Who do you go to when you need to send a gift or a hamper* ?
In Miri if you are thinking of giving someone a hamper of good quality you would only think of Madam Lim of Chop Soon Seng. She has been the Hamper Queen of Miri for the last 30 years.
Why is she given this title? Most people said that she was the first person in Miri to start making hampers from her retail shop for Chinese New Year and Hari Raya 30 or so years ago. Those were the days before the supermarkets and Ngui Kee was only making gift sets for new born babies.
She started off making about 1000 hampers for Chinese New Year at the beginning on a trial basis. Most of them were at RM30 or RM50. Business took off and more and more requests came for her services. At the height of her hamper business she was making 3000 for Chinese New Year about ten years ago. But since the coming of the supermarkets she is down to 1000 to 2000. She still has her loyal clients because they are used to her style and the quality of her goods.
Gift giving is an art in Asia. However purchasing gifts in Asia is also a very intricate activity. Trust and honesty are two qualities people look for when they want to buy hampers for their friends to wish them Happy New Year or Selamat Hari Raya. The idea of gift giving has been extended to all races in Malaysia celebrating Gawai for example and they too receive hampers made by Madam Lim from well wishers. According to Madam Lim she will never short change her customers (and the people who will receive her hampers). Thus in a way she has established a good brand in Miri.
It is customary for her to let her clients know what she is packing into the hampers. Higher end hampers would have a bottle of brandy and sharks' fin and other valued items for Chinese New Year. Middle range hampers consist of goods like tinned abalone and Pacific clams and other complementary items. Most of the hampers are below RM100 actually with very good quality stuff.
Some of the hampers she made this year consist of auspicious blown glass or crystal and semi precious stones ornaments from China. These would be displayed for Chinese New Year Open House for visitors to admire and throughout the year these Feng Shui items would bring good luck and prosperity for the business.
Auspicious words like FU or Blessings can be found on the packets of sharks' fins to add to the joy of giving and receiving of hampers. Sharks' fin is also a symbol of prestige and health. Hence during the Reunion Dinner the Sharks' Fin Soup is a must. But if you are an environmentalist you might suggest to your family to get the mock sharks' fine which tastes just as good!!
These hampers are brightly wrapped up in cellophane and tied with the auspicious red ribbons. Every basket used by her as the base of the hamper is of good quality which Madam Lim ordered from China personally. If you are sending a hamper to a new wedded couple you can put a large packet of sunflower seeds (kua chi) or peanuts (hua sen) to wish them "sons to be born" soon. Mushrooms would signify good blessings from all directions e.g. east and west.
This is a RM1000 hamper for you to buy for your parents or parents-in-law.there is one which cost RM1888 specially ordered by a wealthy man ! If your hamper has a nien gao it is good as it is a symbol for sweetness in life...Your life in 2010 will be smooth and sweet!
Here's a hamper with as gracious ornament of Chinese Cabbage which symbolises Get Rich (Bao Chai - means Definitely can become rich) Good Health and Long Life for the recipient. I am really amused by this. May be as I have never received a gift of blown glass white cabbage I have never become rich...Got the hint? :) :)
Abalone and tinned clams are favourites amongst the gifts. These together with others will register up to RM300 at the least. Fish is symbolic to the Chinese. So abalone here would indicate the the recipient would have a lot of food and never ending resources throughout the year. Bao means assurance and therefore abalone will provide assurance of certain wealth or prosperity to your recipient!!
A bottle of Cordon Bleu with a gold coin or a gold frog would identify the hamper's worth of RM588. Here you have a cat/tiger which waves in gold or wealth. Very symbolic.
With lots of goodies Madam Lim will throw in some plastic Peach Blossoms to wish the recipient ever lasting love and happiness. This hamper goes for RM300.
I believe that Madam Lim has really put in a lot of effort and careful deliberation to put together hampers for her customers.
If anything goes we have plenty to learn from her. Her perseverance and business acumen have definitely brought a lot of prosperity to her family. But I would also think that her kindness and her concern for those around her have been the traits which bring her and her family the real blessings in life!
And for the New Year I would like to send you all my Chinese readers (and my children too) cyber hampers filled with A-Z of Chinese auspicious items : abalone+biscuits (pineapple tarts)+cabbage + dong gui + European wines + fish + gold coins+ happiness in double portions + peach blossoms and lots of peanuts+.and long life mee sua.+...and of course Nien Kao.++++++
.....Kong Hee Fatt choy......
Chinese New Year is next Sunday....so Happy Chinese New year....May God enter your life and grant you joy.
Photos by Sarawakiana using Sony Cybershot (Sunday 7th Feb 2010)
* Hamper = originally from the UK - employers used to give their employees a wicker basket of food to take home at Christmas. The practice later extended to giving hampers of food to friends and business associates.