Pantun Champor-Bawor (A Variety of Malay Quatrains)

Pantun Champor-Bawor (A Variety of Malay Quatrains) was published in 1908 by the local Batu Gantong Press. These quatrains were compiled by Chan Kim Boon (1851-1920), well-known for his Baba Malay translations of Chinese classics such as Chrita dahulu-kala di triak Song Kang, 108 p’rompak atau Swui huoh di zaman “Song Teow” (Shui Hu Zhuan; Water Margin) and Chrita da-hulu-kala pasal Kou Chey Thian man-gawal-kan Tong Thye Chu pergi di negri Seh Thian C’hu Keng (Journey to the West). Chan, a son of the trader Chan Yong Chuan, was originally from Penang and later on settled in Singapore, building his career as an administrator at a legal company.

The unique quatrains adhere strictly to the Malay pantun structure and has a distinct Baba Peranakan flavour to it. As per Malay pantuns, the quatrains in Chan’s work follows an abab rhyme scheme and are limited to 8-12 syllables per line. Metaphors and imageries invoked were native to the Malay Archipelago – from local flora and fauna to civilisations and kingdoms. The themes espoused include love:

Akar-tunjang di pagar salaseh,
Balong-kulet berisi sireh;
Alang saket ma-nanggong kaseh,
Tidak kulet tulang ba-chareh.
(expressing how excruciating it is to bear love)

and social etiquettes:

Sarindet di gonggong lang,
Jato ka-logok Indragiri;
Suda ter-salet di kampong orang,
Baik baik membawak diri.
(advocating one to behave accordingly when not in their own hometown)

This particular locally published work exemplifies the diversity of the entrepôt that Singapore already was and sheds light into the variety of prints that were circulated at the turn of the 20th century.

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