21 February 2007

Year of Pig

Classic PigletChinese New Year has just arrived and I'm so glad that I submitted my thesis the day before New Year's Eve. As a matter of the Chinese tradition, all work should be done by the New Year's Eve so that we can have a brand new start.

It used to be a custom that a creditor had to collect debts by the end day of the year, otherwise all the debts would be written off automatically when New Year came.

2007 is Year of Pig according to the Chinese zodiac. I've found a series of pigs in some different languages. Have a look and see how many of them you read.
豬, ブタ, 돼지, cerdo, maiale, pig, porc, porco, porcus, Schwein, varken, свинья, χοίρος
Year of Pig reminds me of an unforgettable holiday with my fiancée in 2002, the year I finished national service. We visited East Grinstead (in Sussex) and spent a day in Hartfiled Village where A.A.Milne created the most celebrated Winnie-the-Pooh in the 1920s.

In the High Street of the village, I found The Pooh Corner Shop, which housed the world's largest selection of Winnie-the-Pooh products. Since one of my fiancée's nicknames was piggy, I bought her a piglet soft toy, the classic one not the awful Disney spin-off.

According to the colour illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard in the Winnie-the-Pooh books, Piglet had white skin and wore a green jumper. However, it was turned into a pink piggy in a darker-pink jumper in Disney cartoon. I don't like it.

Anyway, hope Year of Pig is a prosperous year.
Jaunty Pig
PS. It didn't snow at all in Stirling when I was away in Taiwan, but strangely enough, it snowed a couple of days later after I came back. Since a Chinese phrase goes that 'heavy snow anticipates a prosperous year' (Ruixue zhao fengnian 瑞雪兆豐年), the snowfall which welcomed my return to Scotland seems to be a good omen.

17 February 2007

Recipe of Braised Lionhead

(The image is borrowed from here as I don't think I've got the time at the moment for cooking such as dish and taking a photo of it)

In response to Pedro's comment on my previous post, I'm now offering more details on Braised Lionhead, one of my speciality dishes.

Lionhead (shizitou 獅子頭) is a Chinese Huaiyang (淮揚) dish consisting of jumbo meatballs stewed with vegetables and originating from the native cooking styles of the region surrounding the lower reaches of the Huai and Yangtze Rivers. There are actually two varieties of this dish, the steamed and the braised. In the former the meatballs are usually steamed with Chinese cabbage and in the later cooked with Chinese cabbage and bamboo shoots in soya sauce.

Being named so is because the look of a meatball surrounded by a Chinese cabbage leaf really resembles to a lion's head. (Pedro, use your imagination!)

I don't really know how to prepare the steamed, but I shall contribute my recipe of the braised.
  1. Mix pork mince with chopped spring onions and water chestnuts, cornstarch, soya sauce and an egg. (If by any chance you practice Kosher or follow the Muslim food restrictions, use Kosher or Halal minced meat perspectively)
  2. Shape the mixture into meatballs and throw them between your hands or onto a chopping board several times to make them firm but bouncy.
  3. Coat the meatballs with cornstarch and then fry them lightly until golden brown.
  4. Stew the fried meatballs with Chinese cabbage and sliced bamboo shoots in soya sauce and your own choice of stock. (Chilli powder, grounded pepper or sesame oil can also be added according to your taste)
Right, Pedro, now you can cook one of Wei's specialities for yourself.

16 February 2007


After working for three days without sleeping a wink, I went to the University this morning and submitted the bloody thesis. Finally, it's finished.

Nevertheless, I don't think I'm going to sleep well tonight nor tomorrow nor in the future. It's probably a post-submission syndrome and only can be cured after I pass the viva and get the degree.

Right, as Pedro suggested, I shall have a bus-load, no, probably lorry-load, of braised lionheads.

Japanese enka

The term enka (演歌, literally 'performed song') originated in Meiji (明治) Japan (1868–1912) and historically speaking refers to a traditional type of music from both the Meiji and the Taisho (大正) (1912-1926) periods. Today it is perceived as a quaint and nostalgic genre of Japanese popular music.

Enka is characterised by the use of melismatic progressions and long draw-out notes with vibrato in performance to emphasise the emotional lyrical contents, usually the sad aspects of life such as the pang of pain of separated young couples, the sorrow of unrequited love or lovesickness, nostalgia for the homeland during endless wanderings, the desire for affection in this transitory life and suicide or death.

Fairly enough, it doesn't really tell what enka is because it is hard to describe music in words. Nevertheless, with the aid of our music experience and some imagination, we can always draw an analogy. Just as how I tell my Western colleagues when asked what Shanghai popular song is. It sounds like when Bing Crosby met Bejing opera – just imagine a female singer singing in a high-pitched, nasal voice to the accompaniment of an American big band.

There is a classic interpretation from Barbara's Enka Site, so realistic that I can't resist citing, i.e. copying and pasting:
Team up a songwriter who writes old-fashioned Gypsy music with a romantic lyricist of an American blues or country music background. Then translate the lyrics into poetic but old-fashioned Japanese and arrange the music for a band made of half Japanese musicians and half European classical musicians, plus a harmonica and electric guitar.
Is it any clearer? If not, watch this clip, a performance of 'Kawa no nagare no you ni' (川の流れのように, 'As the river flows') by the queen of enka Hibari Misora (美空 ひばり).

12 February 2007


Thank God. I've done the final draft of my thesis and there is only a little editing work to finish off.

Haven't slept a wink for two days nor eaten anything for 20 hours. It's time to have a rest.

08 February 2007

So, what happened to me?

PhotoDuring my short stay in Taiwan last December, I not only found the historical recording of my childhood singing but also retrieved quite a few passport-sized photos taken at different ages of my life. I have posted the six-year-old Wei in the previous entry and also made it the display picture of my MSN account.

Hong-Lin asked me the other day after seeing the lovable, innocent six-year-old Wei on MSN, 'So, what happened to you later?' Well, I don't know. Blame the hot humid climate and overburdened life in Taiwan, or just blame myself for being an ever-worrying thinker.

Certainly, our appearances change while we grow up, yet in my case, it seems to be a series of metamorphoses rather than a gradual change. Although not as drastic as a tadpole transforming into a frog, the striking contrast between the first and the last is self-evident.
  1. 6 years old, first day of primary school
  2. 10 years old, shot for my first passport
  3. 11 years old, graduating from primary school
  4. 12 years old, butch haircut for junior high school
  5. 15 years old, graduating from junior high school
  6. 16 years old, first year of senior high school
  7. 18 years old, graduating from senior high school
  8. 21 years old, fourth year in the university
  9. 22 years old, awarded a bachelor degree of science
  10. 24 years old, awarded a master degree of business administration
  11. 24 years old, shot before my first visit to China
  12. 25 years old, serving as a military police officer in national service
Do you see what I mean by metamorphosis?

05 February 2007

Wei's childhood singing

6 year oldI discovered something last December when I was back in Taiwan: a historical recording of my singing at the age of three made by Dad.

(As I don't have any photo of the 3-year-old Wei at hand, this one was shot when I went to primary school at the age of 6.)

There are three tunes, but I can only identify the first and the last. The first is a Chinese folk song 'Jasmine Blossom' (Molihua or in Chinese characters 茉莉花) and the third a nursery rhyme 'The Big Rooster' (Da gongji 大公雞). As for the second one, not even Mum can tell what the hell it is.

Time passes by; I'm going to be 32 in April. It's absolutely amazing that I found this 29-year-old cassette tape. I'm going to get my doctorate in April as well, a degree of PhD in musicology, yet how out-of-tune I sang when I was a wee boy! Who on earth knew when I was only three that some day I would do a PhD in music ?

Listen to Wei's childhood singing!