Sunday, April 19, 2015

Seoul Neighborhood Spring Walk

On Sunday morning, I headed out for an early morning walk. By going early, I hoped to take advantage of more dramatic light and not have crowds to contend with. Although it was an overcast morning, I did manage to capture a peek of the sun.

On the way to Ansan's cherry blossoms, I snapped this photo. If you follow your eyes past the forsythias down the steep hill and up the distant ones, you will see a snaking path of more cherry blossoms. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Tulips and Cherry Blossoms, Ansan

I photographed this scene on Seoul's Ansan a few days apart. The top one was in the afternoon, while the lower one was taken early on an overcast morning.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jinhae - Ships and Blooms

As part of the Cherry Blossom festival in Jinhae, we walked to the city's Naval Academy and Naval Command base. (Buses were trying their best to take as many people over to the base as possible, but walking was quicker than trying to wait for a bus and dealing with the traffic). On the way, we walked past some Naval Academy guards. We had a little giggle to see two guards each holding up oars in a defensive stance as if they were spears. 

 Like much of Jinhae, the Naval area was enveloped with cherry blossoms. I especially liked the ones right by the sea.
Visitors could go into the reconstructed turtle ship, the original ones made famous in the naval battles under Admiral Yi. How it must have been during Yi's time, with the gun ports emerging from the dragon's mouth (as well as the top & bottom of the head and in several other places around the ship), fire arrows shooting forth, as well as canons booming. Even the ship's spiky roof looked rather menacing. Today's ships may be much more advanced, but I prefer the aesthetics of this wooden ship.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Shrek Loves Jinhae Cherry Blossoms

As part of the Jinhae Cherry Blossom festival, the city's stream is transformed into a magical walkway. Branches of cherry trees bowed down towards the stream, weighed down by its many blossoms. Rapeseed flowers framed both sides of the shallow stream. Sections along the 1.5km long walkway were decorated with suspended umbrellas, bicycles, and colorful hearts. Another section featured paper lanterns in the shapes of animated characters from Shrek and Madagascar. These displays must look equally dazzling when illuminated at night. 

 Needless to say, the walkways were already rather crowded at 7:30 AM, but that would intensify as the day went on. It was a favorite spot for couples, quite a number of which wore matching his/her outfits (top, pants, and even shoes). With around a million visitors flocking to Jinhae for the festival, vendors selling corn dogs, cotton candy, coffee, ice cream, and Korean snacks must do quite well. For romantics and photographers alike, it was indeed a beautiful scene to behold - despite the crowd.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Jinhae: Blossoms All Around Me

Last weekend I attended the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival in this southern Korean city located near Busan. Having arrived near the Gyeonghwa railway station pre-dawn, we beat the crowds that would later flock to see the 800 meter cherry-blossom lined section of the railway. Off to one side, I spotted some azaleas in early bloom. Like any dedicated photographer, I got down on my belly to get the perspective I wanted.  

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Ah Ban Paper Oblation - Finished Piece

Later that afternoon, we returned to the Loh An Ban family Paper Oblation Shop. The piece the family had harmoniously been working together on had not yet been completed, but it was nearly done. Ean's mom brought over the garden stairway area that she was currently working on.
The brilliantly patterned paper piece reminded me of a doll house. Looking closer, one could see modern conveniences such as a car, bicycle, refrigerator, LCD TV, air conditioner, phone, cooking area (more traditional), and 3-d paper table and chairs. Representations of gold and silver were also included. 

Inside the paper oblation house

Ean estimated that the cost for a paper oblation house of this size and complexity typically went for around 1,100 myr, which is around $300. And to think that such a beautiful piece of handmade art would go up in flames in a matter of minutes. Ean's brother in law is training to take over the family trade from her father Mr. Loh An Ban. Let's hope that the art form is preserved through the unified efforts of this family.
Complete with a 3-d car

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Ah Ban Paper Oblation Workshop

Mrs. Ah Ban works on the paper figures
It was through a very unassuming narrow alley past a Trek bike shop that I experienced one of my biggest highlights of my time in Penang. A dog keeping guard at the shed announced our presence, but a young woman named Ean greeted us in English. She welcomed us to come inside the large shed where her father Mr. Loh An Ban, mother, brother, and another family member all worked to create paper oblations. (According to the brochure Ean gave us, the shop actually employs 8 workers).

For over 40 years, Mr. Loh An Ban has been making paper oblations for the Chinese community in the area. Daughter Ean explained that the Chinese believe that the spirit of the dead person needs a place to dwell and enjoy the comforts of life. In Chinese custom, miniature replicas of the home, servants, worldly possessions (i.e. TV, car, cell phones) are burned for the newly deceased to accompany them to the afterlife. Such oblations are only made for those who had been married. If a person couldn't afford an oblation at the time of death, the family would wait until another member died, at which time a figure for that person would be included as well. The paper oblations are typically burned at home or at a temple, but a fire department must be present at the ceremony.

Her family is one of a few that still make these oblations in Penang. The number of craftsmen in China is rapidly decreasing as well.  Special figures are made at the time of the Ghost Festival which is usually held around August. The large paper effigies of Chinese gods are also made to commemorate deities' birthdays. Ean has incorporated the skills learned from her father (it takes over 10 years to learn all the parts of this craft) and combined it with her graphic design degree training to create contemporary items for others such as Christmas trees.   

Ean's brother forms the main structure, attaching the wood with strips of strong rice paper and flour-based homemade glue
 Her family had all been working for a couple of hours on this particular oblation for a man who had just died. They anticipated finishing it later in the afternoon and encouraged us to return then. More complex ones might take several days to complete.
Mrs. Ah Ban attaches thin paper with flour-based homemade glue

Beautiful patterned paper

Ean, father Loh An Ban, and mother