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Photographer's Note

Today is the ninth day of the Chinese New Year, which is sometimes called the Hokkien New Year here in Malaysia because it is the most significant day of the New Year calendar for Hokkiens.

Hokkiens – or Hoklos as they are known in some other countries – are people with ancestral roots in a region of Fujian province in southern China. During the Ming Dynasty, the Hokkien clan was attacked by Cantonese soldiers from neighbouring Guangdong province. Their homes were destroyed, and many were killed, but some survived by hiding in sugarcane fields. Eventually the Cantonese soldiers gave up looking for them, and the day they emerged from the sugarcane fields was the ninth day of Chinese New Year. Since then, Hokkiens have celebrated this day with prayers to the Jade Emperor (who is the Taoist God of Heaven in Chinese mythology) and making offerings of sticks of sugarcane tied together with red ribbons.

Last Saturday (the third day of the Chinese New Year) I dropped into the Thean Hou temple, which is just down the road from where I live. The temple takes its name from Thean Hou, the Buddhist Queen of Heaven, which is the main deity in the temple, but it also has some Taoists deities as well, and for that reason the Thean Hou temple is where local Hokkiens go to make offerings.

I went to the temple intending to grab a few pictures of the Chinese lanterns on display. I got my lantern shots (I’ve posted one in the Workshop here) but I also I found some more interesting subjects in the form of some performers from a Chinese opera group who were standing at the gates of the temple encouraging visitors to buy tickets for one of their performances (they were putting shows on in a small theatre under the temple).

I shot a picture of one of the performers who was smiling at me, and when I looked in the LCD I was pleased with the shot, thinking I could crop it into a vertical portrait making a feature of her colourfully decorated pigtails. But when I blew the shot up on my computer screen at home (I've posted the original to the Workshop here), I discovered there was a face right over her left shoulder (somebody who had walked behind) that completely spoiled the shot. So instead, I heavily cropped the shot down to this composition which is only 8 per cent of the original image area. For that reason, the image is a little soft (it was handheld at 1/60 at a focal length of 90mm) but I think the softness suits her porcelain-like skin - so I’m happy with it.

I don’t think the girl in my photograph is Hokkien. I believe she is from Hainan – at least that’s where the Chinese opera group was from – but I thought her nice smile was nevertheless an appropriate way to wish you all a happy Hokkien New Year.

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1237 W: 108 N: 2568] (7789)
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