Today many people can celebrate 60th birthday with out a blink of the eye.
But two or three decades ago in Sibu 60th birthday was a big deal. And daughters from Foochow families have to prepare some "big gifts". One important gift would be a pork leg with a red piece of paper pasted on the skin. A kati or two of mee sua wrapped in red paper from the shop would be part of the gift hamper. A tray of eggs would also be a must besides a nice life chicken.
However the grateful son in law and daughter would also present the birthday girl with a ceramic photo (or picture painted on porcelain) . Special words would also be "printed" on the photo. This would also demand a special calligraphic skill of the painter.
Translation : on the right"To the honourable Mother in Law of the Lau family - Grand Madam Sii on her 60th Birthday.
From Son in Law - Wong Siew Ing and Daughter - Lau Ai Ding together with all their children.
I suppose after 1970's this kind of gift has not been given because many feel that it is rather outdated and "tu" which the Foochows mean by "country bumpkinish" or "provincial".
However I did not give one to my mother when she reached 60 years of age for another reason. My mum has always been keeping a very low profile about her birthday because she feels very strongly that a huge birthday should only be celebrated when both husband and wife are alive!! My father passed away when she reached just 40. And in a way very sadly she could not bring herself to celebrate her "sek" that is her 50th or 60th..."Siew" is 70th and 80th and so forth. This is just her opinion.
But any way a photo like this would be hung in the living room of the home and people would comment on how filial the daughter is! To me it is a very fitting remembrance of one's youth and more than a commemoration of a 60th birthday.
The art of making porcelain photos is a fairly by gone trade but there a still two or three shops in Sibu doing this. If you go to Blacksmith (Jalan Tukang Besi) you will find some excellent porcelain images of famous people in the shops. Today porcelain art has taken another dimension altogether overseas .
The skilled artisans are still there in their antiquated shops waiting for you to make an order for your loved ones on their birthdays!!