Writing Up a Storm for Chinese New Year

The NUS Libraries got off to an auspicious start to the Year of the Ox on 22 January 2009 where a group of students from the NUS Chinese Society clustered outside Theatrette 2 for a fun but no less intense 3 hour session on writing 春联 or couplets for the lunar New Year.

In its 2nd year, the event, organized jointly by the Chinese Library and NUS Chinese Society had such a successful run last year that the organizers decided to repeat it this year. However, the organizers did not expect such an overwhelming response this year and were pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of requests for couplets from staff and students. It got to such a stage where Chinese Library staff was seen scrambling for scraps of paper in a bid to fulfill the list of never ending requests.

While observing the entire proceedings, I suspect the main reason for the sheer number of requests was that people were tired of hearing or reading bad news on the media nowadays. Hardly a day goes by where one expert or a government official would be expounding on the dire economic forecasts, job losses, retrenchments, recession and other gloomy predictions. 春联, which essentially involves a couplet written on vertical strips of red paper in the best calligraphic style one can muster and used as Chinese New Year decorations are seen as messages of hope, fulfillment and happiness for the new year. And in the worst of times, one certainly needs an uplifting message.

It was also heartening to see this message of hope extended to the non-Chinese community. One Malay staff who was seen with 2 pairs of couplets said that she intends to give them to her Chinese neighbours as wishes for the New Year. In a war-weary world torn by inter-ethnic strife and conflict, acts like this are becoming increasingly less common.

Kudos goes to all the students involved in writing the couplets. Their sheer youthful energy, enthusiasm and dedication brought smiles and cheers to everyone in the library!

Click here to view the couplet writing demonstration

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