Thursday, November 15, 2012

Joo Chiat Changing Scene 5

Site map of the wayang (opera) stage and the Chinese temple at Joo Chiat Place
Last week I took a walk down memory lane to see the changing scenes. At Joo Chiat Place opposite Kim Choo Bak Chang shop there was a permanent wayang (opera) stage of timber and brick with tiled roofing. Its back was towards the road and the front was facing a Chinese temple. The original owner of the two builidings was Chew Joo Chiat's son, Chew Cheng Swee. The wayang or 'teochew hi' (Chinese opera) was performed during the birthday of the gods in the temple and also on certain Chinese festivals. The most popular opera troupes then were the 'lau sai toh' and the 'sar chiak soon'. I understand both had been disbanded some time ago due to poor patronage. The present generations prefer 'ker tai' (singing troupe).

Sugar Art Gold Fish
Photo from Samm's blog post

Dough Figurines Photo from Samm's blog post
During school days I went to the Chinese wayang not to see the performance but to mingle with other kids watching Chinese artists making sugar art figurines and dough art figurines. For sugar art figurines, moulds were used to make the required shapes like gold fish, rabbit etc. As for dough art figurines no mould was needed. The artist made characters from Chinese stories such as Journey To The West, The Three Kingdoms as well as animals. They were very colourful too. The cheapest one was the figurine of a cockerel because it was the easiest and fastest to make. The sugar figurines were edible. The usual way was to lick it like an ice cream. It could not be kept as it would melt or attract ants and insects. The dough figurine was not edible and also could not be kept too long. When the dough dried up the figurine became brittle and pieces of dough dropped off. It became mouldy very fast.

Actual architectural drawing of the wayang stage

Acual architectural drawing of the Chinese temple

The wayang stage has been replaced by an apartment building block with shops on the ground floor. Joo Chiat Gospel Hall has replaced the Chinese temple.

Apartments block with shops on the ground floor
The site was formerly occupied by a Chinese wayang stage

Joo Chiat Gospel Hall
The site was originally a Chinese temple
Another such wayang stage was opposite No 65 Joo Chiat Road where Chew Joo Chiat had his residence. The wayang stage was built by him so that he and his family members could watch the 'teochew hi' (Chinese opera) performance from the third level front balcony. His residence is now an empty field. The wayang stage site is now occupied by a block of shophouses as shown the picture below.

The green field was the site of Chew Joo Chiat's residence and across the road, the shophouses behind the street signboard was the site of the wayang (opera) stage


unk Dicko said...

I remember the edible figurines made of sugar. You are right about the cockerel. It took only seconds for the expert"apeh" to make one and I never failed to be amazed by his high skill and artistry.
For those who have never seen this in action, let me say that it was even more impressive than we can describe.
The" apeh" does not have to refer to any book or images. Everything he did came from within his memory!
And the end products never ceased to keep bystanders like us spellbound.

Shaun Kwan said...

Hi Mr. Philip!

I am a student doing a project on Joo Chiat. In your post you mentioned that Joo Chiat Gospel Hall replaced the Chinese temple. By any chance, do you know the name of the temple and the dialect groups which it caters to?

Thank You

Shaun Kwan said...

Hi Mr Philip!

I am a student doing a research on Joo Chiat. In your post you mentioned that Joo Chiat Gospel Hall replaced the Chinese Temple. By any chance, do you know the name of the temple and the dialect groups which it caters to?

Thank You!

Philip Chew 周炳镜 said...

I do not know the name of the temple. It catered to Hokkien dialect people. But other dialect groups also worship there.