, I never noticed how much chinese new year stuff is disney themed" without making the "Year of the rat" connection until your post *is smart*

(Sophie, too lazy to log in)

an9ie said...

Funnily enough, Bee Cheng Hiang (the largest purveyors of ba gua in S'pore) have introduced a new gourmet range which looks just like bacon. Ha!

It wasn't selling very well, though. I still prefer the traditional stuff. There were a lot of Mickey Mouse meets Chinese New Year themes too.

Blandwagon said...

Ironically enough if you bought your house at a low price thanks to the unlucky street number, didn't buy any lucky gew-gaws, stayed away from overpriced lucky fruit and kept your offerings to the prosperity gods for yourself, you'd probably end up with a lot more money than everyone else.

Anonymous said...

A very entertaining post so I had to leave a comment. Then I read Blandwagon's comment - must admit I have thought that myself. Just like there would be a lot fewer, (almost wrote 'less', but I had a flashback to one of your posts), poor people if they would just stop buying lotto tickets, and other forms of gambling in the hope of striking it rich! Jaymez

Juliness said...

This is fascinating...I love all the photos and descriptions.

Anonymous said...

haha i love seeing ads and menus for american- begun shops (like pizza hut) in other countries. that pizza made me laugh. (once my japanese teacher showed us a menu for mcdonalds from japan and it had all these teriyaki burgers and random sea food things.)

man i wish i could go over there and get some rat stuff for me and step dad (who are both rats!). our chinatown is like 2 blocks and has nooothing. :(