The colour of good fortune

Photos By StoryPhotos GRACE CHEN

IT DOES not take a genius to guess Lim Ah Geok’s favourite colour. “In Hokkien, we say ang ang kong (which means ‘Red will bring you lots of luck’),” beamed the mother-of-four, who is clearly besotted with this auspicious shade.

And why not? Red is definitely the “in” colour for this season and furthermore, this 58-year-old grandmother would attest to the fact that it has brought plenty of good fortune to her life and home.

Lim’s story goes like this:

Sometime in 2003, a thought crept into Lim’s mind that it might be a good idea to put her handcrafting skills to good use by making red door banners and accentuating them with balls of ruffled rosettes.

At that time, Lim was avidly following a Hong Kong drama series on the goings-on of the Chinese imperial court.

In one of the scenes in the series, some court dancers held some cloth rosettes as they swayed to traditional music.

Lim thought they looked beautiful and decid­ed that she would try to make one herself.

By coincidence, a temple monk requested Lim to fashion a red door banner for the temple’s entrance.

When the red banner was put up, the effect was so stunning that other devotees who went to the temple decided that they would like one for their homes, too.

News of the banners spread by word of mouth, and Lim soon found herself fulfilling a steady stream of orders. About a month ago, she landed a plum order from Parkson, thanks to the efforts of her daughters Jeannie Chan, 35, and Chan Ying Chen, 28, who helped with the marketing and packaging design.

“I was chided by the purchasing people when I showed them my mother’s red banners. They said I should have brought them in earlier,” Jeannie recollected with a laugh.

Red door banners, or hung chai chiew in Mandarin, are nothing new to the Chinese community. According to Lim, it is a focal point at the doorways of newlyweds, house-warming parties and opening ceremonies.

Red, she explained, is a very positive colour. The Chinese believe that it will bring luck and ward off evil. Thus, hanging a red door banner at the entrance is a way of ushering these positive vibes into the home or business premises.

“As long as something good is happening within the premises, you’d find it there,” Lim said.

As for the red balls of ruffled rosettes, their attachment to any object signifies that they will gain extra additions of good qualities.

“In the olden days, the grooms would wear these rosettes on their chests and the bigger the rosette, the better a husband he would make,” smiled Lim.

Nevertheless, Lim, a traditionalist, was quick to caution that there were times when the usage of this vibrant colour might not be appropriate. This year, for example, she has opted for more sombre colours in her Chinese New Year attire as a sign of respect to her late mother-in-law. The official mourning period of 100 days is still not over.

However, Lim is determined that her family should not miss out on the Chinese New Year “feel” and has thus decorated her abode in Jalan Pekan Baru, Klang, in an all-red theme, as if to say that one should not reject the coming of luck for the coming year’s undertakings.

Lim also revealed her opinion of women who thought they could rely on their husbands to support them.

“It is always crucial for women to be financially independent. Never say that it is the man’s job to be the breadwinner of the family.

“I believe that a woman who can contribute to the family expenses is always looked highly upon. In my case, my husband Chan Leong Tor, 61, is very proud of me as he sees me as a successful individual in my own right,” Lim said proudly.

Conversely, Lim, whom her children described as a doting mum who would make a fuss over a mosquito bite, cautioned against women who neglected their families because of their careers.

“Remember that the family and the children must always come first. Ideally, you should find a way whereby you can work from home so that you can also be there for your children,” she advised.

As for what Chan, Lim’s supportive husband of 36 years, has to say, this former sundry business owner provides food for thought with his remark: “As long as one does not have greed in one’s heart, life will flow by smoothly and accordingly.”

For details, call Lim at 012-201 8582.

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