March 4, 2011

Traditional Gift for 60th Birthday

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I suppose after 1970's this kind of gift has not been given because many feel that it is rather outdated and "tu" which the Foochows mean by "country bumpkinish" or "provincial".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!!

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if other dialect do that!!

t.p.tong said...

Maybe, i'm going to make one to myself next year,hehehe...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous
I am sure the other dialects do the same . I know some of my Melanau friends do so and they go to the same shops in Sibu.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

T.P. That's a brilliant idea!!

Ann said...

eheheheh, I LOL, you unfilial daughter, Should drown you in a pig cage LOL.

My dad had 6 girls, his Foochow friends teased him that he would have 1 and half pigs at each festival. Sadly, only one , the youngest married a foochow to practise this tradition.

These porcelin photos, do they last a long time? My San Ba cantonese family were too poor to have this,

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yeah...I am an unfilial daughter....sadly or luckily... no pig cage big enough to drown me...

Did you present a pair of these photos to your parents? Money must come from son in law....hehehehe

These are not too expensive. But I heard that the skilled artisans usually take too long to make the photos (used to send them to China too) and then not in time for birthday....so many consumers not too happy and the business slowed down...Orders must be made early. I will ask again this time when I go back to Sibu....They really last a long time.

Photos on the tombs made in the same way but smaller.

Anonymous said...

min qing is well known for the chinaware. that could be why they need to have such kind of photos. when you go there, you will see many factories with the chimney and smoke

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous...thanks for the info...I am really looking forward to visiting Ming Qing soon....it would be lovely to see the artists in action. And may be I should make one for my mother.....Must bring her lovely photo...and also a photo of my father's too.

Anonymous said...

i remembered a person who came to our house and asked our grandpa if he wanted to 'burn' the photo. Grandpa felt bad to decline and therefore gave him the IC photo to burn. A few months later, he came with this light plastic photo. That happened to be the best image leaving behind. For regular photos, they changed colour because of the tropical heat. The burnt one stayed the same.

Ann said...

Sadly, I too, am unfilial daughter. The man I married is half past six Chinese, a yellow banana.

We didn't live in Sibu, and my poor parents didn't get the 1/4 pig from him.

As for the porcelain photos, the Cantonese were poor people, so this wasn't a done thing. I hope the art don't die out.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes Anonymous
I did not put into my article the characteristics of a good ceramic photo....the colours will remain bright and clear for a long long time. Yes...the would use the word "burn" the photo. Thanks.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann
don't worry. May be you were still in Singapore then? May be cannot find the artist to "burn" the photo? Now it would hard for Singaporeans to get 1/4 pig. Now I cannot remember whether you have to give front leg or back leg....

There are still two shops in Sibu doing it. I think every dialect will do it if artist is available....I know the Mexicans love them. Now they are not Foochows ...hahahahaha

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