Friday, 20 November 2015

Pictorial Past


Bound in happiness -- a year's worth of magazines
My great aunt passed away over a year ago and her daughter-in-law began cleaning out some cupboards that were filled with lots of old books kept from over the years.

Features of the famous Chinese opera performers of the day
Two interesting ones she found were The Happiness Pictorial (幸福) from 1956 and 1957. These were monthly magazines one could buy or subscribe to, and if you wished, you could buy a hardbound copy of a whole year's worth.

I guess my great aunt or great uncle liked these magazines so much that they bought the hardbound ones.

A double-page spread on toys, old and new
We flipped through them and it was a fascinating look at what life was like over 60 years ago. Each issue featured an array of different topics, such as dim sum today, or western baking, the latest fashions, space for local photographers to showcase their work, cartoons, and travel.

The pages were mostly covered in pictures with Chinese text with some English translation. So as someone who doesn't read much Chinese, this was a fascinating read into Hong Kong at the time.

First of all the layouts weren't particularly effective, and pictures should have been edited down. The writing wasn't particularly informative or well written, but gave us a general gist of what was going on.

Contrast these pictures with today's harbour scenes
Each cover would feature starlets and my relatives explained to me that many in the 1950s and 1960s committed suicide because they were in relationships with men who treated them badly.

On the back cover there was always an ad for White Flower Oil or 白花油. Back then back page cover ads in colour were HK$1,000!

Artwork was also featured, like water colour paintings, wood block prints and paintings by artists like Pablo Picasso.

The content was so random that one had to wonder what was the point of this magazine, but perhaps during this period, it served a wide audience, who may have enjoyed different aspects of it. This was obviously before the days of specialization!

A beautiful wood block print within the book
Nevertheless, it's such an intriguing look at how people during that time saw lifestyle and what it meant to them.


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