Chinese Essays

At yesterday’s Bishan Senior Citizen’s Book Club meet, the discussion centered around reactions to social phenomenon. As an introduction, the facilitator highlighted recent newspaper reports such as the recent price increase of beverages (coffee and tea), the addiction of a 70-year-old man to ‘fishing’ at an arcade (spending S$30,000 in seven years), and the last movie screening at a seedy 30-year-old cinema in Chinatown.

An enthusiastic exchange of thoughts and opinions was carried on to the three articles/essays for the day’s discussion:

  • Ba Jin’s Hurt was written in 1941, when Kuomingtan was in power (before the unification of China). The setting was that of a war zone, yet the central characters were three children (two fat and well-fed and one who was skinny and probably an orphan). Ba Jin wanted to convey the message that children born at the same time and same place could easily suffer different fates due to their different status (rich or poor) in society;
  • The essay by Zhang Xiao Feng, Debt, showed that she was honest and God-fearing. She may have been more privileged than others (here, taxi drivers) but she never wanted to take advantage of them and regretted her mistake in hopping into the wrong taxi while the ‘original’ one was waiting for her when she made a pit-stop to run an errand;
  • The final essay, We Still Believe by Yan Kun Yang, tells of the need to give children dreams and hopes, even if sometimes white lies must be told (eg the existence of Santa Claus). This is because three things are needed to ensure happiness: dreams and hopes, kindness, and innocence of thought.

I enjoy the sessions at this Book Club because the information gleaned are not only food for our mind but also make us more aware of the events happening around us, giving us a broader perspective and increase our confidence in sharing our thoughts and views with others.


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.