A Malay folktale: The Princess of Mount Ophir

It was said that a beautiful fairy princess lived at the top of Gunung Ledang. She had been raised by a group of beings that were half-man and half-beast. Because she was a fairy princess, she never grew old. Her beauty was enhanced by the breezes that blew atop the mountain.

Many sultans sought her hand in marriage. Yet perhaps the mountain sought to preserve her purity, for no messenger ever reached the top of Gunung Ledang. And so, the princess spent her days on the mountain, dancing and singing in the cool air.

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Then came the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah. He sent three of his best warriors to find the princess. It was believed that the journey was so tenuous that only one of them managed to make his way to the princess’ home. There, he put forth Sultan Mansur Shah’s proposal.

The princess replied that she would marry the sultan if he was able to provide her with three items: seven vats containing women’s tears, seven trays of mosquito hearts and seven drops of his son’s blood.

Upon his return to the palace, the warrior conveyed the princess’ message. The sultan was crushed when he heard it. As he sat in his royal chambers, he lamented, “I can provide seven vats of women’s tears and even seven trays of mosquito hearts. But to prick my son for even one drop of his blood is impossible for me to bear!”

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And so, for many more years, the princess remained atop Gunung Ledang. It was believed that she eventually did find her true love, a fierce warrior named Nakhoda Ragam.

She moved down from the mountain to live with him. Her bliss was shattered one day when they were spending time together. He had tickled her so much that she accidentally stabbed him with a needle as she laughed uncontrollably.

After the incident, the princess returned to the mountain and never laid eyes on another man again. Soon after, Nakhoda Ragam’s boat was destroyed in a storm and the debris became the six islands off Malacca.

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An introduction to Chinese cuisine

To the Chinese, eating is a very important part of life. It is a social activity and helps to break the ice. In Chinese society, food is also a measure of success.

More than just eating, the Chinese also love to cook as it is seen as an art in itself. Chinese cuisine places emphasis on colour, aroma and flavour. Not only must a dish taste good, it must also appeal to the senses to be able to whet the appetite.

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Cooking methods

There are countless ways to cook the same ingredients, and each way of cooking imparts its own unique flavour to the food:

  • Steam
  • Boil
  • Double-boil
  • Stew
  • Poach
  • Braise
  • Stir-fry
  • Shallow-fry
  • Deep fry
  • … and many more!

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Eight main cuisines

  • Sichuan, with characteristic rich and spicy dishes like Gongbao diced chicken
  • Shandong, with dishes like Dezhou braised chicken
  • Suzhou, with its carefully presented steamed crucian carp
  • Guangdong, with distinctive sweet and crispy dishes like roast suckling pig
  • Fujian, famed for Buddha Jumps over the Wall
  • Zhejiang, which emphasises fresh food and natural flavours, particularly seafood
  • Huizhou, which favours delicacies from the land and sea
  • Hunan, which features rich foods with strong colours like cured meats

Now, tell us, which is your favourite?

 

A myth on how the Chinese language came about

Letter

Legend has it that the written language was created by Cangjie, a subordinate of the Yellow Emperor. Cangjie was in charge of managing livestock and food supplies. As the animals and grain kept increasing, it became impossible to keep count. Hence, he made knots in different coloured strings to represent the numbers of different animals and food.

Seeing Cangjie’s ability, the Yellow Emperor put him in charge of many more things. Cangjie racked his brains as strings were not sufficient now.

One day, Cangjie went hunting. He observed the animal footprints on the ground and got a revelation: “If one type of footprint represents one kind of animal, why don’t I just indicate the different items with symbols?”

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Hence, Cangjie began to come up with different symbols based on the shapes of animal footprints and the natural environment. Later, others also adopted these symbols and started to communicate with them.

However, of course, this remains just a myth as the development of a written language is usually influenced by many social factors over a long period of time.

Editor’s Note: November 2018

It’s been two weeks since the start of our exhibition, and the response has been nothing short of amazing. We’d like to take this month’s Editor’s Note to thank all of you who took time out of your schedule to drop by, whether for our curated programmes or even just for a short bit while browsing at the library!

Here are a few photos we took along the way that we thought you’d like to look back upon:

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Lim Li Kok, Managing Director of Asiapac Books, speaking to a lovely crowd at our opening party.
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Comic artist Patrick Yee browsing through our original artwork archives at our opening party. These documents go a long way back!
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Chairman of the Indonesia Comic Society Rizqi Rinaldy Mosmarth drawing on our doodle wall. Come see how it looks like today!
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Comic artist Wee See Heng and a bubbly group of kids after his Kids Make Comics workshop!

The exhibition’s still going on until 9 December 2018, so make sure you don’t miss it! It’s easily located at the Level 8 Promenade of the National Library Building. Check out below for our upcoming events:

Saturday, 1 December 2018 — Book Discussion: Chinese Classics in Comics
We introduce readers to the rich legacy of classic Chinese literature and discuss two new comic books, Journey to the West and Hua Mulan.

Sunday, 2 December 2018 — Workshop: Kids Make Comics (Eng)
You can be a comic artist too! In this introductory workshop, comic artist Zaki Ragman will teach students the basic concepts and skills for creating comics. Recommended for children aged 7–16 years old.

Saturday, 8 December 2018 — How to Publish a Comic Book
Ever thought about publishing your own comic book? Curious as to what goes on behind the scenes of a publishing firm? Join us for an interactive seminar with veteran publisher Lim Li Kok to find out more. Recommended for creatives in art and media.

Sunday, 9 December 2018 — Launch of Asiapac Books Reading Circle
Readers young and old are welcome to join our monthly reading group on Asian culture, history, and philosophy. Bring your favourite comic book to talk about!

Full details on Facebook or Eventbrite.

As the exhibition draws near to its last week, we’re really hoping for this opportunity to meet all our loyal readers and supporters. Please do come by and say hello!

A walk down memory lane

As you might already know, it’s Asiapac Books’ 35th anniversary this year. Having been in the book industry since 1983, we want to showcase just a bit of our catalogue of out-of-print books. Perhaps you’ve seen these before back in the day?

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Labour Pains was the first book published by Asiapac Books. It is a comedic book on gender inequality illustrated with cartoons and comic strips.

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These four titles are examples of paperback classics and Asian literature published by Asiapac Books in the 1980s.

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Two award-winning titles illustrated by renowned Chinese artist Lu Yuan Guang.

Check out more of our publications both old and new at our 35th anniversary comics exhibition today (it’s free)! We’re located at the Level 8 Promenade of the National Library Building from now until 9 December 2018. Oh, and don’t miss out on our upcoming events (updated list on Facebook or Eventbrite)!

The importance of editing your writing

Before you submit your manuscript, ask yourself: has it gone through an edit at least once?

Of course, publishers have in-house editors to do the job for you, but giving your raw manuscript a good look-through can greatly increase your chances of getting published. Here’s why.

1. Is your story consistent?

When writing a book, it is easy to get lost in the plot and characters, especially if you’re the creator. Letting your imagination run wild is great, and creativity should not be hindered in any part of the writing process. However, it is fundamental that the writer sits down and reads through the story later on to make sure that the tale is consistent, there are no plot holes and that characters are properly introduced. Basically, you want to make sure your reader understands your story without needing any preknowledge of the context (unless, of course, it’s a sequel).

2. If you were your targeted reader, would you read your book?

It’s not enough just to make your book understandable. You want it to interest your target audience as well. To do this, you need to make sure the tone and of the book are engaging. If your story lacks suspension, plug in those holes! The best kind of book keeps the reader glued from start to end.

3. Is your completed manuscript what you started out intending it to be?

Very often, plans change along the writing process. Sometimes, what was initially thought up as a sci-fi novel could turn out to be a romance thriller instead! When that happens, the important question to ask yourself is: are you still excited to market this book as it is? After all, you are the biggest seller of your book, and ensuring that it is exactly what you would like to promote is key to publishing your hard work. If you have doubts, perhaps there is something that needs to be changed within the script.

Check out more about the process of publishing a book at our 35th anniversary exhibition held from now till 9 December 2018, at the Level 8 Promenade of the National Library Building. Not only do we have a whole panel telling you about it, our founder Lim Li Kok will also be speaking about (comic) book production in a seminar on Saturday, 8 December 2018, 3–4.30pm! Sign up for free here!

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

The people behind Asiapac: Our comic artists

As we prepare for our 35th anniversary exhibition opening this Saturday (we’re making sure everything runs smoothly for you!), let’s reminisce about some of our long-time comic artists who have played a huge role in our company, and one Asiapac publication that they have worked on each.

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Chan Kok Sing

Born in 1971 in Malaysia, Chan Kok Sing did not have an easy childhood. However, he knew he loved drawing and did not give it up, eventually graduating from the Kuala Lumpur College of Art in 1995 and securing a collaboration with Asiapac Books the year after.

The Eight Immortals is a Classic Taoist folk legend about eight ordinary people who attained immortality through selfless actions and good deeds. Together, they are celebrated because they signify happiness. Because of this tradition, the number eight has been considered by the Chinese to represent luck or good fortune.

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Huang Qingrong

Also born in Malaysia, Huang Qingrong joined Asiapac Books in 1998 on what was then the six-volume publication Water MarginWater Margin depicts 108 victims of oppression during the Northern Song Dynasty who fought against corruption and treachery. This Chinese classic is based on true events and historical characters, which makes the story even more relevant to the everyday reader.

Huang Qingrong’s drawings are simple, comical and easy on the eye, making him skilled at adapting complex literary elements to suit younger readers.

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Jeffrey Seow

Born in 1954, Jeffrey Seow is a Singaporean self-taught artist. Before becoming a comic artist, he worked as an illustrator in the local TV station, and also in the advertising industry. His experience in various creative roles has made him a very versatile artist.

The Analects of Confucius is a record of the life and teachings of Confucius, and represents the most important work stemming from Confucianism. It covers a wide range of topics, including politics, society, morality and education. Asiapac Books’ comic version accompanied by Jeffrey Seow’s humorous cartoons is a light-hearted read that will appeal to both young and old.

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Fu Chunjiang

Fu Chunjiang was born in 1974 in China. He is particularly skilled in the traditional style of illustration commonly seen in Chinese classical adaptations.

Origins of Chinese Festivals tells of the different stories behind each traditional Chinese festival that we still celebrate today. This helps us better appreciate our traditions and also understand the reasons behind why we continue participating in these festivities now.

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Come by our 35th anniversary comics exhibition at the Level 8 Promenade of the National Library Building from now until 9 December 2018 to feast your eyes on more beautiful artwork! What’s more, sign up for our free events for the whole family at https://www.eventbrite.sg/o/asiapac-books-14968450800 today!

The ongoing debate: Singapore’s hawker culture

Amidst the discussion concerning the place of Singapore’s hawker culture in UNESCO’s list, let us take a trip down memory lane and reminisce the beginning of it all.

Hawkers

Do you recognise any of the above hawkers? Can you name the food that each of them sold and the sounds that they made?

Not only did the smell of delicious food permeate the streets of Singapore, much din was made too: hawkers shouting to advertise their food, the highly-anticipated ringing of the ice-cream bell, the familiar “tok-tok” rhythm by the bamboo apparatus of the Tok Tok Mee man…

Many immigrants in 1900s Singapore relied on food hawkers on the streets for their daily meals. Besides famous dishes like braised duck, noodles and nasi lemak that are still rampant all over the country today, there were many other types of food sold that we no longer can find here.

These include…

Lok Lok

… Lok Lok…

Pig's Ear

… Pig’s Ear…

Grilled Squid

… grilled squid…

Crocodile

… and even crocodile meat!

Due to hygiene reasons, these cannot be sold the same way in Singapore anymore.

In addition, the clean and well-maintained hawker centres that you walk past every day are a far cry from what it used to be! Most of the hawkers in that day carried their stalls with them and set them up wherever there were customers.

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Hawker 2

Hawker 3

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What do you remember from the hawkers in the past? Do you have similar stories to share?

Tell us more at our book launch tomorrow! Get your hands on our latest graphic novel, Once Upon A Singapore… Traders, where we show you the hawker culture that has made Singapore what it is today. Details: The Arts House, 10 November 2018, 2pm-3pm. Register here for free!

Editor’s Note: October/November 2018

October’s been pretty quiet on the front line, but rest assured that lots of things have been brewing on our end!

If you’ve been following us through the last couple of weeks, you’ll know that we have two exciting book launches coming up—which are exactly what we’ve been up to our necks with as the dates near.

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Once Upon A Singapore… Traders is a light-hearted tale of the various trades that made old Singapore the bustling, vibrant town of the past, and how they built a foundation for the nation we live in today. It’s a graphic novel that’s brimming with fun trivia, beautiful illustrations and cheeky dialogue. Best of all, it’s suitable for all ages—whether you’re a young one curious about your grandparents’ childhood, or a grandparent yearning to relive the past.

It’s been a long journey from its conception in November 2017 (yes, this project took us a year to complete!). We hope that through the intense discussions about every nitty-gritty detail, constant revisions of the script and perfecting of the illustrations and colours, we’ve created a novel that you’ll enjoy not just once, but many times over!

Catch author Tina Sim and illustrator Alan Bay at the book launch at The Arts House on 10 November 20182pm–3pm. You might even walk away with a free autographed copy of the book. Register here!

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In November, we’ll also be celebrating our 35th anniversary with a bang: a comics exhibition featuring original illustrations by our comic artists, past and new! Taking place from 17 November 2018 to 9 December 2018 at the Level 8 Promenade of the National Library Building, get ready to feast your eyes on some gorgeous pieces of art.

To prepare for this event, we’ve been running around frantically coordinating with our exhibition designers (and all the help we can get). As we have learnt, organising a huge event like this is not as straightforward as one might think. We had to work from scratch: designing the exhibition logo, deciding on the material of the panels, figuring out how best to display our original artwork collection, creating social media banners, drafting up a press release… and the list goes on and on.

Ultimately, we hope that through this comics exhibition, you’ll be able to better appreciate the books you bring home, and create new and lasting memories with your loved ones.

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Another publication we’re bouncing off the walls for is this lovely collection of comics by respected Chinese artist Feng Zikai. We have chosen Selected Comics of Feng Zikai to be our flagship publication for our 35th anniversary, reflecting the inspiration that the artist provides for our work. His pieces portray everyday situations in an idyllic yet thought-provoking manner, and serve as food for the soul.

We want to make these books an experience for you, by getting lost in the imagery and poetic descriptions that Feng Zikai has so tastefully crafted and left behind. From the colour of the books, to the position and size of the illustrations, to the alignment of text, everything has been carefully considered to ensure the greatest reading pleasure.

Look out for the book launch details soon!

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With so many events coming up, we really hope to see you there and to put a face to our fans and readers. If you do drop by, please come and say hello to the Asiapac team. Don’t worry, we won’t bite!

 

Why were clogs invented?

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Clogs, a.k.a. cha kiak in Hokkien, are a type of shoe that was popular in Singapore in the mid-1900s. They are made using wood for the soles, and rubber for the straps.

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It is said that a long time ago, there was a man who felled trees for a living. As he wore shoes made of cloth, he often injured his feet while walking in the forest. One day, he stepped on a stick and tore his shoes. He could not wear them anymore.

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Being forced to think of a solution, he noticed that there were pieces of wood lying around. So, he tied two wooden pieces to his feet with rope and started walking in them. He found that the wood not only protected his feet from sharp sticks and stones, but also prevented him from slipping on wet ground.

From then on, he chopped trees for wood to make soles for clogs.

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Clogs were subsequently used in wet kitchens and markets, to keep feet dry when walking on wet floors. These were some important traits that made them the perfect shoe:

  • Comfortable
  • Imitate a flat surface
  • Thick soles create distance between feet and wet, dirty ground
  • Wooden soles create friction to prevent slipping
  • No need to differentiate between left and right: both sides are the same

 

 

Take note! Red clogs with curvy edges are for women. Green ones with straight sides are for men. It may take some practice to walk in them, but it’s just a matter of getting used to.

Today, with the wide array of footwear available, clogs have become redundant. However, you can still get a pair at a souvenir shop as a keepsake!

Read more about the clog makers and other super interesting trades in our latest graphic novel, Once Upon A Singapore… Traders. You can preorder the book here. We’ll also be having our book launch at The Arts House on 10 November 20182pm-3pm, so make sure you don’t miss it! Register here for free!