Chinese Essays by Ng King Kang : 2359

At a recent Chinese Book Club meet, we discussed three essays of Ng King Kang, better known as Wu Qing Kang, an established Singaporean writer, lyricist, singer and television host. His works express his personal feelings and sentiment on a wide array of topics. His best known works date from the early 1990s and some of these were nominated and won literary and music awards. The three essays we discussed are from his 2359 series, which include Touch Down @ 2359, Take Off @ 2359, 2359: Before Sunset, 2359: After Sunset, 2359: The Day Book and 2359: The Night Book.

The first essay we discussed is titled “All Are Surnamed Lai”. This is a play on the Chinese word for ‘blame’, which is written exactly like the surname Lai. Why do people always put their blame on another person or thing when something goes wrong? He also discusses the issues of aging and death, nursing homes and the need to give the elderly more freedom.

The second essay is titled “Held Tightly”. In it, he tells of how his parents, once separated by geographical distance (which he did not elaborate), now clasp each other’s hands tightly whenever they go for walks. From this, he goes on to discuss the changes that take place before and after marriage, the learning process, the truth, and whether holding hands is a show of steadfast love.

The third essay discussed, called “Life’s Ceremonies”, discusses the etiquette and protocol of certain traditional rites and ceremonies. It also touches on the thought and dignity of the elderly.

Ng’s essays are easy to read and the language is simple and reflects daily-life in Singapore. I will read more of his essays on my own. In fact, I have already secured two of his books though they are likely to remain idle on my book shelf for a while as I’m reading a few English books concurrently.

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