GOstralia!-Studentin Sandra ist begeistert von der kulturellen Vielfalt in Singapur
The Chinatown Opera Festival 2019 is the first ever opera festival demonstrating Singapore’s local heritage and culture. Honestly speaking, it was sheer luck that we stumbled upon it without knowing our immense luck. Passing the beautiful Buddha Tooth Relic Temple centred at one corner of Chinatown several small tables with diverse activities were presented which everyone could participate in.
The first table showed blank masks which could be painted in the fashion of the Monkey King, also named “Sun Wukong”, who appears in Chinese folklore and represents the spirit of rebel. Obviously, we wanted to try it out, so lectured by the master himself it was unbelievable instructive and at the same time relaxing to just combine the different colours and observe the completion step by step with the very own eyes.
While sitting and painting the masks some local people were just enthusiastic about our artwork and interest in their culture so they started to tell us the story of the monkey king, who is born from the earth and fertilized by the grace of Heaven. After proving to be the only one of his kind to go through the Water Curtain on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit and establishing a kingdom on Earth, he was therefore recognized as the Monkey King. He owns a long golden iron bar capable of shrinking or expanding at his command and he can transform into 72 diverse appearances such as a bird, tree or a bug. After realizing that he will die like every other living being, the Monkey King went out to seek immortality. He took the “Monkey File” in the Register of the Life and Death to delete his name and the ones of all his monkey subjects on the list to receive immortality. Heaven sent down people to punish him for his deeds, but the Monkey King beat them up resulting to their return. Confident enough to go to Heaven himself, the Monkey King requested the title “The Great Sage Equal of Heaven” but committed serious crimes at the same time. Eating the sacred peaches from the Jade Emperor’s garden and all the finger-food, drinking all the holy wine, making a mess of the prepared arrangements and dishes it lead to his pursuit by the Heaven’s soldiers. A war between Heaven and Fruit Flower Mountain followed and finally, after Lao Tsu threw down his Diamond Snare and hitting the Monkey King’s head, he was captured and punished at the end of the war.
Despite the fact that it took more than three hours to finish the masks with all defined strokes the time just flew by and at the end of day, we had the honour to get them signed by the master himself.
Returning the next day and joining the second station it was a continuation of artwork but this time colouring the garments of emperor and empress provided by already prepared drawings. A curious observation was the mere fact being the single European person among Asian people indulging in this kind of activity and sticking out like a sore thumb. Unsurprisingly it lead to recognition, meeting local people from the previous day all over again and enjoying the direct contact with the culture as well as traditional music. After completing the task to dress emperor and empress in mostly traditional red and black, we witnessed a tiny performance on one of the two existing stages dealing with the impersonation of the monkey king by the master we met the day before. The moment he was finished he even invited us onto the stage to learn some simple movements with the staffs and to get the opportunity to look behind the scenes.
At the end of the day, we listened to the legend of the white snake that was performed in the traditional style of Chinese opera, a form of musical theatre with roots going back to the early periods in the country. It combines several art forms, such as music, song and dance, martial arts, acrobatics, costume and make-up art. As we were the only Europeans, they even thought it as an honour to welcome us in the front seats for free.
A perfect arrangement after two days of enjoying a valuable insight into the Chinese culture which is quite different than one will experience in the European countries.