Learning Cantonese: Max To’s Indigo Workshop on Lantau Island

Source: http://www.facebook.com/lantaublue/

If you’ve ever wondered why the Chinese character 藍 làahm4 meaning “blue” is written with the “grass” element, then now you know: it all goes back to indigo!

Actually, in the useful book Analysis of Chinese Characters (1934), the authors point out that the other part of the character is 監 gāam, “to watch” and that it is used purely to indicate the pronunciation (?), so “consequently has no logical explanation”. But after you’ve watched this video from Apple Daily, you’ll understand that it takes three days to dye garments properly with indigo, and that watchfulness is vital — 仲不時要 check 住染液嘅活躍程度, that is “you also have to check the dyeing liquid often for its degree of activeness”.

I first came across Indigo 11.50 in a story in the Zolima City Mag. This is how Christopher Dewolf introduces its founder:

“Five years ago, Max To was working as a cameraman when he began suffering from lower back pain. He took a long break in Taiwan, where he came across a traditional indigo dyeing workshop. That inspired him to return to Hong Kong, where he and three friends turned his family’s abandoned ancestral home into something similar.”

You can see beautiful examples of indigo-dyed clothing and accessories on Indigo 11.50’s Facebook page here.

There are no terribly difficult grammatical issues in the voice-over. There’s one instance of the fairly uncommon final particle 噃 bō1, which is similar, if not identical to 喎 wō1, but tends to indicate a slight level of surprise (contrary to expectations). You’ll also come across an example of a common particle of quantification, 嗮 saai3, placed after verbs. It neatly conveys the meaning of “all” in 只會啲人就會搬嗮出去 = then [everyone] will all move out.

As for the vocabulary, here’s just a brief sample: 質感 jāt1 gám2 = ① texture ② (of works of art) a feeling of reality; 祖屋 jóu2 ūk1 = ancestral home; 橡筋 jeuhng6 gān1 = rubber band; 溝成 kāu1 sìhng4 = roughly, “to mix (so as to form)”; and 節省 jit3 sáang2 = to economize; to save; to use sparingly.

Please scroll down for my transcription, English translation and notes. You can view the video here (subtitles in Standard Written Chinese only). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.


記者:大嶼山石壁監獄旁邊 | 有個隱世小村落,大浪灣村

● 隱世 yán2 sai3 = (?) hidden away from the world; secluded

Reporter: Next to the Shek Pik Prison on Lantau Island, there is a small village tucked away from the world, Tai Long Wan.

杜學知: 我覺得手工染布喺呢個數碼年代 | 係帶一個人平時喺電腦度唔到嘅質感

● 數碼 sou3 máah5 = digital | ● 質感 jāt1 gám2 = ① texture ② (of works of art) a feeling of reality

Max To: In this digital age [of ours], I think, hand-dyed fabrics brings [with them] a feeling of reality [質感] that people usually don’t get from a computer.

Caption:80後,染出隱世一片藍 | Heading: Born in the 80s and Dyeing a Secluded World Indigo Blue

記者:舊年一次台灣行,令阿Max 接觸到藍染 | 佢發現原來喺當地 | 藍染係小學生嘅手作玩意 | 之後仲發現媽媽祖屋嘅所在地 | 四周圍嘅天然環境好適合發展藍染啊 | 就決心將呢樣帶返香港 | 星期二到日都有 workshop | 佢教大家整手巾仔或者門簾 | 而染嘅過程其實唔算複雜

杜學知 Max To, http://www.facebook.com/lantaublue/

● 手作玩意 sáu2 jok3 wuhn6 yi3  = roughly “handicraft” Note: the term 玩意 means “thing; plaything” | ● 祖屋 jóu2 ūk1 = ancestral home | ● 藍染物 làahm4 yíhm5 maht6 = (?) indigo plants (lit. “blue dyeing crops”) | ● 四周圍 sei3 jāu1 wàih4 = all around | ● 門簾 mùhn4 lím4*2 = (?) door-curtain

Reporter: A trip to Taiwan last year brought Max into contact with indigo-dyeing. There, he discovered, indigo-dyeing was a simple handicraft [手作玩意] for primary school students. Later, he discovered that the natural environment all around his mother’s ancestral home was very suited to (?) the development of indigo. And so, he decided to bring this thing [that is, the art of indigo dyeing] back to Hong Kong, holding workshops from Tuesday to Sunday. He teaches people how to do [整] [small] handkerchiefs and door curtains. Actually, the dyeing process is not that complicated.

李嘉敏(設計師): 我哋只要用手指啦,整起塊布啦,造成呢個,一個角位啦 | 手捉住一個位呢 | 就係你想要嘅圓形嘅嗰個闊啦 | 然後就用橡筋【1:00】開始紥  | 紥嗰個位呢,就將會係一個留白嘅位啦,染液就唔會滲透到入便 | 其他嘅部分呢,就會將會變成藍色喇

● 橡筋 jeuhng6 gān1 = rubber band | ● 滲透 sām1 tàuh4 = to permeate; to seep | ● 紥 jaat3 = to tie; to bind

Lee Ka-man (designer): All we have to do is use our fingers to get a piece of  fabric ready [整起]. To make this, a sort of horn-shaped part [角位], you grab hold of one part [of the cloth] — this is the width you want for [your] circles. Then, [you] use a rubber band to begin to tie up that part [嗰個位], a part that will say undyed [留白]. The liquid dye will not seep inside.  The other parts will turn blue.

Caption: 洗布 | Washing the Fabric

李嘉敏: 呢個嘅紥出嚟嘅圓形呢,就比較大啦,呢個就細緻啲啦 | 原因就係在於呢,呢個呢,就係用橡筋紥出嚟嘅 | 啊如果想呢,紥出一啲細緻啲嘅圖案呢, 你就,我會需要用到針去做呢一個步驟囉

● 細緻 sai3 ji3 = delicate; fine | ● 步驟 bouh6 jaauh6 = a step; a move; a measure

Lee Ka-man: The circle-pattern made by this [kind of] tying is rather large, [while] this one is finer. The reason lies in this: that this [was done] using a rubber band to do the tying up. Now if you want to make [紥出] a finer design, then you might like to choose sewing [the part with] thread to do this step.

記者:要製作無毒天然藍嘅衫或者產品 | 事前其實要花好多準備功夫 | 藍泥係染液嘅原材料之一 | 係用藍草嘅色素同石灰粉溝成 | 現階段,阿 Max 就由台灣訂返嚟 | 但係佢就善用呢度嘅好山好水 | 喺度種唔同種類嘅藍草 | 佢嘅目標,係種一千樖 | 希望三年之後可以生產自家嘅天然染啊

● 無毒 mòuh4 duhk6 = (?) non-poisonous | ● 事前 sih6 chìhn4 = before the event; in advance; beforehand | ● 準備功夫 jéun2 beih6 gūng1 fū1 = roughly, “preparatory work” | ● 藍泥 làahm4 nàih4 = roughly, “indigo-plant mush” cf. 泥 = mashed vegetable or fruit | ● 原材料 yùhn4 chòih4 líu6*2 = raw & processed materials | ● 色素 sīk1 sou3 = pigment | ● 石灰 sehk6 fūi1 = lime | ● 溝成 kāu1 sìhng4 = roughly, “to mix (so as to form)” | ● 現階段 yihn6 gāai1 dyuhn6 = roughly, “the current stage/phase” | ● 善用 sihn6 yuhng6 = be good at using something

Reporter: If one wishes to make non-poisonous natural indigo clothing or other products, actually a lot of preparatory work is necessary beforehand. Indigo-mush is one of the materials used in the dyeing liquid [染液] and is composed of pigment from the indigo plant mixed with powdered lime. In [this] current phase, Max orders it from Taiwan, but he is good at using the excellent natural environment [好山好水] here, and has planted different kinds of indigo. His objective is to plant a thousand plants in the hope that, after three years, [he] will be able to produce his own home-made natural dyes.

記者: 至於染液,就由呢啲材料組成喇 | 溝到酸鹼度【2:00】去到11.5 要用3日時間去開㗎噃 | 仲不時要 check 住染液嘅活躍程度呀 | 而啲布要洗嗮化學劑| 熒光劑等等先可以染得 | 另每一方面,佢又提提大家喇

● 酸鹼 syūn1 gáan2 = ? Note: 鹼 is alkali or soda |● 不時 bāt1 sìh4 = frequently; often | ● 活躍程度 wuht6 yeuhk6 douh6 = roughly, “degree of activeness” | ● 化學劑 faa3 hohk6 jāi1 = roughly, “chemical agent” | ● 熒光劑 yìhng4 gwōng1 jāi1 = ? cf. 熒光 = fluorescent +  劑 = a preparation; an agent

Reporter: With regard to the dyeing liquid, it is made up of these materials. When the alkali/soda [酸鹼度] you mix in [reaches] 11.5 degrees, [you] then have to [boil the material] for three days, and [you] also have to check the dyeing liquid often for its degree of activeness. As for the fabric, this must be first washed in water [to get rid of] chemical agents and fluorescent agents before it can be dyed. He tells everyone about all the other steps in the process [每一方面].

Caption: 藍泥、木灰水、米酒、蔗糖 | Indigo-plant Mush, Wood-ash in Water [木灰水], Rice Wine, Cane Sugar

杜學知: 如果你新買嘅衫,洗最好洗兩次呀,我建議你

Max To: If [you are dyeing] new-bought clothes, it is best, I suggest, to wash them twice.

記者:用柴火煲水比石油氣更加節省能源之外 | 木灰仲可以 *hoi 做染液嘅原材料,取之自然啊 | 阿 Max 歸隱田園,最初屋企人都反對 | 朋友亦唔知佢做乜 | 但係 *dai 佢就覺得好充實喇

● 柴火chàaih4 fó2 = firewood | ● 節省 jit3 sáang2 = to economize; to save; to use sparingly | ● 能源 nàhng4 yùhn4 = the sources of energy; energy resources | ● 歸隱 gwāi1 yán2 = to return to one’s hometown & live in seclusion | ● 田園 tìhn4 yùhn4 = fields & gardens; countryside | ● 充實 chūng1 saht6 = substantial; rich

Reporter: Apart from saving on gas, by using firewood to boil the liquid, one can naturally obtain [取之自然] wood-ash, another ingredient of the dyeing liquid. [When] Max returned to his home village in seclusion from the world, his family was at first opposed [to the idea] and friends had no idea what he was up to, but he [himself] felt that [such a way of life] was very rewarding [好充實].

杜學知: 如果一條村被人遺忘咗呢 | 越嚟越耐呢,只會啲人就會搬出去 | 噉最後條村就會荒廢。噉呢個唔係我想見到我自己條村發生嘅事 | 噉所以我先會咁努力去,去做呢啲嘢 | 我想令到大家開始知道呢條村有啲嘢係好寶貴嘅

● 遺忘 wàih4 mòhng4 = to forget | ● 荒廢 fōng1 fai3 = to leave uncultivated; to lie waste

Max To: If a village is forgotten, the longer it goes on, then [everyone] will all move out. In the end, the village will lie waste, abandoned [荒廢]. This is something I don’t want to see happen to my own village. It is only for this reason that I am working so hard at such things. I want the world to know [令到大家開始知道] what things of value this village possesses.

A Bull’s Eye for the Bullets, but Mind’s Eye for Beauty

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A cold wind. Standing ovation
in the trees — Autumn’s moon-dry rustle of leaf
on leaf on leaf. Thunder
in the chill brick bridge when trains pass
larger than life
overhead, white-hot catenary sparks
sizzling fresh air
with the stink of electric scorch. Then
pin-drop quiet, plump as moss, and moss
universally shock-absorbing all than could never be green
back into greenest
tactile patch-working clumps.

Learning Cantonese: 冠南華 Koon Nam Wah’s Traditional-style Wedding Gowns

The incredible fusion of Chinese and Western culture in Hong Kong leads to some unexpected consequences. “What woman doesn’t want to wear a pure white Western-style wedding dress when she gets married?”, declares Winnie Lam of 冠南華 Koon Nam Wah, a company devoted to the creation of bridal wear. But as Barbara Ward points out in her book on Chinese festivals: “white is the traditional mourning colour in China and no Hong Kong bride would risk wearing anything so unlucky all the time. So at the wedding feast in the evening, when bride and groom circulate among the many round tables to toast and be toasted by their guests, she wears traditional red.”

Partly for this reason, and partly owing to tradition, the Chinese 裙褂 kwàhn4 gwáa3*2 outfit, which is made up of a long skirt and a jacket, continues to be very popular to this day. The intricate embroidery featured on the garment is also richly symbolic and so meant to bring blessings and good fortune to the newlyweds who, by the way, are referred to in this Kongstories video as 新人 sān1 yàhn4 or “new people”.

Since they voice-over is scripted, there is a conspicuous absence of initial and final particles. In addition, some of the vocabulary is quite literary. The main point of grammatical interest is the various uses of the aspect marker 咗 jó2. In Complete Cantonese, Hugh Baker notes that its basic function is “to show that the action has been completed” but, needless to say, the situation is a bit more complex in practice. Although I am still regularly bamboozled by 咗 jó2, it can help if you can also think of it as the realization of a certain action (has it actually taken place?). Something of the meaning is present in the English past perfect tense as opposed to the simple past tense: “Have you seen him?” is primarily asking about realization, I think, rather than completion.

In one example from the voice-over, 咗 jó2 is used in a purely hypothetical context: 只要改動一吋,都會破壞咗裙褂上面嘅圖案 = “to change an inch would ruin the design on the kwan gwa”. Here, the aspect marker suggests that the “ruin” [破壞], once realized, cannot be undone. I also get the impression that certain verbs tend to attract 咗 jó2. One example is 忽略 fāt1 leuhk6 = “to neglect; to overlook”, a verb not readily associated with the idea of completion.

As usual, there’s plenty of wonderful vocabulary. In the names of the two people featured in the video, the 臻 jēun1 in Tommy To’s Chinese name means “to attain to a high level”, while the 卓 cheuk3 in Winnie Lam’s name means “prominent; outstanding”. Oh, for a deeply meaningful Chinese name!

Other vocabulary includes 出嫁 chēut1 gaa3 = (of a woman) to get married (but watch out for 出家 chēut1 gāa1, which means “to become a monk or nun”!); 湮沒 yān1 muht6 = to fall into oblivion; 樞紐 syū1 náu2/láu2= a pivot; a hub; 輝煌 fāi1 wòhng4 = brilliant; splendid; glorious; 老土 lóuh5 tóu2 = old-fashioned; out of date; 睇小 tái2 síu2 = to underestimate; 排擠 pàaih4 jāi1 = to push aside; to ostracize; 任意 yahm6 yi3 = arbitrarily; 尺吋 chek3 chyun3 = measurement; 獨一無二 duhk6 yāt1 mòuh4 yih6 = unique; one of a kind.

Please scroll down for my transcription, English translation and notes. You can view the video here (you are offered subtitles in both English and Standard Written Chinese). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.


Caption: 冠南華 Koon Nam Wah

陶衍臻:女仔出嫁,最開心係著婚紗 | 講到裙褂,多數都係由長輩決定 | 畢竟,裙褂好似係滿足老一輩舊時代產物 | 六、七十年代因爲文革 | 曾經流行中國一時嘅龍鳳裙褂 | 被封建制度湮沒喺歷史洪流之中 . . .

● 出嫁 chēut1 gaa3 = (of a woman) to get married; to marry | ● 婚紗 fān1 sāa1 = a wedding dress | ● 裙褂 kwàhn4 gwáa3*2 = wedding dress | ● 產物 cháan2 maht6 = an outcome; a result; a product | ● 文革 Màhn4 Gaak3 = the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) | ● 一時 yāt1 sìh4 = a period of time | ● 湮沒 yān1 muht6 = to fall into oblivion; to be neglected | ● 洪流 hùhng4 làuh4 = mighty torrent; powerful current

Tommy To: When a girl gets married, wearing a [Western-style, white] wedding dress is the happiest part of it [最開心]. When it comes to the traditional Chinese kwan gwa wedding gowns, mostly this is a decision taken by the older generation. When all is said and done [畢竟], traditional Chinese kwan gwa wedding gowns seem to be the product of an earlier era there to satisfy elder family members [老一輩]. Due to the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 70s, the Dragon and Phoenix kwan gwa popular in China fell into to oblivion [with?] the feudal system in [that] mighty torrent of history . . .

【1:00】. . . 令當時國内嘅人對裙褂變得陌生 | 香港成為咗唯一個樞紐 | 後世知道中國嫁娶文化裏邊曾經有過呢一段輝煌嘅一頁 | 始於廣州,存留於香港

● 樞紐 syū1 náu2/láu2= a pivot; a hub; a centre | ● 後世hauh6 sai3 = ① later ages ② later generations | ● 嫁娶 gaa3 chéui2 = marriage | ● 輝煌 fāi1 wòhng4 = brilliant; splendid; glorious | ● 始於 chí2 yū1 = roughly, “to come into being” | ● 存留 chyùhn4 làuh4 = to persist

. . . making the people of mainland China strangers to kwan gwa wedding gowns. Hong Kong has become the one and only centre enabling [俾] later generations to know that there was once this glorious page in the wedding culture of China. It started off in Guangzhou, and persists [存留] [here] in Hong Kong.

林卓怡:1997年,我結束咗自己嘅個人事業 | 金融風暴之下,我家族嘅裙褂生意都大受影響 | 加上父母年 [歲] 已高,佢哋希望我可以返去幫手 | 我從來諗過,要接手家族生意嘅 | 裙褂?一聽落去就覺得老土 | 女仔出嫁,邊個唔希望著純白色嘅婚紗呢?| 但係屋企需要我 | 我就硬住頭皮行入連自己都覺得過時嘅生意 | 由當初乜都唔識,被夥計睇小、排擠 | 到漸漸被肯定

● 金融風暴 gām1 yùhng4 fūng1 bō1 = financial crisis | ● 大受影響 daaih6 sauh6 yíng2 héung2 = to be greatly influenced by | ● 老土 lóuh5 tóu2 = old-fashioned; out of date; traditional; unsophisticated; rustic; not hip; uncool | ● 當初 dōng1 chō1 = originally; at the outset; at that time | ● 睇小 tái2 síu2 = to underestimate; to look down on | ● 排擠 pàaih4 jāi1 = to push aside; to ostracize

Winnie Lam: In 1997, I wound up my own personal business. During the financial crisis, my family’s kwan gwa wedding gown business was greatly affected. [Because of this, and because] my father and mother were both getting on, that year they expressed the hope [佢哋希望] that I would go back and give them a hand. It had never occurred to me to take over the family business. Kwan gwa? The very word sounded terribly old-fashioned. What woman doesn’t want to wear a pure white Western-style wedding dress when she gets married? But my family needed me, so I steeled myself and went into a line of business that even I thought was well past its use-by date [過時]. At the outset, from knowing nothing and being looked down and excluded by the other employees, I gradually came to win approval [被肯定] .

林卓怡:好多人係睇到婚紗嘅美 | 但係忽略咗裙褂背後嘅祝福寓意 | 佢唔似婚紗可以任意修改尺吋 | 只要改動一吋,都會破壞咗裙褂上面嘅圖案 | 每件成品都係獨一無二嘅,係一對新人最大嘅賀禮 | 做裙褂生意,開心嘅唔止係做成一單生意 | 而係得到一對新人誠心嘅道謝 | 我希望我嘅下一代會繼續傳承

● 忽略 fāt1 leuhk6 = to neglect; to overlook; to lose sight of | ● 祝福 jūk1 fūk1 = blessings; best wishes | ● 寓意 yuh6 yi3 = implied meaning; implication | ● 任意 yahm6 yi3 = arbitrarily; wilfully | ● 尺吋 chek3 chyun3 = measurement; dimension; size | ● 成品 sìhng4 bán2 = end product; finished product | ● 獨一無二 duhk6 yāt1 mòuh4 yih6 = unique; one of a kind | ● 新人 sān1 yàhn4 = newlywed (esp. a new bride) | ● 賀禮 hoh6 láih5 = a gift (as a token of congratulations) | ● 單 dāan1 = classifier for “a case” or “a matter” cf. 宗 jūng1 in Standard Written Chinese | ● 誠心 sìhng4 sām1  = sincere desire; wholeheartedness | ● 道謝 douh6 jeh6 = to express one’s thanks; to thank | ● 傳承 chyùhn4 sìhng4 = to inherit & pass on; to pass down

Many people only see the beauty of Western wedding gowns, overlooking the meaning of blessing behind the traditional Chinese kwan gwa.  They don’t realize that the dimensions cannot be changed at will as with Western-style gowns: to change an inch would ruin the design. Every finished product is unique, and is the greatest gift of congratulations one can give to the bride. What makes [me] happy about the kwan gwa business is not just doing a job [for a customer] [做成一單生意] but also the sincere thanks [I get] from the newlyweds. I hope the generation after me will inherit and pass on [this tradition]. 

我叫林卓怡,我叫陶衍臻:香港土生土長 | 七百萬嘅故仔成就一個香 | 港故仔

My name is Winnie Lam Cheuk-yi, and I am Tommy To Hin-chun. We are both born and bred in Hong Kong. Seven million stories go to make up [成就] one [of the] Hong . . . Kong Stories.

The Blind Self-Interview

I filled my pockets with the weight of a day’s long pain
and trudged to the edge of a barnacled pier —
not to throw myself off
but to kill myself
thought by thought by thought to the end of time.
I failed in the freeze,
as the chill sun set,
hopelessly unable to see what I meant,
and marooned in that zone between iced
and unthawed, where all I could do
was to find in myself one thought at a time —
and thought by thought to the dead-end
of time — a single good reason
to come back to life
once more. I failed,
but in the freeze of twilit sea air
and in the canvas quiet of so much intricate natural noise
I realized, with my hands,
that pockets could never be filled by that sort of emptiness,
and that dusk in a way can be another kind of dawn —
if you’re lucky —
and that home, if you want one, must be built
out of nothing with hard-heart-felt questions
and barn-nail thinking,
thought by thought
to the end.

Learning Cantonese: 盡力彰顯真實民意 or “Make the True Will of the People Clearly Manifest”

● 奮力 fáhn5 lihk6 = do all one can; spare no effort | ● 抵抗 dái2 kong3 = to resist; to stand up to | ● 社會民主連線 (or 社民連) Séh5 Wúi6*2  Màhn4 Jyú2 Lìhn4 Sin3 = The League of Social Democrats  | ● 回應 wùih4 ying3 = to respond | ● 決議文 kyut3 yíh5 màhn4 = resolution | ● 提名權 tàih4 mìhng4 kyùhn4 = roughly, “the right to nominate (oneself as an election candidate)” | ● 剝奪 mōk1 dyuht6 = to deprive; to expropriate; to strip | ● 變相 bin3 seung3 = in a disguised form; covert  | ● 廢除 fai3 chèuih4 = to abolish; to annul; to repeal | ● 公平公正 gūng1 pìhng4 gūng1 jing3 = roughly “fair & impartial” | ● 壓制 [ng]aat3 jai3 = to suppress; to stifle; to inhibit | ● 憑良心 pàhng4 lèuhng4 sām1 = roughly, “relying on the goodness of one’s heart” or perhaps “in good faith” | ● 彰顯 jēung1 hín2 = to bring out conspicuously; to manifest; to make evident

Do All You Can to Resist | Up Until [the Day of] Victory

— Resolution of the League of Social Democrats in Response to Changes
in the Hong Kong Political Situation in 2021 —

Under the present circumstances, in which the right of citizens to nominate themselves as candidates in elections has been seriously stripped away and, to all extents and purposes, abolished, and in which Hong Kong has lost a fair and just electoral system, the League of Social Democrats will not take part in the 2021 elections either for the Election Committee or for the Legislative Council. Moreover, given that the right to vote has not been completely suppressed, the League of Social Democrats would like to call on members of the general public to actively express their views in good faith by means of these various elections and to do all they can to make the true will of the people clearly manifest.

The League of Social Democrats

《新心界》: 第七章 「醒神早餐 A」

Image by https://everydaymarkyourlife.blogspot.com

It is the day of the Cantonese Speaking Contest in May 2019, and 陳之一Chan Chi-yat tries to get himself into the right frame of mind by organizing breakfast at one of his favourite eating places, 德興粥麵店 Tak Hing Restaurant in Sha Tin. There, with his friends Ah Luk, the New Zealander Ah Ki and Ah Luk’s daughter Fu-cheui, he introduces them to the Second Music of Hong Kong, an Anthem to Progress only a confident international city could choose as its “theme-song”. Afterwards, they make their way to Central for a visit to the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road, followed by a simple lunch at a well-known dai pai dong, 勝香園 Shing Heung Yuen in Mei Lun Street.

Soundtrack: “God is not the name of God . . .”


「阿一,香港第一種音樂 . . . 你講過已經 . . . 第二種呢? . . . 第二種係點樣? . . . 話我哋知啦,唔該! . . . 唔話啦,我就閂心。」


「如果話香港特有嘅第一種音樂係屬於大地,噉第二種就肯定係屬於國際城市,只有國際城市先至能夠奏出獨特嘅“主題歌”!第二種音樂同自然界一啲關係都:佢係屬於昂貴豪宅、售賣奢侈品嘅店鋪、金融中心、豪華商場同埋五星級酒店嘅。我喺2013年第一次聽到,位置係九龍塘又一城,我仲記得有美國同行約我去 HABITŪ Caffé 飲咖啡,隨後就去附近嘅溜冰場欣賞一吓溜冰者嘅技巧(雖然溜冰場唔知幾時執咗笠或搬走咗)。進入商場行上扶手電梯嘅時候,有一段背景音樂偶然引起我嘅注意,令到我嘅感情受到波動。但至今都冇法攪清楚,點解當時會留下咁深刻嘅印象俾我。」







「《鬼佬》一書中描寫馬田童年時第一次去到文武廟。廟外嘅前院聚集唔少老婆婆,佢哋喺度等緊有錢嘅西人發“感謝錢”施捨俾佢哋。見到馬田呢個鬼佬細路仔,佢哋當然都好開心。當時佢年齡太細,唔會有錢可以派發,但係呢啲老婆婆仍然蜂擁而來圍住佢,仲伸手摸摸佢啲黃金色頭髮,好似摸到黃金一樣,喻意將來有一日可以發大財 . . .」





「馬田細細個時,拜訪過唔少寺廟,但係作爲英國人嘅佢,理所當然乜深入嘅瞭解。不過,當佢進入呢間文武廟時,身後突然出現一個年邁嘅老伯,身穿黑色長袍,頭戴烏紗帽,手執一把緊緊合上嘅摺扇。初初,馬田覺得好驚奇,冇辦法辨認出呢個老人家究竟係幽靈定係廟祝!不過,呢個人相當熱心,主動同年幼嘅馬田介紹文昌、關帝、包公同埋城隍等神祗,引發佢對香港嘅廟宇文化嘅興趣。老實講,我自己每次拜訪寺廟嘅時候,都希望能夠遇到呢一類廟祝般嘅人,聽聽佢闡釋廟内所有供奉嘅神像及其意義。不過,或者我運氣衰,未能如願以償,一路都未撞到呢啲識得“閱讀”寺廟嘅人物 . . . 」



Learning Cantonese: 你究竟接唔接受你自己?or Can You Learn to Accept Yourself?

Is love possible in an imperfect world, or must we turn to illusions to fulfil our yearnings? In this wonderful video by The Official Curry, we are treated to an exploration of this question, accompanied by images from the recent film 《幻愛》or “Hallucinatory Love” based on the novel by 蔣曉薇 Jeung Hiu-mei (but known in English by the title Beyond the Dream), together with a haunting-mesmerizing soundtrack.

The key words in the voice-over are “perfection” [完美 yùhn4 méih5], “love” [愛 ngoi3] and “hallucination” [幻覺 waahn6 gok3]. The last of these gave me a bit of trouble when in the English translation. Although basically a psychologically term in Cantonese, 幻覺 also seems to a have a more general application akin to the word “illusion” in English. Partly for this reason — and also to avoid too much repetition in the translation — I have used both “hallucination” and “illusion” for the one Cantonese noun. Bear in mind as you read that “illusion” here may carry a hint of “ill” in it . . .

There’s an interesting pronunciation issue too in this video. As Yip and Matthews point out in Basic Cantonese, the low falling tone “can often be recognized by a ‘creaky’ voice quality as the pitch reaches the bottom of the speaker’s voice range” (12). This phenomenon is particularly noticeable in the voice-over: listen out for it in words such as the often-repeated 完美 yùhn4 méih5, as well as 同時 tùhng4 sih4, 人 yàhn4, and 為 wàih4. But just to make life interesting, there seems to be a similar creakiness with 自己, officially pronounced as jih6 géi2. I can’t say why this is.

With regard to grammar, you won’t find anything too troubling or terrifying! One rather rare feature is the use of the expression 好比 hóu2 béi2, which means something like “could be compared to”. This crops up in the sentence 你就好比一個數學世界入便嘅正號去追求完美 = “You are comparable to a plus sign in a mathematical world heading off in search of perfection”. You’ll also notice some interesting uses of the aspect marker 住 jyuh6 to suggest an on-going after-effect: 缺乏住愛 = “to lack love”; 互相抵觸住 = “to be in conflict with one another”; 幻覺嚟拯救住你 = “being saved by illusions” (that is, “saved” as an on-going state”). The nuance expressed by 住 jyuh6 seems to lend itself to on-going states, but it takes a while to get the hang of it. Finally, the resultative 得一乾二净 makes an appearance in this video, with 一乾二净 (literally “one-dry-two-clean”) suggesting something comparable to “completely; utterly” in English. Typically, it is used with verbs of forgetting, but here it crops up with 蠶食 chàahm4 sihk6 = “to nibble”, in other words, the kind of eating [食] done by a silk-worm [蠶] (hence the presence of the two insect radicals 虫 at the bottom of the character!) . . .

Needless to say, there’s also plenty of useful vocabulary to expand your range: 驅使 kēui1 sí2 = to prompt; to urge; 抵觸 dái2 jūk1 = to conflict with; to contradict; 洗牌 sái2 páai4*2 = to shuffle cards; 抛棄 pāau1 hei3 = to abandon; 渴望 hot3 mohng6 = to thirst for; to long for; to yearn for; and 困局 kwan3 guhk6 = a predicament.

You can view the video here. Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

You might also like to make use the Ekho Text to Speech Converter if you have trouble matching any part of the transcribed Chinese text to the spoken version. Just make sure you select “Cantonese” under the language menu before you paste cut and text into the relevant box.


世界上大多數 | 都希望可以有一個能夠同自己終老嘅伴侶 | 但係因爲人嘅不確定性 | 往往做好多不如意嘅事 | 爭執、分手、離婚 | // 事每日都發生緊 | 亦都明確知 | 愛並唔係永恆,因爲人並唔完美 | 但我哋天生就追求完美 |  所以我哋追求愛 | 但同時,世界並不完美,並且缺乏住愛 | 愛,就好似現實生活中完美嘅表現 | 幻覺幾時係真,幾時係假? | 一般嘅定義就係,現實世界存在嘅就係真 | 出現腦入便嘅,就係假,係幻覺 | 雖然啲幻覺唔存在於現實空間 | 但幻覺驅使咗人表達出情緒、言語、動作 | 幻覺會嘗試成為現實中嘅一部分 . . .

● 終老 jūng1 lóuh5 = live out one’s years | ● 伴侶 buhn6 léuih5  = a companion; mate; partner | ● 不確定性 bāt1 kok3 dihng6 sing3 = roughly, “indefiniteness”; perhaps even here “indeterminacy” cf. 確定 = definite | ● 爭執 jāng1 jāp1 = to disagree; to argue | ● 永恆 wíhng5 hàhng4 = eternal; perpetual | ● 追求 jēui1 kàuh4 = to seek; to pursue | ● 幻覺 waahn6 gok3 = hallucination | ● 驅使 kēui1 sí2 = to prompt; to urge; to spur on | ● 言語 yìhn4 yúh5 = spoken language; speech | ● 嘗試 sèuhng4 si3 = to attempt; to try

The majority [of people] in the world hope that there could be a companion out there with whom they could live out their years. But owing to the indefiniteness [不確定性] of people, many unfortunate things get done: we argue, split up, get divorced. [These] things are happening every day, and they clearly tell us that love is not eternal, because human beings are imperfect. By nature, however, we are made to seek perfection [追求完美], and so we set off in pursuit of love. By the same token, however, the world is far from perfect and lacking in love. Love, it would seem, is an expression of perfection in real life. When are hallucinations or illusions real, and when are they unreal? According to most definitions, what exists in the actual world is real, while what [only] appears in the mind is false, a hallucination. Although some illusions do not exist in the space of reality [現實空間], they impel [驅使] people to give expression to their feelings, to speech, to actions. Hallucinations can attempt to make themselves [嘗試成爲] a part of reality . . .

【1:00】. . . 令到人嘅經歷變得完美 | 但同時因為人嘅唔完美 | 造就咗一切追求完美嘅行為 | 都同人,呢一個天生唔完美嘅物種,互相抵觸住 | 就好似擁有所謂精神病嘅阿樂 | 嘅幻覺就係源自於希望有人愛自己 | 因為當有人真心愛佢嘅時候 | 佢嘅世界先至可以變得更完美 | 同時佢亦都可以唔使過得咁痛苦、孤獨 | 但人天生嘅唔完美 | 就令到葉嵐一開始就唔係出於真心喜歡而接近阿樂 | 錯誤嘅開始即使最後成就愛 | 亦唔係雙方共識嘅愛 | 最後變得不愛 | 經過一輪嘅重新洗牌 | 世界又重回不完美嘅平衡點上面 | 而由另一個角度咁睇,亦都可以話 | 每一個人咗獲得完美 | 亦都各自對事物制定咗唔同解釋嘅完美

● 造就 jouh6 jauh6 = to bring up; to train | ● 物種 maht6 júng2 = species | ● 抵觸 dái2 jūk1 = to conflict with; to contradict | ● 源自於 yùhn4 jih6 yū1 = roughly, “to originate from; to have (its) origins in  | ● 真心 jān1 sām1 = wholehearted; heartfelt; sincere | ● 成就 sìhng4 jauh6 = to achieve; to accomplish | ● 一輪 yāt1 lèuhn4 = roughly, “a round” | ● 洗牌 sái2 páai4*2 = to shuffle cards | ● 重回 chùhng4 wùih4 = to return to | ● 平衡點 pìhng4 hàhng4 dím2 = cf. 平衡 = balance; equilibrium + 點 = point | ● 各自 gok3 jih6 = each; respective | ● 事物 sih6 maht6 = thing; object  | ● 制定 jai3 dihng6 = to draw up; to formulate

. . . so that people’s experience can become perfect. At the same time, however, because human imperfection conditions [造就] all those behaviours [designed to] seek perfection, they are imperfect like people — this species which is by nature imperfect — and conflicts between people arise. His [that is, Ah Lok’s] hallucinations have their origins in his hope that there is someone who loves him, because it is only when someone gives him wholehearted love that he his world can get closer to perfection [可以變得更完美]. At the same time, [it means that] there is no need for him to live his life [過得] in pain and loneliness. But human beings are imperfect by nature, and this initially makes Yip Lan get close to Ah Lok without having a genuine liking for him. Although after this flawed beginning [she] achieves love, it is not a love the two of them both acknowledge and, in the end, it stops being love [變得不愛]. After a reshuffling of the cards [重新洗牌], the world goes back to that pivot-point [平衡點] of imperfection. Viewed from a different perspective, one could also say that, in order to obtain perfection, people have formulated different understandings of the thing, perfection (?).

【2:00】從而妥協獲得内心嘅平衡 | 但對於世界或者整體而言 | 始終都係缺乏住真正嘅完美,真正嘅愛 | 你眼中嘅完美,或者係等於人哋眼中嘅唔完美 | 你眼中嘅愛或者正正就等於人哋眼中嘅痛苦 | 所以,要活喺呢個大世界 | 你可以做嘅就係選擇去接受 | 或者唔接受呢一個沒有愛而且唔完美嘅世界 | 接受嘅話,咁既然人願意愛自己 | 你唯一能夠控制嘅就係你自己 | 嘗試令到自己變到完美 | 令到你自己愛自己 | 你永遠都會喺自己身邊 | 你想做啲乜,你都會陪你一齊去做 | 你更加唔會抛棄你自己 | 人哋會對你白眼係正常嘅 | 但因爲你接受咗佢哋係唔完美而且沒有愛 | 所以更加唔會去渴望喺佢哋當中得到愛同埋完美

● 妥協 tóh5 hip3 = to come to terms; to compromise | ● 整體 jíng2 tái2 = whole; entirety | ● 眼中 ngáahn5 jūng1 = lit. “in one’s eyes”, that is, “the way one sees/views sth. (in one’s mind)” | ● 大世界 daaih6 sai3 gaai3 = (?) the world at large (but perhaps with the implication of “the big wide world”, a world beyond one’s own personal sphere) | ● 抛棄 pāau1 hei3 = to abandon; to forsake; to cast aside | ● 白眼 baahk6 ngáahn5 = a supercilious look cf. 返白眼 = to roll one’s eyes | ● 渴望 hot3 mohng6 = to thirst for; to long for; to yearn for

Thus, by making compromises, one obtains an inner [psychological] balance. Nevertheless, in terms of the world or the bigger picture [整體] there is always [始終] this lack of true perfection, of true love. The perfection you see in your mind’s eye may be what other people think of as imperfection, [while] the love you see in your mind’s eye may be exactly what other people see as agony. And so, if you wish to live in the big wide world, the thing you can do [你可以做嘅] is to choose to accept [this state of affairs], or not accept this world that has neither love nor perfection in it. If you do accept it [接受嘅話], since no one is willing to love you, the only thing you have control over is yourself. You can try and make yourself more perfect, and to make yourself love yourself. You will always [永遠] be right there by your side, and whatever it is you feel like doing, you can keep yourself company in doing it together. Even less [你更加] can you abandon yourself. It is perfectly natural for people to give you disapproving looks, but because you have [already] accepted [the fact that] they are imperfect and without love, you will be even less inclined to long for love and perfection from them [喺佢哋當中].

【3:00】唔接受嘅話,咁將會係一個困局 | 現實世界唔會因為你而改變 | 噉就只好由幻覺幫助你 | 重新去建立一個新世界嚟令到你接受 | 你就好比一個數學世界入便嘅正號去追求完美 | 世界就係一個永遠嘅負號缺乏住愛 | 而最終正負得負 | 你都會被呢一個負號蠶食得一乾二净 | 最後只能夠靠擁有絕對完美嘅正號 // 即係幻覺嚟拯救住你 | 但你已經失去咗自我嘅控制權 | 唔接受得唔到嘅愛,何必呢?| 所以,所有事情不能好壞 | 到最後嘅關鍵都係:究竟你接唔接受?| 你接唔接受你自己有精神病?| 你接唔接受你自己曾經有好似葉嵐咁樣嘅經歷?| 你究竟接唔接受你自己?

● 困局 kwan3 guhk6 = a predicament; plight; dilemma | ● 正號 jing3 houh6 = a plus sign (+) | ● 負號 fuh6 houh6 = a minus sign | ● 正負得負 jing3 fuh6 dāk1 fuh6 = ? | ● 蠶食 chàahm4 sihk6 = to nibble | ● 何必 hòh4 bīt1 = there is no need; why; why is it necessary (used to form rhetorical questions)

If you don’t compromise, then there will be this predicament: the real world won’t change to fit in with you. All you can do then is to get help from illusions to re-establish a new world you can give your acceptance to [令到你接受]. You are comparable to a plus sign in a mathematical world heading off to find perfection: the world being an eternal minus sign lacking in love, in the end a positive multiplied by a negative [always] gives a negative [正負得負] and you’re liable to be nibbled away by a minus sign till there is nothing left. Finally, all you can do is rely on the absolute perfection of the plus sign [UNCLEAR], that is, being saved by illusions. But [by then] you have already lost control of yourself, so what’s the point of a refusing a love you couldn’t accept [anyway]? And so for this reason, there is no good or bad in anything. The crucial thing is: Can you accept that you have a mental illness? Can you accept the experiences you once had, experiences like those Yip Lam was subjected to? Can you accept yourself?

Savage ● Salvage

Photo by capri23auto on Pexels.com

A hovering wasp rippling fine grains of dust with the fierce fan-force of its wings
zooms into land by what’s left of a smash-wrecked moth:
one large upper flight-panel dappled
with antique swirl.
Further off,
yet another flat piece of debris
footnotes blank brick
where a post-mortem sun shines on.
The wasp now wrestles with its unwieldy catch.
Using forelegs and jaws,
it bends the sheet neatly in two,
all the better to airlift it back home to base, intact —
whole hangars there stockpiled with similar,
edible, loot.

Learning Cantonese: 捐窿捐罅 or “Every Nook and Cranny”

Every language has its rare species, words and phrases that only crop up once in a blue moon. The last time I heard the idiom 捐窿捐罅 gyūn1 lūng1 gyūn1 laa3 was in a TVB news report in 2019. There, it was described a small robot-like device that could operate “in any nook or cranny” [噉,好處係佢可以捐窿捐罅]. But here in this recent report from HK01, it has finally come back to me again, but the context is quite different: speaking out for democracy in Hong Kong.

According to 《香港粵語大詞典》, 捐窿捐罅 means “to go into each and every corner” [走遍每一個角落] while Sheik Cantonese has “[to sneak in and out of a hole] to search high and low for a place”. When Figo Chan calls on people to 捐窿捐罅去發聲, we can guess that he wants them to make their voices heard in whatever gaps or cracks they can find . . . This certainly adds to our understanding of the nuances of the expression. Of interest too is the fact that the video subtitles write it as 瓹窿瓹罅, using the rare character 瓹 gyūn1 which means “a hole in a basin to let the water out” [盆底之去水孔].

Although this report lasts for just over a minute, it contains a number of other very interesting things, including 較早前 = (?) “a while back; some time ago” and the two 4-character phrases 秋後算賬 = “to square accounts after the Autumn harvest” and 義無反顧 = honour permits no turning back.

You can view the video here. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.


多名民人士 | 被指前年10月1日 | 組織及參與未經批准集結 | 案件禮拜一喺區域法院開審

案中10名被告個承認一項 | 組織未經批准集結罪 | 佢哋較早前抵達法庭時候 | 已經預告會認罪

陳浩桓:希望呢,大家呢,緊無論係6月4 | 定係7月1 | 定係其他日子 | 都可以捐窿捐罅去發聲 | 可以捍衛我哋嘅自由、民主同埋公義

何俊仁:今日,政府秋後算賬 | 要將我哋係禁於牢獄 | 然後,使到市民要滅聲 | 但係,我同大家講 | 我哋唔會後悔 | 我哋絕對義無反顧


記者:曾藹豪 | 攝影:洪業銘 | 剪接:袁柏謙

● 泛民 faan3 màhn4 = pan-democratic | ● 開審 hōi1 sám2 = to hold a court hearing | ● 較早前 gaau3 jóu2 chìhn4 = ? cf. 較早時 = a while back; some time ago | ● 預告 yuh6 gou3 = to announce in advance | ● 認罪 yihng6 jeuih6 = to admit guilt | ● 嚟緊 làih4 gán2 = (forth)coming | ● 發聲 faat3 sēng1 = usu. “to make a sound”; here perhaps “to make a noise or “to make one’s voice heard” | ● 捍衛 hóhn5 waih6 = to defend; to guard; to protect | ● 公義 gūng1 yih6 = justice | ● 秋後算賬 chāu1 hauh6 syun3 jeung3 = to square accounts after the Autumn harvest, that is, wait until after a political movement is over to settle accounts with the leadership or the masses; bide one’s time to take revenge; wait until sth. is over to settle accounts with | ● 禁於牢獄 gam3 yū1 lòuh4 yuhk6 = (?) to be put in prison | ● 滅聲 miht6 sēng1 = (?) to extinguish all dissent cf. 滅 = to destroy; to extinguish | ● 義無反顧 yih6 mòuh4 fáan2 gu3 = honour permits no turning back; be duty-bound not to turn back | ● 初心 chō1 sām1 = beginner’s mind; original intention; first desire | ● 長存 chèuhng4 chyùhn4 = to live forever

A number of pan-democrats figures [泛民人士] were accused of organizing and taking part in an unauthorised assembly the year before last on 1 October. The case was heard at the District Court on Monday.

The ten people accused admitted to the charge [承認] of organizing an unauthorised assembly. Earlier, when they arrived at the court, they had already indicated that they would plead guilty.

Figo Chan: Regardless of whether it is 4 June or 1 July or any other forthcoming date, [we] hope that all of you can make a noise in any nook of cranny you are able to get into [捐窿捐罅] and that you can defend our freedom, our democracy, and our justice.

Albert Ho: Today, the government is engaged in settling political scores and will lock us up in prison. After that, dissent from ordinary people will be extinguished [滅聲]. However, I say to you all that we have no regrets and that in our case, absolutely, honour permits no turning back.

Richard Tsoi: Our original intention has not altered. Our faith will live forever.