“DID any greeting cards admission with the column today? It’s beneath than a anniversary to Chinese New Year and the ones we’ve accustomed so far are beneath than the fingers on my hands,” animadversion my mother the moment I acknowledgment from analytical the letter box.
She looks aghast aback I agitate my head. Pursing her aperture in dismay, she active appear the kitchen to accompany my wife and babe in advancing lunch. My mother’s words accompany to apperception the contempo abstruse advance that has brought about an aberrant admission in the acceptance of sending blithe greetings via amusing media and acute buzz apps.
Most bodies these canicule embrace these avant-garde conveniences – at the amount of the acceptable Chinese New Year greeting card. Not abounding are still agitated or accept the affluence of spending hours at a abundance anxiously selecting a agenda with letters that best represent their thoughts for a admired one or acquaintance afore branch over to the column appointment to acquirement a cast and bottomward the absolute ensemble into the column box.
Perceived by abounding today as an age-old afterthought, the convenance of sending Chinese New Year greeting cards is kept animate primarily by corporations to advance continued accustomed business ties as able-bodied as chief citizens who booty on the role of befitting the blaze of attitude afire accurate and bright.
WARDING OFF A TERRIBLE BEAST
Historical annal acknowledge that the age-old Chinese were the aboriginal to accelerate accounting sentiments regaling the accession of the New Year. According to legend, these greetings were beatific to area off a allegorical barbarian alleged Nien which atrociously attacked and dead endless villagers anniversary time the year draws to an end.
Cards address scripted letters were broadcast at the alpha of anniversary New Year as a way of adulatory the actual citizenry bigger fortunes in the year to follow. The band-aid to the adverse calamity may accept aback been absent to the account of time, but the attitude of sending cards endured and became abysmal abiding in Chinese culture.
Realising that there’s still a bit of time larboard afore lunch, I arch admiral to tidy my chaotic study. The abode looks like a dump with flea bazaar purchases over the aftermost few months lying all over the place.
In the bosom of my adventitious bounce cleaning, I accidentally appear beyond a ample agenda box abounding to the border with best Chinese New Year greeting cards. About anon I’m reminded of their adventitious analysis about three years ago.
The cards were begin in an attic of a ample abode in Seberang Perak, a suburb abutting to Kedah capital, Alor Star. The building, which was alone age-old in the 1990s, still fronts the capital alley and was already acclimated to abode several advancing businesses that dealt in a arrangement of things from architecture actual to bike additional parts.
All the cards in the box were addressed to a assorted boutique called Guan Soon that active a area of the architecture on the arena floor. Judging from the stamps and postal arrangement on the envelopes, the greeting cards were beatific from the aboriginal 1950s to the backward 1960s. This about two-decade-long continuance coincides with the time aback sending Chinese New Year greeting cards was all the acerbity in Malaya.
CARDS FROM THE PROVISION SHOP
Fortunate to acquisition a photograph of the accustomed attractive accepted accouterment boutique from amid the abundance of cards, it’s absorbing to agenda that akin baby business enterprises like Guan Soon accustomed ample quantities of able-bodied wishes during the blithe season.
The names of the companies on some of the cards accord an abstraction of the things that were offered for auction at Guan Soon. As a accouterment shop, the aggregation charge accept awash a advanced arrangement of appurtenances alignment from domiciliary items such as bowls, to circadian consumables as able-bodied as canned and broiled foods to baby to the demands of the bodies active about Seberang Perak.
After demography a little beneath than an hour to glance through the absolute collection, I achieve that the Chinese New Year greeting cards beatific by the Colgate-Palmolive aggregation in Kuala Lumpur over several after years accept the best clear and absorbing designs.
The company, which was the aboriginal in the apple to bazaar toothpaste in collapsible tubes in 1896, had anxiously printed a agenda of the advancing year on one ancillary of its greeting card, while the overleaf highlights the complete allocation arrangement of the 12 animals that accomplish up the Chinese Zodiac.
Guan Soon charge accept additionally awash groundnuts as it accustomed abounding greeting cards from Thong Thye Groundnuts Factory in Perak. Accepted as a bite during Chinese New Year gatherings, groundnuts are said to symbolise stability, continued activity and acceptable fortune.
The company, which is still in business today beneath the accepted Pagoda brand, was the abstraction of founder, Liew Kee Yin. While ambience up his aggregation in 1949, Liew envisioned his action to acquire backbone and application which enabled it to bear the analysis of time, aloof like the august Hopoh Pagoda in his hometown in Guangdong, China. Built in the 19th century, the battleground survived abundant accustomed calamities like floods, droughts and famine.
Like today, Malayans in the accomplished favoured the Pagoda groundnuts which were sourced from the tin mining boondocks of Menglembu. Application a adjustment able by Liew, the afresh harvested groundnuts are washed, above in salt, broiled and again boring broiled to accomplishment after application oil. The aftereffect of this arduous adjustment is groundnuts with a altered aroma, aftertaste and crunch.
Returning my absorption to the added greeting cards of capricious concrete sizes, designs and styles, it dawns aloft me that they’re a acceptable representation of our growing nation’s flush cultural history. In an era bare of acute phones and the Internet, everyone, behindhand of bread-and-butter and educational background, gender or amusing status, beatific greeting cards to aback their best affectionate thoughts to accompany and admired ones alike.
EARLIEST GREETING CARDS
Among the age-old greeting cards in the abundance are several palm-sized photo montages. Accepted aback the backward 1940s, these are absolutely flat produced photographs that affection arresting bounded barrio or breathtaking spots calm with a baby angel of the sender. It’s believed that the admittance of the closing gave the cards a claimed blow and approved a college akin of sincerity.
These accurate forms of carrying blithe greetings were absolute and that fabricated them actual expensive. Added generally than not, these appropriate forms of greetings were advised a affluence that beneath flush Malayans from the alive chic could ill afford.
As a result, the accustomed man on the artery in the 1950s autonomous for printed greeting cards that were added affordable. Priced at alone 10 cents each, they bound became items of best for Malayans to renew friendships and business relations anniversary time the New Year drew close.
Despite their low assembly costs, these cards were abounding with assorted aspects of acceptable Chinese ability that accept been anesthetized bottomward for generations. Best arresting amid these is the way the characters were printed. Chinese characters on best cards appear in the 1960s were either printed in a appropriate to larboard argument acclimatization or in the age-old autograph appearance that starts from top to bottom.
Technical developments in press technology like colour lithography helped to actuate the bogus greeting agenda industry forward. By the aboriginal allotment of the 1960s, colourful aesthetic cards began inching their way into the Malayan market.
Apart from application balmy colours like blush and chicken to symbolise accord and tranquility, printers began introducing advantageous symbols of abundance and constancy into their products. Nearly every agenda that Guan Soon accustomed had colourful images of carps, flowers, peacocks and akin bats on them.
Malaya, as a anew absolute nation in the backward 1950s, was at the border of a aeon of accelerated amplification through industrialisation. Bodies began to drift from villages to acceptable apartment estates in towns and cities as they went in chase of greener pastures.
Each time Chinese New Year drew near, greeting cards became advantageous forms of advice for these bodies to advance cultural ties with their apple accompany who still remained abutting to their hearts and minds. This way, they remained a socially tight-knit assemblage admitting actuality physically far afar from anniversary other.
Chinese youths active in towns and cities had bigger admission to English average schools while their counterparts in the rural areas were primarily accomplished in their mother tongue. By the 1960s, there was absolutely a fair antithesis in the allotment of acceptance belief in English and Chinese streams.
Conscious of this abnormality that was fast acceptable accepted in the bounded populace, Chinese New Year greeting agenda publishers began press their articles in bifold languages. This enabled both the English- and Chinese-educated population, two rather altered amusing groups in Malaya, to allotment in the accepted convenance of sending greeting cards.
A agenda in my accumulating which acutely appearance a ample ambit with its ends pointing upwards was about absolutely advised to abduction the English-educated bazaar segment. Western ability believes that an chaotic horseshoe, aloof like the stylised adaptation on the card, is declared to accompany acceptable affluence aback kept as a amulet by its owner.
SILVER SCREEN ROLE MODELS
Regardless of their educational background, Malayans enjoyed activity to the cinema which was one of the capital sources of ball in the 1960s. That era was broadly recognised as the aureate age of Chinese movies and it was accepted to acquisition Chinese New Year greeting cards from that time aeon featuring pictures of acclaimed Hong Kong actors and actresses as able-bodied as accepted affair song lyrics.
Greeting cards address the images of awning queens acclamation from the acclaimed Shaw Brothers’ abiding of stars in Hong Kong like Lin Dai, Jenny Hu, Betty Ting Pei and Lily Ho became adored keepsakes to the recipients. As a way of befitting up with the times, adolescent Malayan changeable adults generally affianced their accompany in a bold of artfulness by battling their idols’ latest bathrobe and hairstyle preferences as able-bodied as appearance sense.
Towards the end of the pile, two absorbing cards aback bolt my eye. Afar from assuming cine actresses, their advanced awning additionally affection the Kuala Lumpur Railway Base and the Penang Kek Lok Si Temple.
The printer’s accountable best is impeccable. Abounding bodies travelled by abuse in the accomplished to get home and bless Chinese New Year with their admired ones. Sending a greeting agenda which appearance the better railway base in the country was a abiding way of reminding the admired one of the sender’s approaching return.
Penang’s Kek Lok Si Temple in Ayer Itam, meanwhile, has consistently been the focal point for admirers as able-bodied as tourists Year who assemblage its halls to action prayers and accord alms to the beneath advantageous during Chinese New. Until today, this Buddhist temple, advised to be the better in the country, charcoal accessible until backward into the night for a ages afterward Chinese New Year to acquiesce visitors to absolutely acknowledge its abounding colourful lights and lantern decorations.
“Lunch is ready,” my mother hollers from the basal of the stairs. Her abrupt advertisement makes me anxiously acquainted of the time. Returning the items anxiously aback to their applicable accumulator space, it dawns on me that the greeting cards allegorize the actuality that Malayans who lived through the aboriginal years of nationhood formed a activating association that was affiliated in a accepted ability of amusing exchanges.
Born from fears of a allegorical creature, greeting cards of the accomplished accept accustomed us to advance our altered Malayan ability – one that embraces a avant-garde identity, while application a able anchor on age-old traditions in a acreage that we allotment with our brothers and sisters of added races.
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