Nonfiction 2

A baba wedding by Kim Ban Cheo

By Kim Ban Cheo

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The two sides of the top table — the one facing the main door and the one facing the opposite way are covered with a piece of heavily embroidered red silk tapestry. This piece of altar cloth is known as a tok wee and many altar cloths of this type are now precious heirlooms. Consisting of two overlapping panels, the tok wee’s top narrower panel is of a different colour and is embroidered with figures of the Eight Immortals or the three figures representing Longevity, Prosperity and Learning. The lower edge of this top panel is lined with tassels of many colours.

These are glass bowls with lids and they stand on red and gilt carved wooden stands which are usually in the form of lions. The bowls are two-thirds filled with red coloured water and the glass lids are turned upside down, placed on top of the bowls and then filled with oil and provided with wicks. Right behind the big joss-stick holder is placed a very important item of the altar: the chie” hup, a detailed description of which will follow. On either side of the chien hup are two level bowlfuls of uncooked rice also covered with red paper.

A few Nyonya Bukak Koon ladies managed by hard work and years of observation to become Sang Kheh Umms in their own right. This assistant also ran errands for the Sang Kheh Umm and assisted her in making items for the altar table. In other words, she had to make herself generally helpful. The bridegroom was attended to by the Pak Chindek whose job was, in many ways, similar to that of the Sang Kheh Umm. He, of course, did not have to worry about hairdos and jewellery. The Pak Chindek had no assistant and he had to do the job of the Bukak Koon himself; but this task was relatively easier because the bridegroom was, unlike the bride, not encumbered by a heavy gold and silver crown, a chest laden with jewellery and heavy robes.

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