Huge crowds of Thai people of Chinese descent went to Yaowarat Road in Bangkok on Friday to purchase goods in preparation for the Chinese New Year festival at the weekend.
In Chinese tradition, today — two days before the New Year — is called “the day for shopping”. Thai-Chinese people purchase foods, fruits and other offerings associated with the festival.
People pray to Chinese gods and commemorate their ancestors on Saturday, which is called “the day to pay respect”.
Chinese New Year Day, which falls on Sunday, is also called “the day for visiting” when people reunite with their relatives, greet each other and travel outdoors.
Young people usually hand out presents, including four oranges, to seniors on Chinese New Year Day. The seniors usually hand out two oranges and red envelops called “ang pao” to young people in return.
Meanwhile, a special event is being held to mark Chinese New Year festival on Yaowarat Road until February 15.
The event from 6pm to midnight features light decorations along the road and the installation of a 1.8-metre rabbit statue at the Royal Jubilee Gate to mark the Year of the Rabbit in Chinese astrology.
Thailand and China are marking the 48th anniversary of their diplomatic ties this year, and the Tourism Authority of Thailand is expecting a steady influx of visitors from China.
One hundred sixty years ago, in September 1863, during the January Uprising, the Russians demolished the Zamoyski Palace in Warsaw, throwing the piano once played by Fryderyk Chopin out of the building’s window. The moment made history.
Fryderyk Chopin’s music aroused patriotic sentiments even before his scores left the printing presses. Even back when he was known only as the son of the proprietor of one of Warsaw’s finest boarding houses, he would perform for his colleagues in the evenings, improvising on historical themes. Later, the guests at his salon in Paris could listen to the entire poems, only fragments of which he poured onto paper.
The nationalist, patriotic feature of his work was apparent not only to Poles. It was recognised already by Robert Schumann, the first international reviewer of the young Chopin (it was he who, with regard to Chopin’s Variations pp. 2, wrote ‘Hats off gentlemen, a genius!’).
In his review of Chopin’s Piano Concertos, he characterises the artist alluding to the November Uprising: “So he stood, supplied with the deepest knowledge of his art, aware of his power and hence armed with courage, when in 1830 the mighty voice of the peoples rang out in the west. Hundreds of young men awaited that moment, but Chopin was the first on the ramparts […]. Fate had prepared something more for the meeting of a new time and new relations: it distinguished Chopin and made him interesting through his expressive, original Polish nationality. […] if the autocratic monarch [the tsar] knew what a dangerous enemy threatened him in Chopin’s works, in the simple melodies of the mazurkas, he would ban them. Chopin’s compositions are cannons buried in flowers.”
The echoes of Kurpiński’s insurrectionist song Litwinka in op. 49 or the ‘heroic’ developments of the polonaise in op. 53 were evident immediately upon listening.
Chopin left ample evidence of his patriotic commitment. The outbreak of the 1830 uprising became a watershed moment in his musical style. When his friends, nigh forcibly, stopped him from returning home and taking up arms, he wrote that he ‘thunderbolts on the piano’ at night. He began to introduce dark tones, violent contrasts and numerous chromatic runs that break down the classical simplicity of the major-minor style.
According to his family accounts, it was also then that he wrote the Etude in C Minor, known as the ‘Revolutionary’, the violent Scherzo in B minor and even a sketch of the Prelude in D Minor, published many years later in the op. 28 cycle referring to Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier.
Chopin was well versed in the geopolitical situation, as best evidenced by a letter to Julian Fontana from April 1848, in which he writes, among other things: ‘Our people are gathering in Poznań. Czartoryski was the first to go there, but God only knows what direction events will take […] horrible things are likely to happen, but when it all ends, there will be a great, big Poland; in a word: Poland.”
When in September 1863 (14 years after the composer’s death), Russian troops demolished the Zamoyski Palace in Warsaw in retaliation for the January Uprising participants’ attempt to assassinate the governor Theodor Berg, surely nobody realised that the destruction of the piano would take on a symbolic dimension.
Cyprian Kamil Norwid, who met Chopin in Paris as a youth, immortalised this moment, raising it in his famous poem Chopin’s Piano to the status of a clash of cultures and value systems. It was an important act of including Chopin’s work in the discourse of the independence struggle, perhaps most clearly demonstrated by Ignacy Jan Paderewski in his famous speech in Lviv in 1910, on the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
Indeed, the address opened the path of political activity for the future Polish prime minister: “Chopin embodies everything we have been forbidden: the colourful kontushes, the gold-lined belts, […] the clank of the nobles’ sabres and the scythes or our peasant’s, the moan of the wounded chest, the rebellion of the shackled spirit, […] the slavery’s pain, the freedom’s mourning, the tyrants’ curse and the victory’s joyful song.” It is clear why the German occupation authorities banned his songs during World War II.
In 21st-century Poland, Chopin’s music still holds a special place. Millions of Poles follow the International Chopin Piano Competition every five years as Warsaw fills with the composer’s music, from the philharmonic hall to the taxis.
Today we also understand the extraordinary universalism of Chopin’s work, whose genius finds a way into the hearts of people from all over the world and helps to build international communities of those who admire beauty and truth.
Director of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute.
*The text is simultaneously published in the Polish monthly “Wszystko Co Najważniejsze” as part of a project carried out with the Institute of National Remembrance and the Polish National Foundation.
The three-day Bangkok Film Festival 2023 will open at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre on Rama I Road in Pathumwan district for the weekend of January 20-22.
The festival is part of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s “Colourful Bangkok” campaign, which promises 12 art and culture festivals throughout the year to promote the city as a creative destination.
The highlight will be daily screenings of three award-winning films – “Legend of Suriyothai”, “Bad Genius”, and “Blue Again” – at the open-air style theatre in front of the centre.
The festival will include the seminar “Bangkok: The Creative City”, a workshop on film directing, editing, and screenwriting by experts, and a competition of short documentary films under the theme “Connecting Bangkok 2030”. The competition offers prizes totalling 200,000 baht.
Film buffs will also be treated to live music performances by six youth bands as well as a shopping bonanza of bargains on products unique to each of Bangkok’s 50 districts.
Tourist dressed in a traditional Thai costume visits Wat Arun temple in Bangkok
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2023
Several foreigners dressed in traditional Thai attire were spotted posing for photographs on the grounds of Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
Thailand’s tourism industry has started picking up after many countries began lifting their travel restrictions, with as many as 11.81 million arriving last year.
Here we find out why foreigners find Thailand’s traditional dress so attractive.
Several foreigners visited Wat Arun on Sunday to pose for photographs and some even wore traditional Thai costumes to make their memories extra special.
“I feel very special and so excited to wear the Thai costumes, the first time for me to wear this Thai clothes and come to this beautiful temple. And, I think it’s a really exciting activity for tourists.” said Heidi Cheung from Hong Kong
Foreign tourists were clearly excited to find out how they look in traditional Thai clothes.
Tourist dressed in a traditional Thai costume visits Wat Arun temple in Bangkok
“It is so deep rooted in historical culture and things, you realise how important and significant it is for Thailand and Thai women especially,” said 24-year-old Paisley Langton, a tourist from London, England.
Many Thai traditional clothing rental shops line the streets nearby the temple, offering visitors the chance to wear the dresses and take pictures during their visit to the temple at around 150-400 baht ($4.53-$12) for two hours, depending on the added ornaments and accessories.
Jitrada Kerdkhum, the manager of a traditional dress rental shop near the temple, said her business has been thriving thanks to good feedback from tourists. She added that at least 20 dresses were rented from her shop daily.
“It helps stimulate the economy. Sales volume [has risen] since Covid-19, when we had nothing to do. We decided to rent this place and open a [clothes] rental shop.” said Jitrada Kerdkhum/manager of a Thai traditional dress rental shop
The traditional costume is considered one of Thailand’s soft powers to attract foreigners.
Tidy up to make way for the Rabbit as it hops across for Chinese New Year
TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2023
With the Year of the Rabbit almost upon us, SCG Ceramics is offering advice on how best to prepare our homes for a year that is full of good fortune.
In Chinese belief, cleaning homes before the Lunar New Year is necessary to welcome prosperity and good health. The Chinese New Year this year falls on Sunday (January 22).
The four main areas in the home that must be cleaned according to Feng Shui beliefs are:
This area, including the drive, doors and windows, should be cleared, washed and prettified to draw wealth.
Bathrooms generate “negative energy” and sickness according to Feng Shui, so they should be made spick and span.
The kitchen is considered the heart of a household’s good fortune, and broken utensils are believed to draw bad luck. Hence, all chipped bowls, plates and cups should be thrown away and the area cleaned.
A clean and orderly bedroom is required to strengthen relations between family members. So tidy up!
Vietnamese artist welcomes New Year with 2,023 feline statuettes
SUNDAY, JANUARY 15, 2023
Sculptor Nguyen Tan Phat’s collection includes 2,023 feline statuettes, meticulously crafted from jackfruit wood and covered with lacquer, or from laterite, the indigenous materials of the artist’s hometown.
The witty and playful cat, the Oriental zodiac animal of the upcoming Lunar New Year, the Year of the Cat, a festival in Vietnamese culture, has become the inspiration for a new collection of lacquer works by sculptor Nguyen Tan Phat from Duong Lam Ancient Village on the outskirts of Hanoi.
The collection includes 2,023 feline statuettes, meticulously crafted from jackfruit wood and covered with lacquer, or from laterite, the indigenous materials of the artist’s hometown.
This is Phat’s third unique collection of artworks inspired by symbolic animals of the lunar calendar. Before the cat collection, he made 1,010 buffalo statues on the occasion of the 1,010th anniversary of Hanoi in 2021, and 2,022 small tigers to welcome 2022, the Year of the Tiger.
The special feature of the collections is uniqueness – no item looks alike. In his latest collection, the cats are depicted in various positions that showcase their cuteness and playfulness, chasing each other, teasing a mouse, sunbathing on house roofs or climbing trees.
“Through this lacquer statue collection, I wish to promote the values of Vietnamese traditional lacquer craft and culture by welcoming 2023 or the Year of the Cat,” Phat told Viet Nam News.
“The feline statues are inspired by the image of cats in Vietnamese folk art, and the number of the artworks corresponds to the year 2023, which is expected to leave a lasting impression on the viewers.”
Sculptor Nguyen Tan Phat wishes to promote the values of Vietnamese traditional lacquer craft and culture. — VNS Photo Minh Phuong
Interestingly, the cat artworks could have different functions. Besides being decorative items, they can be used as a box, a flower vase, or a tea tray, making images of the animal dearer to art lovers.
To complete a one-of-a-kind artwork, the 40-year-old artist has to work on various steps, from visualising the ideas to chiselling and shaping the wood block and then covering it with layers of paint.
After it is dried, the item will be polished, inlaid with eggshells or mother-of-pearl and added hand-drawn features like eyes or whiskers. Each artwork takes many days to finish. To save time, he works alternately on several items a day and has one or two people to assist with simple work steps such as painting, sanding and lacquering.
He revealed that the phases of shaping and painting the statues are the most important.
The special feature of the feline statue collection is uniqueness – no item looks alike. — Photo courtesy of the artisan
“As an old Vietnamese saying goes: nhat dang nhi da (first shape, second skin), and the statues first and foremost must have a beautiful shape. Then comes its skin or the paint. The more elaborately and meticulously they are painted, the more complete and beautiful they become,” Phat said.
Not only different in shape, but the statues are also diverse in styles of sculpture. While some are crafted in the realism style, others are depicted in abstraction or expressionism.
“To differentiate them from tiger statues, I have carefully studied the cat figures. The cat’s face is always triangular, with big ears, pointed chin, and its tail is long and straight-up,” he added.
According to Phat, the image of a cat has inspired him as it is a domesticated animal closely associated with Vietnamese life and loved by everyone, from children to the elderly.
“I have come up with many unique cat figures and positions, but I have been most impressed with the image of cats playing in the sun. That explains why I have created many decorative items depicting cats playing around.”
The most impressive and sophisticated work in Phát’s feline collection is a set of chairs with different colours and a fish-shaped table, which he has named Bua Tiec Ngay Xuan (A Spring Feast). Patterns inspired by Vietnamese folk art and tales like Dam Cuoi Chuot (Mice’s Wedding) or Chu Be Om Meo (Boy Hugs Cat) are used to decorate the chairs.
“The set showcases the meal of a cat family celebrating a new year. It aims to deliver my wish of a joyful party for every Vietnamese family in 2023, just like these witty and lively cats,” he said.
Unlike the previous collections that were mainly exhibited in Hanoi, the artist has taken his feline artworks further, having them displayed in HCM City last December. Through the eight-day solo exhibition, he introduced the traditional craft to more people in the southern city.
Phat is pictured with the feline statue that won third prize in the Vietnam Handicraft Design contest 2022. — Photo courtesy of the artist
Dedication to the ancient craft
Phat was born in the Hanoi suburb’s Son Tay Town. As the only lacquer artisan in the town, he has contributed to passing down the craft to the next generation and inspiring young artists in his homeland, as well as creating jobs for dozens of locals.
His greatest desire is not only to preserve and promote traditional lacquer fine art but also to bring this traditional beauty of Vietnam to the world. His original artisanal artworks have made a great impression on Vietnamese and international art lovers in recent years.
Phat said his passion for art was inherited from his father and grandfather. During his childhood, he followed them to restore heritage buildings in his hometown, like communal houses, temples, and shrines, which exposed him to his first understanding of lacquer art.
His childhood passion inspired him to study lacquer painting at the Hanoi University of Industrial Fine Arts. After graduating, Phat embarked on his own artistic path. He started a private business specialising in lacquer paintings, lacquerwares, and inlaid and lacquered jewellery in his hometown.
Since then, his artistic career began to flourish, and he has won many awards, such as first prizes in the Hanoi handicraft design competitions in 2014 and 2019, and the top prize in the Vietnam Handicraft Design Contest 2020 with the “1010 Lacquered Buffalo Statues” project.
Most recently, his feline statue named Meo Xu Doai (Cat of Doai Land) won third prize in the Vietnam Handicraft Design contest 2022.
In 2017, he was among the youngest artists honoured as a typical “Hanoi Artisan” by the municipal People’s Committee.
With great passion and capacity to grasp market trends, Phat has created unique products of his own mark with high value, different from other lacquer products on the market.
He has opened a free vocational workshop at home to spread his passion for lacquer art.
“My free vocational workshop aims to find ‘heirs’ who can join me in building and transforming Doung Lam into a traditional lacquer village,” he said.
His creativity space – Phat Studio – has become a must-visit for any tourists to Duong Lâm Village. There they can contemplate his feline statue collection and other unique lacquer artworks or observe the artist at each stage, from sculpting to lacquering.
They can also join in creating artwork, thereby gaining a deeper understanding of Vietnamese traditional art.
Sweet nothings: Blackpink’s Rosé declares love for ‘mamuang nampla wan’
SUNDAY, JANUARY 08, 2023
Thailand’s ubiquitous raw mango with sweet fish sauce (“mamuang nampla wan”) will soon win “soft power” status now that a member of the K-pop band Blackpink has announced she loves it.
In an Instagram post on Saturday night, Blackpink’s Rosé said mamuang nampla wan was her “absolute favourite thing to eat here in Bangkok”.
She posted this remark just before taking to the stage at the Suphachalasai National Stadium for the first of two shows of the Bangkok leg of the “Born Pink World Tour”. Blackpink is back on stage today at 7pm.
Mamuang nampla wan is a favourite among most Thais and historians date it as far back as the reign of King Rama IV (1851-1868).
Apart from raw mango, sweet fish sauce is also used to complement other sour fruit like tamarind, mayom (Malay gooseberry), krathon (santol) and taling pling (bilimbi fruit).
The sauce can also be adapted to become part of entrees like sadao nampla wan (neem flower with sweet fish sauce) and miang kham (betel leaf wrap).
Mamuang nampla wan regained its popularity in 2018 with the release of the historical television series “Love Destiny”. The series, which ran on Channel 3 from February 21 to April 11, 2018, also made other Thai foods popular like moo sarong (crispy pork meatballs), barbeque pork and grilled shrimp with seafood dip.
BCG Expo explores Isaan designs through recycled materials
TUESDAY, JANUARY 03, 2023
The Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Model for a sustainable economy can be implemented in many industries, and that includes furniture manufacturing. Have you ever wondered about what happens to the scraps and pieces left behind after your favourite rug is made?
An exhibition booth at Isaan BCG Expo at the Khon Kaen Innovation Centre presents unique furniture designs made from recycled materials combined with Northeastern Thai traditional arts. The booth was set up for a special chef table event where the menu was designed by combining Mexican and Northeastern Thai cuisine.
Jiraparnn Tokeeree, Founder and Design Director of Touchable brand spoke on the concepts of her designs.
“I’m from Khon Kaen and I had the opportunity to study in Bangkok since I was a young girl. I always travelled back and forth between Bangkok and Khon Kaen because I felt attached to my hometown. As soon as I was invited to this project, I thought, ‘Hey, what should I do? We’ve been implementing BCG for a long time, but I’ve never displayed it like this before. I want to show the public what can be done with the scraps of materials, whether it’s a piece of silk or a tree.
“When we talk about products made with BCG, it’s the mat that originated from the sedge plant, which is a local plant of Khon Kaen.
“A handmade mat can be more than just a mat, so I tried turning it into chairs of various colours like this. It creates added value, and instead of earning 100-200 baht per mat, we can earn 10,000 baht per chair. When people who saw the value of handicrafts saw this, they were amazed,” she says.
“Do you see the yarn in our booth? They are yarn scraps from the carpet-weaving factory. There was a mountain of yarn left over. I saw them throwing it away. So I felt that I wanted to do something that would add value to their waste. The workers and I had so much fun creating with these yarns at my factory.”
Jiraparnn has customers all over the globe and has been in cooperation with the Thai-French Chamber of Commerce for many years.
“Right now, the whole world encourages design in all sectors to use recycled materials that can be brought back to life. We collaborate with the Thai-French Chamber of Commerce almost every year. In the past, we sold interior design items made from scraps of wood or from any material. This year it’s still the same. I saw the mat and was so inspired, that I presented this collection to France and it has already been shipped.”
Devotees climb into coffins for Thailand’s strangest New Year ceremony
TUESDAY, JANUARY 03, 2023
Every New Year holiday, people pour into Wat Takian temple on the western outskirts of Bangkok to participate in a strange ceremony they believe will remove their bad luck and bring good fortune throughout the year.
Devotees of these spooky rites lie in open coffins with flowers and incense sticks clasped between their wai-ing hands, resembling corpses as they enter the crematorium.
Buddhist monks then chant prayers over the coffins while those inside devote the merit made to their deceased family members. Once the ceremony is completed, participants consider themselves reborn and freed from bad luck, ready to start their new year afresh.
Each round of the coffin-lying ceremony takes about 20 minutes and the temple can handle up to 12 rounds per day. After each ceremony, the coffins are cleaned and disinfected to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The temple charges no fee for the ceremony, instead leaving it up to participants to donate as much as they like.
A temple staffer told The Nation that the aim of lying in a coffin is not only to remove bad luck but also a reminder of the truth that no one escapes death. Participants in the ceremony are inspired to live their life prudently and discretely.
Death-mimicking ceremonies to dispel bad luck are common to Buddhist cultures across Asia, including in Thailand, China, Tibet, and Japan.
However, the practices differ from place to place.
In some Thai-Chinese communities, instead of using a coffin, a grave will be dug and filled with belongings of the person who wants their luck to be cleansed. Chinese Buddhists also believe that this ceremony helps prolong the participant’s lifespan.