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Poem by Kayla Choy 2E/20

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

Where our people’s laughter once resounded

Along with colours aplenty across heaven’s skies,

Such moments only a fragment of the distant past,

As a memory of ours, simply passing by.


Hardly anyone appreciates the beauty,

Of every stroke, character, word.

The visual elegance and worldly significance,

Where every line means the world.


Language is our connection to the past,

Although it may be far.

We speak two languages, sometimes three,

Causing our natural tongue to seem much more bizarre.


My blood and mind

Two languages intertwined

How should I distinguish

Which is me, and which is mine?


Cuisine is part of the lifeblood of any culture,

Vital as oxygen to our system.

Dishes filled to the brim, with love and labour,

How could one not exquisitely savour them?


I’d hoped for a world that would not forget,

As time mercilessly flew by.

Everyone treats the world like everything is fine,

And it feels as if the only one who truly cares is me, myself, and I


But they are not dead,

Their memory still warm in our hearts, comfort to our sorrows

For they live not apart from us, but as a part of us.

For love is eternal, and we shall always be loyal to the roots of beginning


Interview:


Q: Where did our ancestors come from?


A: Our ancestors came from China, and the Cantonese community in Singapore came from Guangdong province.


Q: What were some jobs that the Cantonese people worked as?


A: The Cantonese are hardworking, enterprising and vocal people. They can be found in various trades but most worked as artisans, craftsmen and miners. Some of the most skilled carpenters, mechanics, goldsmiths, carvers and paperwork craftsmen in Singapore are Cantonese. Many medicine wholesalers and retailers are also Cantonese.

Unlike the females of the Hokkien and Teochew communities, Cantonese women could work outside their homes and did not normally practise foot-binding. The samsui women in their trademark red headgear, for example, are best remembered for their work as earth-carriers and labourers in Singapore's construction industry in the 1950s and ’60s. They came mainly from the Sanshui (“Sanshui” in Cantonese means “three waters”) county of Guangdong.


Q: How do we distinguish Chinese food?


A: Chinese culture has a deep rooted affection for food and any celebration is incomplete without food. What makes their food unique is that each recipe has a meaning attached to it; every ingredient whether it is vegetable, meat, or spice holds a meaning. Even their cooking methods are quite balanced which helps in making their cooking balanced and retains the nutrients. This is what distinguishes the Chinese cuisines which can be reflected on our taste buds. We eat a lot of white rice, and it is a symbol of prosperity too. Chinese Herbal soups also serve as a health food. Many nutritious ingredients are put inside the soup to double boil and all the flavours are all in the soup without any artificial flavouring. The Chinese believe in drinking hot soup as it “clears heat” in the body. On top of this, the Cantonese also believe that hot soup can nourish one’s beauty, strengthen physical health, and even prevent and cure diseases. All this, in part, explains why soup is such a big part of Cantonese culinary culture. First, there are herbal soups that are drunk for their nutritional value. These contain familiar herbs like wolfberry seeds, dried dates, codonopsis root, and even ginseng—all staples you can buy from any traditional Chinese medicine shop. Many are made with seasonal ingredients, and it’s believed that they help balance the yin and yang in our bodies.


Q: What do you think is the significance of the Chinese language in terms of writing and speaking?


A: Chinese is now considered as an important language worldwide because of its increase in presence in the business world. Chinese are involved in many businesses throughout the world including Hollywood. So, if you want to increase opportunities in the business world, you must learn Chinese as a second language.

Phonemes are also significantly different between English and Chinese. In English, tones are used to place emphasis or emotion on a word. Yet the Chinese language is considered a distinct tone language, meaning that pitch is utilized to show the meaning of a word, rather than emphasis or emotion. There are 4 tones altogether which makes the flow of words smoother, and these tones can change the meaning of words.


Q: Do you think Chinese language is losing its cultural identity in this day and age?


A: I think it is unlikely that Mandarin will become a significant global language because it is too difficult to write for additional language learners when compared to alternatives and that its use will be mostly within international ethnic-Chinese communities. Furthermore, the younger generation are not as connected to their heritage compared to the older generation, as they are focusing more on incoming trends than looking back at traditions. So there is a likelihood that our cultural diversity would start shrinking and we may lose our cultural identity as the years go by and Chinese becomes less prevalent in modern society.

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