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

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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.

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 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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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!

Get to know: Tina and Alan

With the nearing of our book launch for Once Upon A Singapore… Traders, we thought we’d speak to writer Tina Sim and illustrator Alan Bay, to understand a bit about their inspiration behind this publication and their book journey so far.

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So, first, what got you into writing / illustrating?

“I like to read and share what I have read,” Tina says. “I guess that started me scribbling.”

For Alan, it was video games and comic books. “I remember it all started when I was reading Dragon Ball Z back when I was younger, and when I decided to draw my own version in an exercise book.”

Nice. And what was your inspiration behind writing / illustrating for this new book?

Alan muses, “I wanted to create a lighthearted comic book based on Singapore’s rich history, to encourage the curiosity of readers on the topic.”

Tina adds, “I like to tell stories from my childhood and youth, and I am so fortunate to have Alan draw my memories into being.”

That’s awesome! Now, what do you think was the most memorable part of this book-making journey?

“Growing with Grandpa and Aloysius as the story developed,” says the writer. “Even though they started as mere characters on paper, as we went along, they developed a life of their own. The dialogue, the jokes and the banter just fell into place.”

“This was my first time collaborating with a writer and publisher, so it was a huge learning opportunity for me.” Alan chimes in. “As an artist, I had to constantly remind myself that my drawings were meant to complement the story instead of being a flamboyant showcase.”

Okay, last question: what do you hope this new publication will achieve?

“I hope readers young and old will enjoy this trip down memory lane,” says Tina.

“I also hope this book inspires those who have been through a time of old, like grandparents, to share their own first-hand experiences with the new generation,” Alan says.

Now that you know a bit more about these creative minds, why not drop by to shake hands and talk to them in person during the Singapore Writers Festival 2018?  They’ll be at The Arts House on 10 November 20182pm-3pm where they’ll be sharing all about this latest publication! Entry is free: register here!

P.S. Their comic book is now available for pre-order at our webstore!

Get to know: Feng Zikai

Born in Zhejiang, China in 1898, Feng Zikai (豐子愷) was one of the first artists to specialise in caricatures and comics. His works span a wide range of topics, from classic Chinese poetry depictions to observations of day-to-day life. Although they are informed by deep and profound concepts, his comics are idyllic, light-hearted and relatable to all types of readers.

As our 35th anniversary flagship publication, Asiapac Books will be publishing Feng Zikai’s selected comics in collaboration with Dolphin Books (China), in a set of five books titled Selected Comics of Feng Zikai.

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An embodiment of the fine balance between intellect, artistry and child-like wonder, Feng Zikai is a key inspiration for our work. Some of his artworks masterfully depict classic Chinese verses, while others muse about everyday village sightings. Regardless of their inspiration, all of them carry a sense of peacefulness and serenity, painting a blissful picture of life.

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Occasionally, Feng Zikai approaches situations with humour, keeping his drawings light-hearted and cheerful. As many of his illustrations portray everyday situations, even contemporary viewers will find them relatable. Other illustrations make more profound observations that reflect upon humanity and its inadequacies.

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Having lived through the 20th century, it is not unusual to observe external influences in Feng Zikai’s work. Sometimes, they portray non-Chinese characters. Other times, the works themselves bear English words. These illustrations juxtapose traditional living with new concepts, creating a fresh blend of cultures.

new doc 2018-06-06 15.43.11_3 copyWe hope to bring joy to a new generation of readers by sharing Feng Zikai’s timeless classics. His work is a constant reminder of the immense beauty and tenderness that still exist in our everyday lives.

Look out for the book launch details soon!

 

Book Launch: Once Upon A Singapore… Traders

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Modern Singapore looks very different from Singapore one hundred years ago, almost as if the two are separate countries altogether! There are many people who used to do business on the streets whom we no longer see, such as the milkmen, the letter writers, the koyok men and more. This colourful graphic novel will bring you back to a time of old and show you the wonders of these trades. Follow Grandpa and Aloysius on their journey to the past and discover the interesting ways people used to make a living in 1900s Singapore. It’s a book for all to enjoy–children, parents and even grandparents!

About the author
Tina Sim Soek Tien writes and translates. She likes to write about what life used to be like in the old days—playing zero point, brushing teeth over the drain after recess, making lots of paper boats then hoping for rain… She hopes her stories capture some of the spirit—and happiness—of the old days. She enjoys translating because there is much in another’s world we can learn from, if we can only connect.

About the illustrator
Alan Bay draws comics, cartoons, and video games. He draws big monsters, pesky kids, magical dragons, and almost everything else under the sun. He hopes his art will bring you a smile and make your day a little better.

We’ll be holding a book launch for this exciting publication during the Singapore Writers Festival 2018. Don’t miss the opportunity to meet author Tina Sim and illustrator Alan Bay at The Arts House on 10 November 2018, 2pm-3pm! Entry is free: register here!

Behind the Scenes: A Collection of Artwork

We won’t deny it: we’re extremely excited to turn 35 this year–just take a look at how much we’ve been shouting about our anniversary on social media! Asiapac Books has come a long way, from being a book distributor, to a book publisher of translated editions, and now a leading comic publisher in Southeast Asia. We couldn’t be prouder.

Naturally, working with a number of veteran illustrators for the past three decades, we’ve accumulated a store of raw sketches and artwork that unfortunately have been hidden away for far too long. So, we’ve decided that our year-end anniversary exhibition would be the perfect time to launch Asiapac Archives, a collection of comic artwork gathered over the years.

But… we can’t wait to give you a sneak peek! Here are a few shots of iconic pieces done by our artists that we think you’ll love. For our loyal readers, we’re sure these illustrations will look very familiar!

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Original artwork by Jeffrey Seow for The Complete Analects of Confucius comic book series

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Original artwork by Wee Tian Beng for Return of the Condor Heroes

Over the next few weeks leading up to our exhibition, we’ll be uploading more of what’s happening behind the scenes in the Asiapac office on Facebook, so be sure to keep a lookout here: https://tinyurl.com/asiapacbts

Of course, photos don’t do these masterpieces justice. You’ll need to come down to our exhibition to observe the intricate details for yourself. We’ll be at the Level 8 Promenade of the National Library Building from 17 November 2018 to 9 December 2018, and we’re really looking forward to meeting you there!