Columnist recalls the days of the lang-ting-tang men

IT was said that on the 15th night of the eighth lunar month, maidens
would wait anxiously at their doorsteps to have their fortunes told by
wandering minstrels with their quaint Chinese mandolins or yuet chin.

Based on the belief that the Moon Goddess was born during the
Mid-Autumn Festival, she could therefore cast her influence to ensure
that what the minstrels told would be accurate.

However, these
old-time minstrels or lang-ting-tang men as the Chinese would
have them called, have vanished in many towns in recent years.

and newspaper columnist Lee Eng Kew from Taiping, recalled that for 10
sen in the olden days, women, young and old, could ask them on any
subject, be it a forthcoming marriage; when she would be blessed with a
good husband, a business deal or the sex of a baby about to be born.

“Children would ask to find out if they could succeed in the coming
examinations,” he said in an interview.

He said the minstrel
would then give the tassel of sticks hanging around his oil lantern at
the end of his yuet chin a sharp twirl.

“His customer
takes a random pick from them. On the sticks are written in Chinese ink,
titles of chapters from Chinese legends and history.

minstrel strums his yuet chin and sings out the account of the
story and interprets the customer’s fortune according to the fate of the
hero of heroine in the tale,” he added.

Lee said he had no
problem learning to play both the yuet chin and er hu (also
known as the Chinese violin).

“I made up my own lyrics from the
many stories I read in the Chinese classics and legends,” he said,
adding that his songs would be in Hokkien.

Lee said he would
perform. with his yuet chin at the Mid-Autumn Festival Gathering
organised by the Taiping Hokkien Associa-tion’s Youth Section at the
Lake Gardens at 8pm on Saturday.

He said several youths would be
dressed in traditional Chinese costumes for the night while the public
could take part in traditional games to win Hokkien mooncakes.


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