More Than Just a Corridor: The History of the Five Foot Way

by Gan Siang Hong

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image credit: Thimbuktu

When designing Singapore’s town plan, Sir Stamford Raffles introduced many changes to Singapore’s architectural landscape. One significant feature he included was the five feet wide corridor that lined the fronts of shophouses, commonly known as the five foot way.

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image credit: Mothership

The five foot way served many purposes. It provided shelter from the sun and rain, a safe path for pedestrians, and a space for vendors to do business. A unique trend soon emerged from the existence of the five foot way: the five foot way libraries.

In the 1950s, the five foot way libraries were the best source of books for many avid readers of Chinese literature. The libraries had a wide selection of books, from tales of romance to adventure stories. For those who could not read, there was also an assortment of comic books available. To rent a book cost only a few cents, and would provide hours of entertainment for adults and children alike.

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image credit: The Long and Winding Road

The five foot ways were more than just corridors; they grew to become hubs for social and cultural activities (much like the void decks of today), and they hold fond memories for many Singaporeans.

To commemorate the spirit of the five foot way, the Chinatown Business Association has organised the Five Foot Way Festival, to be held on the weekend of 23 – 24 March.

As part of the event, Asiapac Books will be opening our very own Pop-up Five Foot Way Library featuring our favourite vintage and new comic books! Grab a stool and travel back in time to Chinatown’s early days of roadside libraries and storytellers. Make sure to play our old-school Tikam-Tikam Books game with attractive prizes to be won.

Do come early to reserve a good spot for the Street Storytelling performances on Saturday(2PM) and Sunday(3PM)!

five foot way library

Pop-up Five Foot Way Library
Saturday 23 March: 11AM-9PM
Sunday 24 March: 11AM-9PM

storytelling

Street Storytelling 讲古
Chinese legends narrated in English
Saturday 23 March: 2-230PM
Sunday 24 March: 3-30PM

We’ll see you there!

 

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Heroines of the Past, Celebrated Today: International Women’s Day 2019

by Gan Siang Hong

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AAJ News, 2018

Today, we commemorate a very special occasion: International Women’s Day. Even Google has changed its homepage to feature quotes from prominent female figures. Among these quotes, there is one by the Indian Olympic boxer Mary Kom that is particularly powerful. She addresses all womankind and declares, “Do not say you are weak, because you are a woman.”

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India Today, 2018

Indeed, the only true limits are the ones one sets for oneself, and Mary Kom asserts that a woman can achieve as much as any man. There have been many women who share Mary Kom’s mindset, playing significant roles in shaping history and society. To understand more about these heroines, we explore two of our graphic novel titles featuring women as prominent characters.

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Asiapac Books, 2018

Hua Mulan: Legendary Woman Warrior tells of a story that has been related across countless generations, and is widely known across the world today. In the stead of her old and sickly father, Mulan joined the army and fought for her country. She became an iconic legend not just because of her achievements, but also because of her strong values. What she lacked in physical strength and endurance, she more than made up for with rigorous training and a sharp intellect. Never giving up and always putting her family and country before herself, Mulan is the embodiment of heroism that men and women should all aspire to.

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The second book is titled A Dream of Red Mansions, a comic book adaptation of the profound literary masterpiece that took China by storm in the 18th century. Through the bold, expressive style of Seraphina Lum’s art, we experience life in the shoes of the various members of the Jia Clan, a wealthy Chinese family. What is particularly intriguing is the fact that the family is a matriarchy, where women have the bigger say.

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the Beijinger, 2017

As the story progresses, we witness many of these women struggle with relationships, loss, family feuds, and ultimately forge their own path in life. Throughout various hardships, the characters display an admirable strength of will to remain true to themselves and their beliefs. It is no exaggeration, therefore, to say that the book is a veritable testament to the inner strength of women, and a celebration of their contribution to society.

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Untappd, 2019

Women have just as big a role in our society as men, regardless of the era. It is only right that we give them due credit for all that they have done, and perhaps try to understand better the struggles they face. For this purpose, look no further than Hua Mulan: Legendary Woman Warrior and A Dream of Red Mansions: the perfect reads for International Women’s Day.

Journey to the West: Vision, Perseverance, Teamwork

a review by Gan Siang Hong

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Asiapac Books, 2018

Modelled after one of the greatest chronicles in human history, Asiapac’s Journey to the West tells of Sun Wukong’s quest for immortality and enlightenment. By handpicking the most exciting parts of the story and compressing them into one compact, colorful volume, Chang Boon Kiat has created a gripping tale that can be enjoyed by all ages.

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Asiapac Books, 2018

A story would not be complete without a cast of interesting characters, and Xuanzang Sanzang’s merry band of Buddhist disciples do not fail to disappoint. The book hits the ground running with the flashy introduction of Sun Wukong, and Chang’s portrayal of the mischievous but powerful Monkey King hits the nail on the head.

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Asiapac Books, 2018

From Wukong’s dialogue to his simple but distinctive design, everything is taken into careful consideration to craft a character that is just as awe-inspiring as he is likeable and entertaining. Wukong’s fellow disciples, Pigsy (Zhu Bajie) and Sandy (Sha Wujing), while not as prominent within the story, are given similar treatment with their unique appearances and personalities.

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Asiapac Books, 2018

Journey to the West seems to understand that a good antagonist is as crucial to the story as any protagonist. From imperial generals to bloodthirsty demons, every character has a strong design, making each one as memorable as the last. And, while interesting on their own, the diverse cast of antagonists truly shine when pitted against Wukong and friends, and their dynamic interactions give life to the trials and tribulations which they represent in the course of the journey.

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The Straits Times, 2018

An important dynamic that is explored within the book is the conflict between Sanzang’s benevolent character and Wukong’s impulsive and violent tendencies. Their encounter with the White Bone Spirit and Sanzang’s subsequent banishment of Wukong leaves the reader to consider this conflict’s significance.

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Maxiphoto, 2016

This dissension between teacher and disciple is representative of the conflicting ideologies of Law and Chaos and how it affects our actions. One may immediately assume that being lawful is the best course of action, but is that really true when Sanzang always ends up in danger, only to be saved by the chaotic Wukong? The profound lessons that this story imparts to its readers are simply another aspect of what makes it so engaging.

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Asiapac Books, 2018

All in all, Journey to the West more than does justice to the original Chinese novel. Chang’s adaptation transforms it into a wondrous tale of action and adventure that is thematically rich, yet easy to understand. Amidst all this, the true message of the story is made clear: that what is important is not the destination, but the journey.

Remember Where You’ve Been: Celebrating the Singapore Bicentennial

by Gan Siang Hong

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Singapore Bicentennial Office, 2018

A song by the popular rock band All Time Low goes, “Before you ask which way to go, remember where you’ve been.” As Singaporeans, there are many things we can do to commemorate our heritage and culture, and this is all the more relevant in the upcoming year. 2019 marks the Singapore Bicentennial: a yearlong event that encourages us to look back on Singapore’s journey and understand our roots.

 

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Asiapac Books, 2018

Singapore’s history goes a long way back, with records originating from the late 13th century. The prospect of approaching such a vast well of history may appear daunting, but the Singapore Bicentennial Book Bundle is certainly a good place to start.

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Zaki Ragman, 2010

We begin our journey through the past with Legendary Tales of Singapore. This compact yet intriguing volume tells of various folktales dating back to Singapore’s very early days under the rule of Sang Nila Utama. As far as legends and fairy tales go, the stories behind the origins of our Lion City are as interesting and exciting as they come, and Zaki Ragman’s quirky art style makes the book even more fun and approachable. Definitely worth a read.

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Singapore International Foundation, 2016

We now move on to Singapore’s age of globalisation, when Raffles first set foot onto the island. There is much to be learned and admired about the man, and there are few better sources of information than Stamford Raffles: Founder of Modern Singapore. Zhou Yimin’s well-drawn illustrations make exploring Raffles’ life an easy and enjoyable experience, and the book is a great way to understand the part Raffles played in Singapore’s rise to glory as a trading port.

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Asiapac Books, 2018

Next, we delve into Singapore’s more recent past as a rapidly developing city in the 1900s. Once Upon a Singapore – Traders features various tradesmen from this period, showing us how they contributed to the socio-economic aspects of life. Alan Bay’s vividly colorful yet simple art style serves the story well, and makes readers feel right at home in 20th century Singapore. Traders most valuable lesson, however, comes from reminding us of what these tradesmen could offer that today’s industries cannot: the human condition.

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Youth.SG, 2015

Just as Singapore is not complete without its diverse multi-culturalistic social landscape, the book bundle would not be complete without Gateway to Singapore Culture. This informative title tells you everything you will need to know about Singapore’s various ethnic groups and the traditions that they hold dear. The illustrations and photos breathe life into the text, enhancing the learning experience, and who knows? Perhaps your newfound knowledge may serve as a good conversation starter.

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Gallery 5150, 2019

As we go about our everyday lives, we often lose sight of how important it is to appreciate how far we have come as a society. This year, it’s time to remember where you’ve been. The Singapore Bicentennial Book Bundle is ideal for anyone who wishes to glimpse into Singapore’s past and celebrate our achievements thus far, and readers both young and old can hope to take away valuable lessons from these four rich and engaging titles.

Get them from our website!

Unearthing the Roots of Chinese Medicine

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Image: Pietro Jeng

Most of us have heard of yin and yang – the two forces that, in Chinese philosophy, power the natural world. Our understanding, however, is often limited to a vague impression of their exact roles; many don’t realise how the forces, as a fundamental part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), continue to thread through modern thinking.

TCM itself is still very much an active part of life today – a tenet of Chinese history and tradition, it is also something many Singaporeans continue to turn to when ill. Learning about TCM is thus about both the past and present, something that we recognise in our Essential Chinese Medicine series and Essence of Traditional Chinese Medicine comic book.

 

 

Essential Chinese Medicine features four titles, each covering different aspects of TCM: Health Tonics, Improving Blood CirculationRelieving Wind and Restoring Balance. The books describe the most well-known herbs used in each field, going into incredible detail about medicinal effects, purchasing and storing methods, and easy recipes – Health Tonics alone, for instance, describes 54 popular herbs! The books cover both the therapeutic and practical effects of TCM, providing a truly well-rounded look at the subject.

All four Essential Chinese Medicine books are edited by Professor Zhang Bao Chun and Professor Chen Yu Ting, postgraduate instructors at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. They draw on their wealth of knowledge to shed light on an otherwise complex topic, carefully clarifying and simplifying information for readers. The books are especially relevant for Singapore readers too, as the featured herbs are amongst the most commonly used right here on our island.

Essence of Traditional Chinese Medicine is even more accessible, employing illustrations, diagrams and comics to explain the text. It spans from ancient Chinese theories about the human body to the modernisation of TCM, proving how this branch of medicine has both survived and evolved.

Whether you are simply a curious beginner or a TCM-enthusiast, our two series are refreshing, informative takes on a truly fascinating subject. Learn about the lives of famous Chinese physicians from light-hearted comics, or try your hand at a few simple, wholesome recipes. TCM, after all, has become much more than just a matter of health, but a philosophy and spirit with far-reaching influences.

Getting to Know China

It is impossible to know everything about China and its sprawling history. A civilisation spanning thousands of years, its present day state is the result of countless political, social, artistic and scientific milestones. There will always be new facets about Chinese culture you have yet to come across – exactly why getting to know China is so exciting.

Celebrate Chinese Culture is a series (nearly) as epic as Chinese history itself. It contains six volumes, each focusing on one aspect of the culture: Chinese Literature, Chinese Science & Technology, Chinese Fine Arts, Chinese Eminent People, Chinese Folk Customs, and Chinese Auspicious Culture. Together, they provide a comprehensive insight into this incredible civilisation. Vivid photographs and illustrations throughout each book help illuminate each point, and to make Chinese culture feel more alive than ever.

 

Meet some of the greatest writers of all time in Chinese Literature, and learn how reading and writing has long formed an integral part of Chinese society – from the development of literature pre-Qin Dynasty to the last monarchy of the Qing Dynasty. Make new discoveries in Chinese Science & Technology, particularly how one of today’s most technologically advanced countries was also responsible for ground-breaking inventions like the seismograph.

 

In Chinese Fine Arts, you will be introduced to the other side of Chinese culture: calligraphy, painting, music, dance, theatre and sculpture. Even the smallest brushstroke in calligraphy is an art form, imbuing Chinese artistic mediums with both skill and passion. Meanwhile, Chinese Eminent People will have you encountering China’s most prominent leaders, celebrities, artists, musicians and scientists; while they may be noted for their public achievements, the book also delves into their personal stories of love, sorrow and joy.

 

Chinese Folk Customs takes you to the roots of Chinese society: the folk beliefs that have influenced and defined practices of birth, coming-of-age, marriage and death. Understanding these beliefs – such as the auspicious use of red and important mythological creatures – will enhance understanding of the Chinese psyche. Chinese Auspicious Culture rounds up the series with an examination of the way folk customs have evolved over time. Customs which we might now take for granted, like the making of glutinous rice dumplings and choosing of auspicious wedding dates, were actually carefully developed as a way of maximising fortune and prosperity!

Getting to know China doesn’t end with these six books, of course, but Celebrate Chinese Culture provides an easy way to begin. Grab a copy – or all six! – to learn more about the deep history powering the global power today.

Mid-Autumn Festival: The Tales Behind It

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Image: pxhere

You may know by now that the annual Mid-Autumn Festival is just around the corner, whether it be because you have noticed the colourful lanterns emerging around Singapore, or because you have been recently inundated with invitations to mooncake parties. One of the most important festivals in Chinese culture, Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15thday of the eighth lunar month – which falls, this year, on 24th September.

A colourful affair centred around the moon, Mid-Autumn Festival is popular with adults and kids alike: revellers get to tote brightly lit lanterns and feast on deliciously sweet mooncakes. The Festival in Singapore has inevitably evolved over the years, with electrical lanterns shaped as popular cartoon characters rivalling the more traditional paper versions, and more and more places offering modern takes on mooncakes – think ice cream mooncakes and flavours like durian and coffee!

But how much do you really know about the origins behind these traditions? Our Origins of Chinese Festivals takes readers back to the very beginning, retelling two central myths in comic form: The Story of Chang-e and The Story of Mooncakes.

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Image: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi via Wikimedia Commons

Chang-e was a heavenly being who was banished to earth with her husband, the archer Hou Yi. Buoyed by the admiration and worship of the humans, Hou Yi grew greedy and obtained the elixir of life from the Queen Mother of the West, planning to share it with Chang-e so that they could both dominate the human realm forever. Horrified by his vanity and pride, Chang-e drank the elixir by herself and gained the ability to fly to heaven.

Now alone – Hou Yi was soon slain by his treacherous disciple Feng Meng – Chang-e then flew to the moon with her pet rabbit to wallow in sorrow. To this day, kids try to find the shapes of Chang-e and her rabbit during Mid-Autumn Festival, when the moon is traditionally thought to be the brightest.

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Image: Mk2010 via Wikimedia Commons

The second tale in Origins of Chinese Festivals is of how mooncakes came to be. The end of the Song Dynasty saw the Mongols ruling China, and stationing a soldier in each local household to control the people. In retaliation, the locals baked secret messages inciting rebellion inside round cakes, which were then passed around the households and cut open. The messages organised a collective uprising one night, and the locals successfully regained their freedom.

The eating of these cakes became a tradition during the Mid-Autumn Festival, and eventually evolved to become the mooncakes of today. The sweet pastries are round to symbolise completeness and reunion, and are eaten by families in the spirit of sweet harmony.

Today, Mid-Autumn Festival has moved far from its origins to become a modernised affair. Gardens by the Bay, for instance, is staging a fantastical lantern display this year, while a Festive Bazaar can be found in Chinatown and a Moonfest at the Esplanade. Nevertheless, as families and friends come together every year in celebration, we see the values of harmony and reunion captured by Origins of Chinese Festivals continue to underlie the festivities.

A Gateway to Singapore

Singapore’s multicultural nature is one of our strongest points – we get to share knowledge, traditions and practices between a diverse range of people, making this a vibrant and dynamic place to live.

Our Culture Gateway series delves deeper into this, exploring the history and customs behind Singapore’s various communities. While individual books focus on a specific community, a good place to start is Gateway to Singapore Culture, which provides an overview of our country’s rich cultural tapestry.

The colourfully illustrated book devotes a section to each of the five main cultures in Singapore: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Eurasian and Peranakan. Find out more about yourself and your friends, from the origins and cuisine of each community, to their beliefs and famous individuals. There is so much history behind all of us who make up Singapore, and no better introduction to it than Gateway to Singapore Culture.

Living in a multicultural society is extremely rewarding, but we should also be aware of the ways that different people negotiate such an experience. At the root of racial concord is a deep appreciation and understanding of our different communities, and it is thus important that the book touches upon its subject. It is, ultimately, a celebration of friendship, peace and harmony.

To learn more about other cultures is to engage with them, and Gateway to Singapore Culture does so in a fun and accessible way. Simply pick up a copy of it to find out about the rich history that underlies Singapore today, and deepen your understanding of what it means to be a diverse community!

Six Tips for Submissions

Photo via <a href=”https://www.goodfreephotos.com/”>Good Free Photos</a>

Submitting a book proposal or manuscript can seem daunting – we know how scary or confusing the process can be, but there’s really nothing to worry about! At Asiapac, we publish comics, fiction and non-fiction books on a wide range of subjects, and are always looking for new works and talent to bring to the public. To help you better understand the submission process and what we look out for, here are several tips on how to submit a proposal to a publisher:

Be original – Publishers are always looking for ideas that are unique and exciting, and there is nothing that will make your proposal stand out more than a completely fresh angle. While we all take inspiration from the world around us, try to think of original and unique ways to express your ideas.

It’s in the details – A proposal may only be a sample of your entire work, but it is important to still include a certain amount of detail. Taking the time to flesh out story ideas and characters is something publishers appreciate, and will also give a better idea of the proposal’s potential. A well-written proposal is one thing, but demonstrating the heart of a story is another!

Look out for submission calls – We often call for manuscripts in certain categories on the Asiapac website’s Submissions page. This might be a good place to start if you are looking for a prompt, or if you want to know how well your own work might fit into our style.

Follow submission guidelines – This may seem obvious, but always check what a publisher requires be included in a proposal or manuscript submission! Requirements like excerpt and synopsis lengths may vary across publishers, and you don’t want your submission to be rejected because of such an oversight.

Consider non-profit or government funding – We often recommend that Singaporean writers and artists have a look at funding schemes available from the National Arts Council (NAC) and other non-profit or government-linked organisations. NAC offers several grants for individuals and organisations developing artistic works, and can be a useful source of help when kick-starting a project.

Patience is a virtue – Last, but definitely not least, is the importance of patience and persistence. Submitting a proposal or manuscript is often a waiting game, but you should never feel disheartened. Publishers can take a while to respond to submissions and have to reject many good manuscripts due to budget and time constraints. Even if you encounter rejection, you should never give up your ambitions. Be confident in your work, and never stop trying out new ideas!

Reintroducing the Classics

We here at Asiapac are always trying to bring the classics to new audiences. While Journey to the WestRomance of the Three Kingdoms and Hua Mulan might already be familiar to many, our graphic novel versions will bring these tales to life in a whole new way. No one knows the power of comics more than us, and the visual element is put into full effect in these books’ retelling of history.

Our latest release Journey to the West is a re-coloured and edited version of our bestselling book by Chang Boon Kiat, so you will be able to enjoy an even more vivid telling of the epic tale. The monk Xuanzang embarks on a quest for the Buddhist sutras, alongside his disciples Sun Wukong, Sandy and Pigsy. The tale is rendered in stunning illustrations and dialogue, which perfectly capture the ambitious and lively spirit of the story itself.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a historical novel by Ming Dynasty writer Luo Guanzhong, and is based on the power struggle between the states of Wei, Shu and Wu after the decline of the Han dynasty. Together, the ten-volumes in the series unfold the exciting but turbulent period of Chinese history, with each volume dedicated to a specific battle or event.

Seasoned artist Li Chengli and writer Luo Guanzhong are at their most brilliant in this collaborative effort, with vivid dialogue perfectly complementing the action-filled illustrations. Characters will seem even more alive, and the conflict even more intense – you’re bound to find yourself swept along on this visual, historical adventure!

A classic tale is similarly reinvigorated in Hua Mulan: Legendary Woman Warrior. The story of the female warrior who disguised herself as a man to fight for family and country has long become familiar to us – we’re looking at you, Disney – but you’ll still find new thrills and sides to it in this graphic novel. Creators Xu Deyuan and Jiang Wei have reimagined Mulan’s story in their painstakingly written and illustrated book, so follow Mulan from her victories and feats in the army, to her eventual identity reveal at the end of the war.

We believe that the richness of Chinese classics deserves to be told again and again, and to be appreciated by every new generation that comes along. So regardless of whether you have never heard these stories before or if you are already well-versed in them, our graphic interpretations of Chinese classics should be next on your reading list!