February 7, 2011
Chinese Children's Magazine of my childhood
兒童樂園was first published in 1953. I was then just a toddler (smile...keeping my real age a secret)
It was a coloured children's magazine from the beginning when many other magazines were still in black and white. I remember my father's Spring and Autumn Magazine was very simple without any colour at all. And I asked him if magazines printed in black and white showed their "level of difficulty". LIFE magazine was in colours and I could understand most of the captions!!
It was amazing as my siblings and I reminisced during the Chinese New Year we spoke for a long time about the magazines we read and Er Tung Le Yuen in particular. We loved the serial stories and the games. And even at that time we were particularly interested in the riddles and world legends for children. I suppose that was how we learned to read our Hang Yu (Chinese) from young - from this magnificent publication.
But most important of all Siaw Chiang the little hero and his episodes shared with us the important values of playing fair...of sharing things with others and being kind. May be the bullies in the schools never read Er Tung Le Yuen.
I did not realise that this magazine stopped publication in 1994 actually. In total for 41 years it published 1006 issues. Thus on record it was really one of the longest running publications for children from Hong Kong for children of Chinese speaking communities world wide. My siblings and I are glad that we were part of its readership.
What was more important was how my father would go to the bookshop in Sibu to collect the magazines for us and all of us would read the pages eagerly. My father did not read Benjamin Spock nor did he attend classes for parenting. But he had very enlightened ideas about getting his children to love learning as he was a voracious reader himself and trained by Mrs. Mary Hoover and perhaps even Rev James Hoover. Amongst his teachers were also our grand uncle and aunt Mr and Mrs. Chong Jin Bok.
For a long time my siblings and I kept the magazines very well. However when we grew older and we "outgrew" the magazine we gave most of them away to our cousins and friends who wanted to read them. Each copy was only about 30 cents. But may be to some families it was a large sum of money.
It never crossed our mind in those days to keep a few copies as souvenirs. But it is too late now.
It was good of my parents to "subscribe" to this magazine. (It did not come in the mail but from the local bookshop. The proprietor would roll the magazine up with a rubber band and put a name tag along with it.) We learned a great deal from the pages and very often we still talk about Siao Yuen Yuen and the other characters. Later when we "graduated" to Charlie Brown and Archie we continued to value what the comics in English taught us and remember the lessons from Er Tung Le Yuen.
All of us in a way thank these magazines for helping us become bi-lingual. Thinking about our daily reading of this square shaped magazine from Hong Kong I just feel so good inside...and feel so grateful to my father who saw the importance of reading from an early age. I just never have the opportunity of thanking him as he died too suddenly and too prematurely and we were all too young then to be expressive.