- The Moon Festival
- 230 years of the Chinese in India
- Hakka Chinese living in Kolkata
- Tangra China Town
- Chinese New Year
- Chinese School in Kolkata
- Woo Hip Koon
- Festival Of The Seven Sisters
- Ching Ming Chiet
- Tien Hou Maid Temple
- Ling Liang High School
- Yue Laan Cheet
- Si Fu Tan
- Nam Soon Church
- Sacred Heart School
The second most popular festival after the Chinese New Year, the Mid-Autumn festival (Chung Chou Chi) is one the major festivals of the Chinese calendar. It falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar moon. It is an occasion for family members to sit together over moon cakes, fruits, shell boiled groundnuts, have tea and “appreciate” the moon.
Because of the association with moon cakes and lanterns, this festival is popularly known also as the “Moon Festival” or the “Lantern Festival”.
The Legend of the Moon Fairy
The earth once had ten suns circling it. The suns used to take turns to shine on the earth so that there was sufficient warmth and light. One day all the ten suns got it into their heads that it would be great fun if they all appeared together which they did. The combined heat of the tens suns was just too much to bear and everything on earth started drying up.
Hong Yi was the archer sent down to the earth to help the people. He shot nine of the suns but spared the tenth sun with a stiff warning not to repeat the prank again. The Jade Emperor whose suns (sons) they were got very angry with Hong Yi for shooting down his sons. He banned Hong Yi and his wife Chang Er from going back to Heaven and so they were stuck on earth.
But Hong Yi did not mind staying on earth as he had earned a lot of admirers after he had saved the earth and so, he enjoyed all the attention he was getting. But his wife Chang Er was very sad. She did not like living on the earth and longed to get back to heaven where they could be immortal. Moreover, Hong Yi seemed like a changed man now. Success got into his head and he became proud and demanding and dominating. His wife found life here on earth unbearable. One Mid-Autumn night she stole the “pill of immortality” from her husband and found herself floating upwards. She had just enough time to grab her pet jade rabbit and together, they flew towards the moon. They regretted but there they stayed trying to make a pill that would get them back to earth again. Thus, even today we see the shadows of Chang Er and her pet rabbit in the moon making medicine on the brightest night of the mid-Autumn.
The Chinese in India are a small group of people – very small when compared to the population of India – but this tiny population has touched India in two important places – in their stomachs and in the faces of their women. “Chinese chow” – popular term for Chinese fried noodles vie for place among the all-popular bhelpuri walas and today, few eating places – big or small – dare exist unless it also serves “Chinese food”. Then, beauty parlours, once the sole expertise of Chinese women, now dot almost lane and street in Indian cities and towns. Credit goes to the Chinese community for having helped launch the faces of millions of Indian women.
Without even themselves knowing, the Chinese in India has over the years become a part and parcel of the Indian landscape. Their numbers have always been small but now they are tiny, and every day sees the Chinese community in India getting even smaller. It is said that days are not far when it may disappear altogether as a community. But the fact that a community existed for 220 years and has given to India as much as it has got from it cannot be wiped out.
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Victoria Memorial (or VM as we know it), Metro railway and New Market are closer home than the Great Wall of China or Beijing or Tienanman Square. Puckas, jhaal muri, biryani and kababs seems most times more exciting than steamed fish, chicken soup or stir-fried vegetables. Jyoti Basu, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mamta Bannerjee are definitely more well-known than Zhou Zemin and Li Peng (heard of them?). Yet, our hearts blow up with pride when China wins medals at the Olympics, goose-pimples come up hearing the Chinese national anthem, the modern good-looking China that we see in magazines and pictures makes us feel great. What then are we? Indian or Chinese? Some time or the other each one of us must have wondered how we came here to be in India and what brought us here… What would life be like if we had not come here to India? When and what was it that made our forefathers come here?
The third generation
This much we know that sometime ago our grandfather (or was it his father before that?) had come here to India and somehow over the years, he stayed back. Our grandmother’s tale was somewhat the same. Then came our parents and then us. We, the new and younger generation of Chinese living here in Calcutta are mostly the third and even fourth generation Chinese. There are Chinese scattered and settled in other parts of India too but most of them can trace their roots to Calcutta and this is hence, Calcutta can be called the source of the fountain of Chinese population in India.
Chinese New Year or the Lunar New Year, “chun chi” or the Spring Festival
is the most important festival in the Chinese calendar. Chun Chi symbolizes the beginning of the year, a signal to a fresh start in one’s life. It also heralds fresh hope for happiness and prosperity for humankind.
Based on the lunar cycle or the cycles of the moon, Chinese New Year falls somewhere between the last week of January and the first week of February. All Chinese consult the traditional Chinese calendar for the actual date of the New Year. The last month of the Chinese Calendar year is a time of preparation for one and all. It is a time to prepare oneself for the New Year ahead: materially, physically, mentally and spiritually. The significance of the Chinese New Year is not easily understood by the non-Chinese.
The gearing up for the festivities starts much before the actual date. One cannot imagine a similar enthusiasm or preparation for the English New Year. The Indian Diwali is a better comparison for there is an intense house-cleaning session that takes place before Chinese New Year too.
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Removing the old years’ dirt and dust is symbolic as well as practical. Much-neglected repairs and maintenance of the house is taken care of. Many choose to give the house a complete face lift with a new coat of paint. The material renovation signifies spiritual as well as social renewal. But more important, spring-cleaning gives a chance for a new beginning year after year. Shortcomings and disappointments of the old year are swept away and once again the heart is renewed with hope that the coming year will be a better one. Hence, nothing is left untouched as the house is swept from top to bottom.
Report of the Kitchen God
A week before New Year, the Kitchen God goes up to heaven to present an annual report about the activities of the household to the Jade Emperor. This censor of the “family behavior” is an important being and must be appeased with sticky sweet things so that his mouth is so smeared we will have only flattering and nice words dropping from it. It is only after this feast that the old picture of the kitchen God is burnt and he is sent on his way to Heaven. The kitchen god comes back from his journey.
No debts please
The entire emphasis being on renewal and hope for better fortune in the New Year, one would definitely not like to carry over the debts of the old year into the new. So, if one had borrowed or one has lent, it is a time to run around to pay back or to receive. You might find a good deed done to you suddenly from unexpected quarters New Year is a time to repay not only in cash but also in kind; so remember all the nice things done to you by many and for which you have not even said “Thank you”. Take the chance, say it now and get your debts cleared.
Food and More Food
Women seem to spend many hours and many days getting goodies ready for the Chinese New Year. Different types of sweets and cookies are made, of which the ‘maa faa’ remains the eternal favorite. Made up of maida, eggs and sugar, this is a staple fare for kuo nien for there is no new year without maa faa. New Year is one time Chinese seems to indulge their sweet tooth. New Year goodies include rose cookies, coconut sweets, sesame sweets, puffed rice and jaggery toffees etc.
In Calcutta, Chinese New Year cannot be divorced from Chinese sausages (laap cheong) and the fish and prawn wafers. Both the items can be made only during the winter for this is when the cold East wind (Pak Fung) brings out the aroma in the Chinese sausages and the fish and prawn wafers.
Tradition changes and nowadays few Chinese seriously spend days and days making all the traditional goodies at home. Most families now fall back on the market for new year goodies and there is little homemade goodies.download Salome download Cop Dog aka Marlowe
The bachelor society of the Chinese community had to wake up to the needs of women and children when they started appearing in the scene at the beginning of the 20th century. Earlier, when the numbers were small, women and even children learnt the basics of reading and writing from home or from private tutors. But soon the Chinese in Calcutta realized that if children were to be brought up as Chinese – with Chinese language and more important, with Chinese values and thinking it was important that they be sent to Chinese schools. Three schools with Mandarin as the medium of instruction was started for this purpose.
Under the patronage of the Naam Soon Huiguan (the club of the Cantonese Chinese), the Chien Kuo Chinese school was started in the forties in Pheares Lane and later shifted to its Damzen Lane (inside cheenapara) in the sixties where it stands even today. In its days of glory, 14 teachers taught at the Chien Kuo school where there were almost 700 students; the medium of teaching was Mandarin Chinese; history, social studies and even maths was in Chinese and books were brought in by ship from China and there were even special classes for teaching Chiense folk music. Supported by the Republican Government of Taiwan, the school thus prepared generations of mainly Cantonese students in Chinatown of Calcutta for the “proper” Chinese life and conduct.
Two popular schools run by the Hakka community were the Mei Kong Chinese school (on Meredith Street near Chandney Chowk) which ran classes till a high school level and the Pei May Chinese school (in Tangra) which went up till the higher secondary level. Each of these schools in better days boasted of almost a thousand student each. These schools having mostly Hakka students were patronized and supported by the Republican government (present day Taiwan). Though they functioned separately in day to day matters, all the three schools would gather during important celebrations like the Double Ten Day to commemorate the birth of Republican Taiwan.
The Communist government of mainland China also supported two schools – a primary school called Hing Wah and also a high school – which closed down after the 1962 conflict. The Sacred Heart Chinese school were also run for the Chinese by the Catholic church. This was highly popular with the Cantonese, the Hakka and the Hupei communities and it was one of the rare places where children of the different dialect groups could interact though Hakka was the language of communication. It was at the Sacred Heart Chinese School that many Chinese came into contact with the English language and also with the Christian religion. Many Chinese converted to Christianity and the school became one of the very important places of social organization for the Chinese community as it had a very active youth group made up of old students.
The present day Chinese schools
The Chien Kuo Chinese school has less than 70 students now (almost no Chinese students) and Chinese language is taught as a subject among the other subjects, the Mei Kong School closed down almost 7 years ago and is lying vacant since then, the Pei May School which once housed a thousand students has around 75 students at present and its premises is used mainly for social functions only, the Sacred Heart Chinese School ha been handed over to the missionaries to run and has over 350 students but only 20 students out of these are Chinese. The Chinese schools declined after parents realized the importance of the English medium for their children. Enrolment of Chinese children into Calcutta’s Chinese schools has been dropping for many years now and now they exist as Chinese schools in name only. Interestingly, some of the younger generation Chinese are showing an interest to learn the official Chinese language of Mandarin as they hope to migrate to Taiwan and for the commercial value of knowing the Chinese language. This could be important area for the Chinese schools to take on this role and some of them are already running such classes.
Woo Hip Koon was established over 60 years ago at 13, Black Burn Lane, Top Floor, Kolkata-700 073. This club is for the Wmembers of overseas workers in India and Abroad. Before 1948, We had facilities of a free ‘Bed’ at the Medical College, Kolkata for members in case of any emergency. At present, we still have 20 to 25 members and some are working outstation and abroad. Whenever they visit Kolkata they stay in the Club.
Address: 13, Black Burn Lane, Top Floor, Kolkata-700 073
The day of the Maidens
This is an all-maidens festival. Unmarried girls remember the legend of the fairy and the cowherd and make offerings to the lovers. Romantic enough to be something like a Chinese valentine’s day (but one in which maidens pray for good looks to attract a good and worthy mate).
The Cowherd and the Weaving girl
The seven daughters of the Jade Emperor who wove the robes for the Gods in Heaven came to the earth for their annual holiday and bath. While they were bathing, a Cowherd stole one set of their clothes and hid away. After much splashing and fun in the water, the seven sisters stepped out to change. To their horror, the prettiest one of the lot discovered that her clothes were missing. She had no choice but to go begging the cowherd for her clothes.
The cowherd gave it back but not before he proposed to the girl who had no choice but agree to marry him. She did not regret for they lived happily together for three years. After three years, the Gods felt that she had had enough fun and should get back to work. They ordered the girl back to Heaven and get on with weaving their robes. The lovers were allowed just one short look of each other once a year.
Later, the Cowherd died. He became an immortal with the help of his magic cow and he hurried to join his beloved among the stars. But the Queen of Heaven feared that her wardrobe might be depleted again if the girl got distracted. So, she took out her magic hairpin and with one sweep of her arm, drew the Milky Way across the sky leaving the Cowherd on one side and the girl on the other.
There the lovers remain to this day, so near and yet so far. They are within sight of each other and yet not able to meet, except once a year on the double seven. On that day, all the magpies of the earth fly up to Heaven and make a bridge with their wings for the girl to cross over to visit her husband.
On the double seven, young unmarried girls remember this romantic yet sad story and they make their offerings to the lovers. They pray that they too find their soul mate and that when they do, they may not be separated from their lover as the cowherd and the weaver girl had to be separated.In the Land of Women full movie