28 February 2008

A pork steak for a classical Chinese text

(image from My Food My Love)

Fanne's younger sister Cindy will soon relocate to Singapore and be reunited with her husband there. Blissful as she is, there is certainly a pile of paperwork awaiting her, part of which is an English translated and notarised copy of their marriage certificate.

Before she can proceed to the Department of Notarisation at Taiwan Taipei District Court, I have to decipher a passage of literary Chinese on the original certificate and translated it into intelligible English.

In Britain, a couple usually have their wedding solemnised by a minister of religion or civil registrar and then, with all legal requirements fulfilled, a marriage certificate will be issued by a local registrar's office accordingly.

However, in Taiwan, a couple produced at the ceremony their own certificate, which usually bears the personal seals of the newlyweds, officiators and witnesses, together with those of the 'presenters' who present to the guests biographical accounts of the bride and the groom. Bringing this self-issued certificate, the couple register their marriage with their district household registration office (for example, click here).

Although a couple may design their own certificate, using fancy calligraphic fonts, adding traditional auspicious symbols, or even decorating it with gilding, most of the time people just buy a mass-produced template at a bookshop or somewhere which sells office stationary and fill it out with adequate details, such as names, birth details, the marriage date and so on.

Obviously Cindy's mother-in-law never anticipated that an English translated copy would be required in the future, so she bought one extravagantly embellished with a passage of literary Chinese. It's so interesting to see this text (there isn't any on mine!) that I feel it's worthwhile to quote all the lines.

For readers who don't read Chinese, please skip to the English translation to see how 'fancy' Cindy's marriage certificate is. For those who by any chance read it, please don't be impressed by the absence of punctuation, as it is always the case in classical Chinese writings.

Be joined the two clans at this hall by marriage troth.
Be bound the love match evermore thro’ charmed kismet.
The knot tied begets in the bloom of youth a harmonious home.
The comin’ years promise with timeless lineage thriving prosperity.
Truly the lifelong commitment inscribes this blessed folio.
Fairly the terms of endearment records the wedding chart.
I was awarded with a succulent fried pork steak for dinner at Junyue Pork Steak (Junyue paigu 君悅排骨) at the end of the day.

16 February 2008

Cioccolato su San Valentino

SlittiFor the second time since 1996, I bought Fanne a pack of chocolate as a Valentine's Day gift. I seldom arrange anything on this day when I was in Taiwan but I did deliver flowers with a cuddle bear through online gift service every year when studying in Scotland. As it was the first St Valentine's Day after we became man and wife, I just wanted to prepare something different for this special occasion.

According to the Patron Saints Index from the Catholic Community Forum, the Valentines honoured on the 14th of February are Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, the former being a priest, possibly a bishop, who suffered martyrdom in Rome about 269, and the latter a bishop who was murdered in secret on the way between Rome and Terni about 175. Some scholars believe that the two are the same person.

There are a couple of attested theories about the origin of Valentine's Day celebrations, tracing it to a Graeco-Roman festivals Lupercalia (a rite connected to fertility and prosperity) in mid February, to the belief that birds court one another on this day, or to the commemoration of the anniversary of Valentine's decease or entombment. The last suggests that Valentine was executed for secretly solemnising marriages for young couples in defiance of the decree issued by Roman Emperor Claudius II, who believed that single men made better soldiers than those with familial burdens.

Nevertheless, it doesn't matter to me in whichever way St Valentine may have become connected to romantic love. The festival just offers Chinese people a second opportunity apart from Qixi (七夕) to express care and adoration for their significant others.

I was so delighted to see Fanne's face beaming with happiness when she discovered a case of Italian Slitti Gran Cacao 73% on her dressing table.

08 February 2008

Marry a wife to enjoy new year

(Menu for the 'reunion dinner' 2005)

Having celebrated Chinese New Year abroad for five consecutive years, I am now back in my homeland spending this traditional holiday with my parents and wife.

I left Taiwan in autumn 2002 to present those 30s and 40s Shanghai popular songs to the academic world, and from 2003 onwards I didn't have 'reunion dinner' (團圓飯 tuanyuan fan) with my parents until this year.
  • In 2003, the year of the goat, I was in a flat with my then fiancée and two Chinese flatmates at Murray Place, Stirling.
  • In 2004, the year of the monkey, during my fieldwork in Mainland China, I was invited by one of the Stirling flatmates to his home town, Taiyuan (太原).
  • In 2005, the year of the rooster, I hosted a reunion dinner with the landlady's family and a few local friends at Clarendon Place, Stirling.
  • In 2006 and 2007, years of the dog and of the pig respectively, I arranged new year's eve dinners for the landlady, colleagues and several locals at Victoria Place, Stirling.
At each dinner in the last three years, in order to keep all the guests informed of what they would consume as well as to brighten up the table, I prepared home-made menu cards with, apart from food details, Chinese artwork featuring the zodiac animal of the year.

(Front and back of the menu)

I still keep all these cards. Images given in this entry are from the menu for 2005, the year of the rooster.

A Chinese saying goes, 'Whether loaded or penniless, marry a wife to enjoy new year (有錢沒錢, 討個老婆好過年 youqian meiqian, tao ge laopo hao guo nian).' I'm still un-full-time-employed, and hence in one sense penniless, but I do have a wife, a dutiful and loving wife (although she failed to follow the minister and made a mistake by saying 'beautiful and lovely wife' when pledging her troth in our wedding).

I'm so glad I don't have to design a menu and put it into practice on my own in the year of the rat, but I do wish in the near future I can be the host again for those who supported me in all aspects of life in Stirling.

01 February 2008

Climbing up Mt Tao

Mt TaoAs time goes by, we've already moved into February. I really should have uploaded this picture. I reached the summit of Mt Tao (Taoshan 桃山, literally 'Mt Peach', nothing to do with Taoism) in January, but somehow, I just couldn't bother to transfer the picture from the camera to my laptop until today.

Two weeks ago I joined NTU Botany Class '98 (I graduated in 1997, so they were my 'junior department mates') to have a weekend hiking break in the Wuling Farm (Wuling nongchang 武陵農場). As Mt Tao, numbered 44 among the so-called 'Hundred Peaks of Taiwan' (Taiwan baiyue 台灣百岳), is in close proximity to the farm, nine of us planned to climb the peak while the other nine members of the group rambled in the vicinity of the trailhead.

(Follow the link and scroll down a bit for a brief introduction about mountain ranges in Taiwan.)

In the end only two reached the summit and I was one of them.

The last time I climbed up a mountain in Taiwan and reached the summit was on a day out with Botany Class '97 to Jiufen (九份 literally 'nine portions') in 1993. That was Mt Keelung (Jilongshan 基隆山), actually just a hill (588 m or 1.929 ft).

As I've never been regarded as manly, athletic since my childhood nor am I really a sporty, outdoor type, I had no idea if others in the group were impressed by my achievement, but I was quite sure my wife Fanne wasn't at all. She knows it all the time that I'm mentally tough enough to endure hardship and pain, and thus sometimes so self-assertive that once I set a goal, I must attain the goal.

There is apparently a huge difference in elevation between Mt Tao and Mt Keelung. However, I don't think I have become any physically fitter or sturdier over the years so that I am in place for mountain challenges. I owed my gratitude to those team members who carried cooking kits, water and food. Without their support, I wouldn't have been able to reach the summit.