Monday, June 30, 2008

An enchanting tribal item

I have no idea what this musical instrument is called. But the sound it produces can only be described as sweet
and haunting....especially in the hands of these girls dressed in green. The music is quite similar to the ones I've heard before performed by some hill tribes in the vast expanse of China.

These girls were very good. They managed to play the tunes and danced gently at the same time.
[ Thanks to Melissa who emailed me today....this instrument is called " hu lu si ". ]

Their costumes are authentic and depict the dress culture and style of the tribe very well.

Some GSPS kids in rapt attention, taking it all in.

Brilliant Solo Performances!

These are 3 of the very talented girls from Shui Guo Hu Primary School who performed that day. This girl, dressed in a beautiful yellow costume, is an exceptionally good dancer. She did a sort of Mongolian dance which required exquisite movements. It was so authentic that I kept wondering if she was of Mongolian descent!
Then we were entertained by a girl playing the erhu....which produced some lovely and melodious tunes.

The Guzheng is one of the most loved musical instruments even in ancient China.
Here, the girl dressed in red, showed everyone how talented she was. The piece she played was not an easy one requiring fast plucking, concentration and co-ordination. But the quality was excellent!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The performance by GSPS

The trio of Jessica, Melissa and Dennis had been working with the 25 kids from their school even before the trip began. And it included practising and rehearsing for this item for which they brought along our local ethnic costumes....Malay, Chinese, Indian and even our national SIA icon, the SIA sarong and kebaya outfit.
It was quite a colourful parade of the styles of Singapore!
When they were ready, they assembled at the front and waited for the accompanying music to be played.

Their teachers, D2 and even myself, were keeping our fingers crossed that can pull it off without any panic or nervousness. Soon as the music started and they moved and gyrated in unison, it was smooth going all the way. D2 and myself found ourselves applauding loudly...and so did the others. They gave a good account of themselves out there and proudly kept their school flag flying.

I could see that the trio of teachers were quite happy and ...relieved! I recall that the night before this, the trio had an informal meeting with D2 in our hotel room where they went over the preparations for the performance and also the Power-point presentation. As I sat in on their discussion, I offered my input culled from long years of involvement with similar type of students' performances, in somewhat similar settings too. Because Singapore has a very young history, we haven't got an established culture of songs, dance and music unlike what we see in other countries. But as I always emphasised when I was involved in such events, that, that in itself, is no excuse for us not to perform or even under perform in the presence of foreign guests.

The key factor is not the type of dance chosen. It is to always perform it well...whatever is decided upon.
As the NIKE advert says so aptly...
" Just Do It ! ".
And may I add ...enjoy it!
It is when they enjoy it that they can give of their best.

Musical Chairs....the Game !

One item on the programme was the game of Musical Chairs. Chairs were placed on the staged area. A call then went out for volunteer participants. Many hands went up immediately. Here, in this photo, you can see some of these hands as well as the doting parents...many had to take time off from work to be there in support. But I guess they wouldn't have wanted to miss this anyway. Seeing one's child perform together with others is indeed a great joy.

The game began in earnest with about 10 chairs....that meant 11 participants who will circle in one direction as the music is played, all keeping their eagle sharp eyes on the nearest chair...until the music suddenly stops.
Then pandemonium reigns!
Everyone "fighting" to place his or her bum onto a chair seat. No...there isn't any violence involved at all. On the other hand, there is much incredulous laughter, especially when the last one to react sits on the lap of a girl or boy. Ha Ha! The judges decide who is out, remove another chair and the game resumes. This continues until only two players are left with only one chair. That was what happened in the next two photos. A SGH girl and a GSPS boy were the only ones remaining in the game.
All watched in eager anticipation. At this point in this game, luck will be a factor as the chair's seat can only be facing in one direction. So, if the music stops at the point where you are behind the normally lose out.
GSPS boy has the final luck!
He raised his arms in truimph and was cheered by one and all, receiving a prize for his efforts.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

An appreciative audience !

The pupils of the school are very talented and were able to put up different kinds of music, song and dance items.

Here, the girls were setting the mood by performing a modern disco dance item to lively rock beat.
This was where the guests sat.
D2, Jessica, Mr Zheng, Mdm Gu, Mdm Liu and after them were some of the parents.
All were captivated by the various performances.
Most of the parents brought along not only their digital cameras but also their video recorders.

A few GSPS students all dressed up to perform later on with some of the SGH parents moving about to capture the best shots.

Combined Performance by GSPS and Shui GuoHu Primary

One of the major highlights of this GSPS and SGH student exchange programme must surely be the Combined Performance that students of both schools put up on the 2nd last day of the programme. This took place that afternoon of 28th May 2008 at the air-conditioned theatrette of their school. Present were the parents, Principal, Vice-Principals and staff of SGH, as well as ourselves.
The full Performance consisted of about 9 or 10 items. They had a programme sheet for the audience.

The photo:
Announcing the event was Mr Ye, kinsmen !

These four SGH pupils all dressed in their official school uniforms were hand-picked to host the event as Master of Ceremonies ( emcees ).

All 4 of them impressed me greatly with their spoken English,..... pronunciation of words, clarity of expressions,
emphasis and stage confidence.
I do not have their names here.
Anyone who is reading this very blogpost and can find out their names for me... please do me a favour and add them under the comments section.
I give you my thanks in advance! For now, starting from the left,

I will name them Doe, Ray, Me and Far....after the musical notes. These 4 pupils projected themselves and carried out their roles so well that much credit must certainly go to their teachers who had coached them.

The 1st item was a dance routine performed exquisitely by these young full costume and make-up.
Each carried a red rubber ball.

This was a solo performance by a very talented

SGH violinist.
He played the selected piece extremely well, I must say. for a King

After that most enjoyable and enriching visit to the Yellow Crane Tower, it was near lunch time. We were driven to a Restaurant close by the school where VP Liu and another key staff hosted the lunch.

There were several interesting Wuhan dishes. The soup was excellent and so were the vegetable dishes that came with meat and chicken.

This dish [ above photo ] was pumpkin with lots of lovey-dovey healthy fillings within. Yum-yum, it tasted so good!

This other dish, the way it is prepared, makes it fit for an emperor. The green "containers" are actually cucumbers that have been hollowed out. Inside, the fillings are their trade secret. I'm really uncertain what's inside as I put the entire portion into my mouth, gently munched on it.....and found it absolutely tasty.

D2 told me when she is back home, she would make an attempt to replicate this.

I wished her" Good Luck!".

Friday, June 27, 2008

More from the Inside

We saw this natural black rock slab amongst many others displayed in the natural history section at the Tower. On closer observation, you will find the patterns are truly natural and not man-made. It is quite unique as the whole rock is black.

Centre photo:
Inside the 4th level.

Bottom photo:
Many artworks and paintings adorn the walls inside the Tower. This is another one of them. It is a huge work of art, painted with swirling strokes that seems to convey majestic movements in the heavens.

More Memories from the Tower

Top photo:
D2 and a very important part of any school...yes, a parent volunteer !
She was one of those who accompanied the kids on this excursion.

Centre photo:
This was captured from the Tower top. I could see the railway lines below. Our guide said the trains were coming from Shanghai and Nanking.
Bottom photo:
D2 was intrigued by the statuette of a bronze crane at the 4th level souvenir section. Our guide can be seen on her left. Eventually, she settled on a Shang Dynasty chime bell while I bought a
perpetual roller-pendulum for 36 yuan. Hers cost double.

Inside the Tower

As we began our exploration of the tower, we realised that each floor has its own theme. For example, the 1st storey is about legends. There is this huge 30 feet high by 20 feet wide porcelain painting that depicts clouds, rivers and a beautiful yellow crane with fully stretched wings flying high in the sky. All this appears to set a romantic mood in heaven.

Reaching the 2nd storey, we come to the souvenir section. We had an English speaking guide for the whole group and he told me that there is another souvenir sales counter on the 4th floor where the price for items on sale might be cheaper. But the kids were so excited that all swarmed around making purchases here and there.
The 2 young men in army uniform were part of our group. In fact, they were the ones to drive the specially provided military bus for all the kids with us.
The military has a symbiotic relationship with SGH #1 School, supporting the school in many different ways. And the school is thankful for that.

There were paintings from the various early dynasties on the walls of the tower. From
what I can see it showed the lifestyle, practices and
beliefs of those days long ago.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A View from the Top

We climbed up the 5 storeyed tower..all eager to have a look from the parapet at the top and to enjoy the floor by floor history within. The staircase going up is one way and coming down the other side. This is useful to prevent human traffic and congestion.
There were many visitors to this place. I saw many expatriates and also the old and elderly. They have a lift added for the old and infirm. But it was shut down for maintenance that day. So no choice all had to use own muscle power to trudge up and down.
But the effort was really worth it.
The view from the top was simply fabulous!

You can see as far as your eyes can see....360 degrees. We saw the mighty Yangtze River [ Chang Jiang ]

which is the world's 3rd longest river.
The Wuhan skyline consists of the 3 districts of Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang, with tall buildings, interspersed by the famous bridge connections, can all be clearly seen.

Fortunately for us, the weather was perfect that morning and we could make out the various prominent landmarks...including the TV tower in the distant.

Standing aloft right at the top, I can fully appreciate the full strategic significance of this ancient command post. Whoever controlled this spot in the sky had the total advantage of monitoring the flat plains below.

My thoughts flashed back to the days of Emperor Han Wudi of the Han Dynasty. It was reputed that he had himself stood on this very same parapet to enjoy the scenery of the land that he ruled.
Remember, today many highrise buildings criss-cross the skyline, effectively blocking out what's beyond.

But in those days of antiquity, even
up to the Ching Dynasty, there were probably no taller structure around than this Yellow Crane Tower. So the view would be completely clear and unheeded.

The tiles used on the roof of this tower were designed in the same way as was done in the past.

An old Legend about Yellow Crane tower

According to legend, Yellow Crane Tower was built by the family of an old pothouse owner living in Wuhan City long ago, named Old Xin. One day, a shabbily dressed Taoist priest came to the pothouse and asked for some wine. Old Xin paid no attention to him, but his son was very kind and gave the Taoist some wine without asking for money. The Taoist priest visited the pothouse regularly for half a year when one day the Taoist said to the son that in order to repay his kindness, he would like to draw a crane on the wall of the pothouse, which would dance at his request. When people in the city heard of this, they flocked to the pothouse to see the dancing crane. The Xin family soon became rich and they built the Yellow Crane Tower as a symbol of gratitude to the Taoist priest.

D2 and a future leader of Wuhan.
This little girl has an abundance of unspoilt wit, charm and poise.
She speaks very well too!
By the way, she was in her school uniform.

Bottom photo:
Me being surrounded by the kids at the Bell of
Good fortune, luck and prosperity. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me and those with me, all my life !

Around the Yellow Crane Tower

The tower consists of 5 storeys and reaches a height of 52 metres. From afar, it looks as if a crane is about to lift off with its wings...from any angle you choose to view it. It is considered one of the most spectacular of ancient towers anywhere in China.

Top photo:
D2 pondering whether she should ask me to piggy-back her up the steep tower.
2nd photo:
The two kinsmen, Mr Yip and Mr Ye ! Both are legitimate descendents of the ancient people of this land...the Land of the Chu Kingdom ! ( Read my previous post on History of the Yips ).

3rd photo:
The huge bell at the Tower park.
Hitting the bell brings good fortune. And so is writing about it !

Bottom photo:
During the 3 Kingdom period ( San Guo ), the 3 famous warriors Liu Bei, Kuan Yu and Zhang Fei met under the peach blossom tree and swore forever to be blood brothers henceforth. They
became heroes and stuff of legends.
Here we have 3 modern ladies to do a re-enactment
of that famous episode....but under the bamboo clump!

The Yellow Crane Tower, Wuhan

The morning of Wed, 28th May 2008, D2 and I were able to join the combined group of students, teachers and parent volunteers for the visit to Wuhan's most important and top historical landmark.....the city's number 1 icon,...the Yellow Crane Tower. It has been said that if you have been to Wuhan, then there are 3 things you must have done to confirm that status. What 3 things?
1] Visit the Yellow Crane Tower 2] Eat or try the local noodles called "Re-gan mian "
3] Eat the local Wuchang fish
I can confirm the first one. What about the other two? Continue to update yourself on my blog to find out as I continue my travelogue.
History of the Tower
It was reputedly built in 223 AD during the Warring state period of the 3 Kingdoms.
Since then, the tower has served many dynasties, emperors and purposes. The tower was destroyed several times, burnt down and rebuilt again and again....such was its strategic importance in the history of Wuhan and the surrounding region. The last rebuilding was in 1981.

Top photo
Me....with the Tower in the background.
Lower down, you can see D2 and the rest.[ zoom and enlarge ]
2nd photo
D2, Jessica and others looking out for I captured the shot.
3rd and 4th photo
Mr Ye, leading his young troops up the steps to conquer the tower!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wuhan food at Zhuchou Restaurant

This was the dining spread at the dinner we hosted at Zhuchou Restaurant. The food was typically prepared in the Wuhan style with great care, taste and creativity.
I am not certain who picked the dishes but they were truly excellent! Among the new discovery was they had a dish just like our Chinese rojak where you pick the veg or fruit piece and dip the same in a kind of rojak paste mixture [ their version] verdict...very nice!

Even now, looking at these pictures ... I'm in the mood to eat again.

D2 ordered a bottle of red wine for the inevitable rounds of "Kan-Pei!" that must come in such an occasion.

Why red wine and not Mao Tai?
After sampling the famous Mao Tai at the home visit I've described previously, we could not afford to take such a gamble here.
A few of us, including yours truly, react very fast to any wine with a high alcohol content. In my case, my face can be as red as Kwan Yu, that famous warrior of the 3 Kingdom period.
So having red wine is safer.

A close-up look at how this dish looked. The fish was gently carved up into french-fries looking pieces yet still with the individual pieces attached to the whole fish.

It was cooked in sweet and sour and hot style. I particularly enjoyed this dish.