18th cen­tury

Lit­er­a­ture

Asian Geographic - - Front Page - POP­U­LA­TION LAN­GUAGE Mak­ing 101

The Gorkha King­dom con­quers the Kath­mandu Val­ley and uni­fies Nepal

9.6MIL­LION (14% of to­tal) mak­ing bowls again de­spite years of re­tire­ment due to bad health and fail­ing strength. Hav­ing been in the busi­ness for 63 years, she can’t bear to give up her Chi­nese her­itage.

Since ar­riv­ing on Thai shores in the 17th cen­tury, Chi­nese im­mi­grants have as­sim­i­lated with lo­cal Thai in a re­mark­ably smooth man­ner, re­sult­ing in years of in­ter­mar­riages be­tween the two eth­nic­i­ties. Yet the Chi­nese as­pect of this mixed cul­tural iden­tity is be­gin­ning to fade in the city’s cap­i­tal: Prac­tices like baat- mak­ing and wor­ship ri­tu­als face ex­tinc­tion, thanks to in­fras­truc­tural re­de­vel­op­ment and a lack of suc­ces­sors to con­tinue the trade.

Like Ban Baat, an­other of Bangkok’s old­est Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ties – Charoen Chai – may soon go, as plans to de­velop the rail­way line across the Chao Phraya river and Charoen Krung Road wipes out the his­toric Chi­na­town district, where the older gen­er­a­tion of Thai Chi­nese buy joss pa­pers and other items for tra­di­tional cel­e­bra­tions and ri­tu­als. Dur­ing the New Year, the area’s tem­ples, like Wat Mangkon Ka­malawat and Wat Leng Noei Yi, are filled with wor­ship­pers in­tent on dis­pelling bad luck. And Charoen Chai spe­cialises in Chi­nese food: streets upon streets of bak­eries, dessert shops, and road­side stalls hawk­ing the pop­u­lar Jubkang noo­dles – a favourite for Chi­nese labour­ers in the olden days thanks to the mas­sive por­tions and tiny price.

But all this may be­come a thing of the past once the rail­way plans for Bangkok be­gin in the com­ing years, and landlords start rais­ing prices or mak­ing plans for re­de­vel­op­ment of the land. Fac­ing in­suf­fi­cient sup­port from the gov­ern­ment, these com­mu­ni­ties and their uniquely Thai-chi­nese prac­tices have al­ready be­gun to dis­ap­pear from the places they’ve resided in for cen­turies – and once they go, there may be no re­turn. ag These an­cient alms bowls take up to three days to make in a tra­di­tional process dic­tated by Bud­dhist teach­ings Ar­ti­sans de­ter­mine the size of the bowl by se­lect­ing the right size of sheet metal

The edges are ser­rated in or­der to fit to­gether, like a jig­saw

The pieces are lined up, and then welded to­gether

The bowl is ham­mered out from the in­side

Af­ter pol­ish­ing and var­nish­ing, the baat is com­plete

When she fin­ished pray­ing, my grand­mother kow­towed three times to the Bud­dha. As she stood up she slightly lost her bal­ance, which was easy to do with bound feet. She reached out to steady her­self on her maid’s arm. Gen­eral Xue and her fa­ther had just be­gun to move for­ward. She blushed and bent her head, then turned and started to walk away, which was the right thing to do. Her fa­ther stepped for­ward and in­tro­duced her to the gen­eral. She curt­sied, keep­ing her head low­ered all the time.

As was fit­ting for a man in his po­si­tion, the gen­eral did not say much about the meet­ing to Yang, who was a rather lowly sub­or­di­nate, but my great-grand­fa­ther could see he was fas­ci­nated. The next step was to en­gi­neer a more di­rect en­counter.

A cou­ple of days later Yang, risk­ing bank­ruptcy, rented the best the­atre in town and put on a lo­cal opera, invit­ing Gen­eral Xue as the guest of hon­our. Like most Chi­nese the­atres, it was built around a rec­tan­gu­lar space open to the sky, with tim­ber struc­tures on three sides; the fourth side formed the stage, which was com­pletely bare: it had no cur­tain and no sets. The seat­ing area was more like a café than a the­atre in the West. The men sat at ta­bles in the open square, eat­ing, drink­ing, and talk­ing loudly through­out the per­for­mance. To the side, higher up, was the dress cir­cle, where the ladies sat more de­murely at smaller ta­bles, with their maids stand­ing be­hind them. My great-grand­fa­ther had ar­ranged things so that his daugh­ter was in a place where Gen­eral Xue could see her eas­ily.

This time she was much more dressed up than in the tem­ple. She wore a heav­ily em­broi­dered satin dress and jew­ellery in her hair. She was also dis­play­ing her nat­u­ral vi­vac­ity and en­ergy, laugh­ing and chat­ting with her women friends. Gen­eral Xue hardly looked at the stage.

Around 50th cen­tury BCE

ȑȑearly Aus­trone­sians live in Tai­wan and nearby south China

Around 40th cen­tury BCE

ȑȑthe Formosan lan­guages are spo­ken widely across Tai­wan

Around 20th cen­tury BCE

ȑȑaus­trone­sians mi­grate to South­east Asia and as far as Poly­ne­sia

17th cen­tury

ȑȑchi­nese set­tlers ar­rive and in­ter­marry. Man­darin dis­places Formosan ȑȑ­for­mosan lan­guages are of­fi­cially recog­nised in Tai­wan, with laws to pre­serve and re­vive them

Kai bought a skirt. Pai­wan lan­guage (Icu a kun ni Kai.) What is this? Tsou lan­guage (Cuma na eni?) I like this girl. Puyuma lan­guage (Sa­gar ku kan dini na bu labu layan.) Dongi ate this taro. Amis lan­guage (Ku­mae­nan ni Dongi kuni a tali.)

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