The Feather Diviner

By haphazard, I find them in all weathers —
these giant-magnificent eagle feathers —
and at all times outdoors I must look exactly where I am going
since there is no way of knowing,
ever, how or when I will find
the next one. Sometime, the rare quills come trundling across bare dirt in the wind;
sometimes, wedged — or pinned —
they slant in spiked razor grass; or sit still in the close-knit, twig-meshed cage
of some dead shrub. Whatever the case, these are the wages
paid out at random by mystery,
tokens of a rippling altitude that will always seem far beyond me,
who am Earth-bound, by nature. Yet, vicariously,
I can ripple after a fashion to this exclamation-marked treasure,
humbled, astonished, to the pink grave core —in equal measure —

and consequently turned out of this world robuster towards the sun.

Meetings with Hong Kong Buddhist Nuns

My only close encounter with a Hong Kong nun is something I have never forgotten. I saw her on two or three separate occasions at Tai Po Market MTR station in the late 1990s. She would stand in a corner of the concourse at peak hour, sounding at regular intervals a small metal bowl she held in the palm of one hand. It was a beautiful gesture: a timely reminder to slow down and pay a little more attention to where we were and what we were doing. I’d like to think that not a few of the people who rushed on past her at the time, later in a sudden flash of recollection and understanding, got to thinking about that almost invisible woman dressed in grey.

I was reminded of the nun by several recent encounters in the pages of my Hong Kong books. The first, dating from the early 1950s, is described by Martin Booth in Gweilo, and happened when he was only eight years old. The setting is Ngong Ping, on Lantau Island:

There came a soft shuffling sound from over my shoulder. I turned to find myself being observed by two Buddhist nuns. They wore grey, long-sleeved, ankle-length habits and their heads were shaven, so it was quite impossible to judge their ages. Around their necks hung simple necklaces of wooden beads. Not sure what to do, and heedful of Mr Borrie’s warning, I stood up and stepped back on the path. They watched me go, impassive looks upon their faces. I sensed that perhaps they were young and wanted to talk to me, this strange, small gweilo from the other world of which they occasionally heard talk but had not seen for many years, nor perhaps ever would again. (“Hiking to Buddha”)

The visit to Ngong Ping left a profound impression on Booth, and he returns to the episode in both his novel Hiroshima Joe (1985) and in a section of his Hong Kong notebook, The Dragon and the Pearl (1994), where he tries to reconcile his idyllic memories of his stay in the monastery — marked by austere accommodation and timeless ritual — with the changes time has brought, particularly the colossal Buddha statue, said to have cost some HK$60 million. However, in neither of these alternate accounts does he mention that pair of silent nuns.

G.S.P. Heywood came to Hong Kong in 1932 to work at the Royal Observatory. His book Rambles in Hong Kong (1938), is his very romantic love-letter to the countryside of the Territory. His encounter with nuns took place in Lam Tsuen, at the Ling Wan Nunnery near Kwun Yam Hill:

Some way to your left as you come down from the pass into the Pat Heung valley is a nunnery, standing in a wooded defile under the great rocky shoulder named Kwun Yam, the “Goddess of Mercy”. The white buildings, with their garden and lily-pond, were once hidden away amongst the trees, and had a wonderful air of quietness and serenity. One hot summer day, as I was passing by, the nuns courteously hailed me in, and provided me with water to wash in and tea to drink.

When I was refreshed they showed me round some of the buildings, of which they had good reason to be proud, for they were beautifully kept. I saw the temple, with its altar and images, and the reading room, and a belfry up in a tower, where an old nun sat with a great book open in front of her and every now and then chimed a deep-toned bell which hung from the roof above.

Many of the trees are now gone, and the belfry is only an empty shell; though some of the charm of the place has been lost, the nuns are still there, cheerful and kindly as ever.
(“Lam Tsun, Pat Heung, and Ping Shan”)

Here as in the Booth passage there is a quiet, nostalgic comparison being made between Heywood’s early visit to the nunnery sometime before the Japanese invasion in 1941 and a later one after the war, during which many of the sheltering trees had been cleared for firewood and the belfry had been damaged. Heywood himself had also suffered terribly during those difficult years as an internee in a Japanese prison camp, so those pre-war memories must have carried particularly poignant overtones for him.

An American, Christopher Rand first went to China in 1943 and later based himself in Hong Kong. By accounts, he was a great walker, and once wrote “I have theories about why one should do it — that it is good for the health, is conducive to thought, makes one able to observe things close at hand, etc. — and I think all these arguments are sound, but the main point is simply that I enjoy walking; I feel calm and happy while doing it.” His 1952 book Hong Kong: The Island Between focuses on the complex political issues concerning mainland China, but it ends with a light-hearted, lyrical sketch of Lantau Island where he spent a few months. He was actually staying in a place quite close to Ngong Ping when he had the following experience:

I never saw a wheeled conveyance on Lantao — not even a wheelbarrow. The fastest human you saw was a man or woman shuffling at the Chinese jogtrot, perhaps with a loaded shoulder-pole. Often you would see little figures like that far away on a hillside path. The paths were now level, now steep and flagstoned like dragons’ backs — gracefully curved, and at times appearing to hang out over thin air. Most people you met on the paths were good at walking downhill in the fast, bent-kneed fashion of mountaineers. Sometimes when going uphill you would overtake a little shaven-head nun or lay sister with two big bags of rice on her pole-ends. You could hear the hard breathing as you passed.

Sometimes it was so still you could hear water dripping hundreds of yards below. One of the nicest sounds was of nuns’ chatter combined with a splashing brook and wind in near-by trees. Most of the mountain’s convents were in a hillside area called Lok Wu, and when I walked on a slope that happened to face this, a mile or so away, I could often hear the nuns there talking intimately.

These three encounters by a trio of writers quietly suggest that the Hong Kong Buddhist nun lives life at a slower speed than the rest of us, unobtrusive, and closer to the natural rhythms of the world, and consequently capable of an unexpected and powerful intimacy. Here, by way of a conclusion, is the tiny poem I wrote as a fragile tribute to my own encounter:

At Tai Po Market Station, the Buddhist nun
performs still-points with her gong
in the avalanche of peak hour

Learning Cantonese: 彭靖 Pang Jing, Full-time Nude Model

所有甫士都係模特兒自己決定嘅 | 所以其實係有一個尊重裏邊 | 擺甫士係一個被動嘅主動 | 雖然你畫我啦,但係甫士係我揀㗎嘛

彭靖 Pàahng4 Jihng6, an artist herself, currently works as a full-time nude model for those people passionate about life-drawing. This video from Apple allows us to get an inkling of the motivations and challenges that necessarily accompany this highly unusual human transaction, and Pang’s poise and candour add a strongly positive note to her presentation.

Interestingly, the original report began with a complementary section about male nude models, but their treatment could not have been more different: their faces were deliberated blurred out, their voices were distorted to avoid recognition, and they were referred to using pseudonyms rather than their real names. The way the activity of modelling is viewed by society in Hong Kong is starkly distinguished along gender lines, it would seem.

After the tragic demist of Apple, this video was removed from circulation, but back-ups can be found on YouTube, both a full version and the version given here, which deals only with Pang Jing. That is why you’ll find two sets of timings in the transcription.

The main language-highlight of the video is the adjective 𠮩𠹌 līu1 lāng1 = “odd; strange; rare”. The last time I came across it was in October 2019 in a TVB news report in which an older woman described the closure of MTR stations during the anti-extradition protests in the following terms: 而家都唔開,噉變咗𠮩𠹌 = “now they’re all closed and things have got strange”).

Please scroll down if you want the transcription, notes and English translation. Otherwise, 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.


Caption: 彭靖 | 全職裸體模特兒 | 身體是什麽 Pang Jing | Full-time Nude Model | What is a Body Anyway?

彭靖:身體係咩?其實好簡單。身體就係我體現呢個世界 . . . 一個載體囉

● 載體 joi3 tái2 = carrier; vector | ● 體現 tái2 yihm6 = to embody; to incarnate; to reflect; to give expression to

Pang Jing: What is a body anyway? Actually it’s very simple — the body is this carrier which [enables] me to embody [體現] this world.

Caption: 26歲 | 視藝畢業生做女模特 | 鍾意試新嘢 26 Years Old | Visual Arts Graduate and Female Model | Fond of Trying New Things

彭靖:好鍾意試新嘅 | 同埋好奇心好強 | 第一接觸其實好新奇囉 【4:00】| 就係有計時呀 | 然後有好短嘅一分鐘嘅姿勢畫到15分鐘 | 跟住之後畫畫吓就覺得好奇 | 就想試到底係咩感覺

● 試新 si3 sān1 = roughly, “trying new things” | ● 好奇心 hou3 kèih4 sām1 = curiosity | ● 新奇 sān1 kèih4 = strange; novel; new | ● 計時 gai3 sìh4 = reckon by time; calculate by time | ● 姿勢 jī1 sai3 = posture; gesture | ● 好奇 hou3 kèih4 = curious; inquisitive

Pang Jing: [I] really like trying new things plus [I] have a strong curiosity. The first time was really quite a novelty [好新奇]. There was a set amount of time [計時]. And then, after a short post lasting a minute, [we] painted for 15 minutes. Actually, after painting for a while I felt curious, and so wanted to give it a try, to find out what it actually felt like.

記者:要做裸體模特兒 | 所謂嘅門檻同標準嘅

Reporter: If [you] want to be a nude model, there are no “thresholds” or “standards”.

彭靖:以前做呢,係,係肉肉的種圓潤女生嘅 | 但係嗰陣我都對自己冇乜話要,譬如唔好食嘢 | 跟住 *gyu 好瘦返少少先去,冇呢

● 圓潤 yùhn4 yeuhn6 = mellow & full; perhaps “filled out”

Pang Jing: Earlier when I modelled, I was a fleshy, well-rounded [圓潤] kind of young woman. However, at the time I didn’t say to myself that, for instance, I mustn’t eat, getting myself thinner before I went [and modelled] — there was nothing like that.

彭靖:【1:00】因其實大家都有共識 | 係,呃,畫人體寫生嘅時候,就唔會影相、亦都唔會錄影、亦都唔會個電話出嘅 | 得一次,即係 *je,兩年半兩年 | 有人影相,我咪即刻喝住話 | 喂!做乜影相呀?」咁囉

● 共識 guhng6 sīk1 = a consensus; a common understanding | ● 寫生 sé2 sāang1 = to paint from life; to draw, paint or sketch from nature | ● 喝住 hot3 jyuh6 = (?) to shout loudly at sb. to make them stop doing sth.; to tell sb. off

Pang Jing: Because actually there is a common understanding between everyone, the understanding that when you’re sketching the human body, you can’t take pictures, record or take out your phone. The only time was around two, two and a half years ago. Someone was taking photos, so naturally I immediately told them to stop: “Hey, what do you think you are doing taking pictures?”


● 商量 sēung1 lèuhng4 = to consult; to discuss; to talk over

Reporter: Before the start, [the model] can discuss [the issue of] how long to hold a pose with the artists.

彭靖:所有甫士都係模特兒自己決定嘅 | 所以其實係【5:00】有一個尊重裏邊 | 擺甫士係一個被動嘅主動 | 雖然你畫我啦,但係甫士係我揀㗎嘛 | 而我做 model 嘅時候其實亦都有擺 . . . 畫家嘅經驗落去 | 就係有時候可能會特登做啲𠮩𠹌啲嘅動作呀,挑戰吓佢哋 | 有啲人好鍾意畫某個部分嘅 | 佢只不過係器官 | 你覺得淫唔淫褻呢,就好睇你個腦到底諗緊啲咩 | 啫,我可以人睇 | 唔代表我隨時隨地都可以俾人睇 | 亦都唔代表【2:00】我無所謂咁俾人睇囉

● 甫士 pōu3*1 6*2 = a pose | ● 特登 dahk6 dāng1 = deliberately; intentionally; on purpose | ● 𠮩𠹌 līu1 lāng1 = odd, strange, rare | ● 器官 hei3 gūn1 = a [bodily] organ | ● 淫褻 yàhm4 sit3 = obscene; an obscenity

Pang Jing: All poses are decided by the model. For this reason, there is a sense of respect at work here [喺裏邊]. Posing is an active passivity — although you are drawing me, I get to choose the poses. What’s more, when I am modelling, I am actually also putting my experience of being a painter into [what I do]. Sometimes I will deliberately do a movement that is a bit strange, just to challenge them a bit. Some people really like to sketch a particular part. They [佢] are all just organs — whether you think they are obscene or not depends on [就好睇] what exactly is going on in your mind [你個腦]. I mean, [Just because] I can let other people see [my body], doesn’t mean [唔代表] I am willing to do so any time, any place, and nor does it mean I am completely indifferent [無所謂咁] to letting people see [me].

Caption: 裸體、性 | Nudity and Sex

彭靖:nudity 可以同 sex 冇關囉 | 啫,唔 nude 都可以有 sex 同埋慾望嘅出現㗎嘛,有時候 | 性其實你有接觸嘛,你要有情感,無論身體上嘅交流 | 定係情感上嘅交流 | 都係同你裸露於人前係兩件事嚟㗎喎 | 其實我真係冇【6:00】任何包袱 | 亦都冇任何障礙需要跨過㗎

● 慾望 yuhk6 mohng6 = (n.) desire; wish; lust | ● 裸露 ló2 louh6 = uncovered; exposed | ● 包袱 bāau1 fuhk6 = usu. a load; a weight; a burden; perhaps “hang-up” in this context | ● 障礙 jeung3 ngoih6 = an obstacle | ● 跨過 kwāa1 gwo3 = to step across; to go beyond

Pang Jing: Nudity may be unrelated to sex. That is, sex and desire can appear when there is no nudity. With sex in fact there has to be contact, there are feelings. Regardless of whether it is a physical exchange or an emotional one, it is a different thing from being exposed [in front of] others. Actually, I really don’t have any hang-ups [包袱] and there are no obstacles that need to be got over.

彭靖:其實呢,係好開心嘅,因為 . . . 好多唔同風格啦 | 唔同 media 啦、唔同嘅地方啦、然後唔同我嘅神情啦 | 但係其實雖然好唔同,但都係我囉 | 當你 nude 嘅時候,嗰個狀態其實 | 無論身體上同情感上都好赤裸 | 你會好容易地流露你 . . . 嗰陣覺得係開心定係唔開心 | 然後有啲畫家係可以捕捉落嚟 【3:00】| 然後完咗之後問,阿靖最近係咪唔開心?| 然後能夠觀察到呢一啲好微細嘅嗰啲情緒嘅嗰啲畫家 | 就已經成爲朋友

● 神情 sàhn4 chìhng4 = an expression; a look | ● 赤裸 chek3 ló2 = (adj.) bare| ● 流露 làuh4 louh6 = to reveal; to betray; to show unintentionally | ● 捕捉 bouh6 jūk1 = to catch; to seize | ● 微細 mèih4 sai3 = very small; tiny

Pang Jing: As a matter of fact, [I] am very pleased, because . . . [there are] lots of different styles, different media, different settings [地方], and then [there are] my different expressions, but actually despite the significant differences [好唔同] they are all [still] me. When you are nude, [being] in this state where you a naked in both a physical and an emotional sense, it is easy to reveal, unintentionally, whether you are feeling happy or not in that moment. Later, the artists might be able to capture [what I am revealing], and after that when they have finished, [they might] ask, “Ah Jing, have you been feeling unhappy lately?” Then those artists who are able to observe those minute [changes] in those moods have become my friends.

Caption: 啱啱分手 | I Had Just Broken up

呃,從來都未試過發生嘅 | 幾跟住啲音樂又好觸景傷情咁樣 | 跟住我就坐坐下就兩行眼淚咁樣囉 | 我情感嘅流露其實係可以嘅 【7:00】| 跟住,嗰個 owner 就知道就問我需唔需要休息一下 | 佢哋好理解,亦都好明白 | 啫,好慶幸嘅係,遇到嘅畫家都係好人囉

● 分手 fān1 sáu2 = to art company; to say good-bye; to split up | ● 觸景 = ? cf.  觸景生情 jūk1 gíng2  sāang1 chìhng4 = the sight strikes a chord in one’s heart; recall old memories at the sight of familiar places | ● 慶幸 hing3 hahng6  = to rejoice

Pang Jing: It had never happened before. And then music can strike a chord [and bring up] painful feelings, and it made my sit there with two lines of tears streaming down my face. I think it’s OK to show your feelings. As a result, when the person in charge realized [what was happening], [she] asked me if I needed to take a break. They really understand; they have a good grasp of the situation [好明白]. [I] rejoice [at the fact that] the artists I have come across are all good people.

記者 Reporter:陳煥欣 | 煥 wuhn6 = shining; glowing
攝影 Photography:梁志恆、潘志恆
剪接 Editing :陳曉筠 | 筠 wàhn4 = bamboo skin; gwān1 used as a place name in Sichuan province

Learning Cantonese: 周冠威 Kiwi Chow “How much are you willing to sacrifice for your home, Hong Kong?”

Kiwi Chow has been in the news recently because of his new film, Revolution of Our Times. This 4-minute video about him was made by Ming Pao in May 2020. You can watch the video here.


周冠威:《十年 ● 自焚者》係個問題 | 問香港人,你願意為香港 | 呢個家願意犧牲幾多?| Kiwi Chow: Ten Years, Self-immolator is a question | Asking the question, “How much are you willing to sacrifice for your home, Hong Kong?”

Caption: 文化後浪 | Cultural Successors

Caption: 唔好睇死香港 | 唔好睇死自己 Don’t Give up on Hong Kong | Don’t Give Up on Your Self

Caption: 周冠威 Kiwi Chow 執導《十年 ● 自焚者》| 近作:《幻愛》| 金像獎最佳導演提名 Kiwi Chow is the director of Ten Years, Self-immolator | Most recent film: Beyond the Dream | Nominated for the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Director

Caption: 重睇《十年》唔好睇死香港 | After Watching Ten Years Again, I Don’t Give up on Hong Kong

周冠威:幾年前我拍《十年 ● 自焚者》| 隔咗一段時間我睇翻《十年 ● 自焚者》 | 我好深刻感受到係時代已經比我想象嘅更差 | 其中一個畫面講緊一嘅防暴警察 | 用個警棍去撲我嘅主角 | 我同攝影師都有一啲嘅爭辯 | 使唔使拍咁誇張呀?| 但係好可悲 [睇] // 過去一年 | 呢一啲咁嘅畫面係不停我哋新聞裏邊 [去] 出現 | 《十年 ● 自焚者》係個問題 | 問香港人,你願意為香港 | 呢個家願意犧牲幾多?

● 防暴警察 fòhng4 bouh6 gíng2 chaat3 = riot police | ● 警棍 gíng2 gwan3 = a truncheon; a police baton | ● 撲 (or 㩧) bōk1 = to hit on the head | ● 攝影師 sip3 yíng2 sī1 = photographer; cinematographer | ● 爭辯 jāng1 bihn6 = argument | ● 可悲 hó2 bēi1 = sad; lamentable

Several years ago, I made Ten Years, Self-immolator. After a certain amount of time, I watched it again. What made a deep impression on me is the fact that the period was even worse than I had imagined. There is a scene in it dealing with some anti-riot police who are beating our main character with their truncheons. I even had some arguments with the photographer about this. Was it really necessary to film the scene so violently [咁誇張]? The sad thing is that when we look back over the past year, scenes of this kind have been constantly appearing in our news [programs]. Ten Years, Self-immolator is a question | Asking the question, “How much are you willing to sacrifice for your home, Hong Kong?”

【1:00】19年嘅呢場運動 | 我見到好多人為香港犧牲 | 甚至比你想像中嘅 | 更加有强大嘅意志去走出 | 你可以走上街頭 | 可以為啲公義嘅價值去發聲 | 為真相去抗衡 | 好多人話,呢啲年輕人係買唔到樓哇 | 或者係生活條件唔係咁優越啦 | 噉所以去抗爭去打平 | 唔係囉 | 睇香港嘅法治越嚟越低落 | 佢睇香港嘅自由越嚟越 [遭] 鉗制 | 我哋嘅和平游行示威嚴重地俾打壓 | 我唔知道將來會點 | 但我好相信有好多嘅可能性 | 因我曾經睇死我自己 | 但係我睇錯咗 | 我以前係一個學業成績唔夠理想 | 去讀演藝學院嘅人 | 但我好想讀電影學院 | 但我讀唔到 | 我睇死我自己 | 噉我經歷俾到我就係 | 人真係有好多可能性 | 你唔好咁自大去睇死你自己啦

● 意志 yi3 ji3 = will | ● 發聲 faat3 sēng1 = (?) | ● 抗衡 kong3 hàhng4 = to contend with | ● 法治 faat3 jih6 = rule by law | ● 鉗制 kìhm4 jai3 = to clamp down on; to suppress | ● 演藝 yán2 ngaih6 = the performing arts | ● 自大 jih6 daaih6 = self-important; arrogant

[During] the [protest] movement of 2019, I saw many people make sacrifices for Hong Kong and even to make a stand [走出嚟] with a stronger will than you could have imagined. You could take to the streets. You could speak out for the value of justice [or] contend for the truth. Many said that the reason these young people went out to struggle for fairness [爭去打平] was because they couldn’t afford to buy their own home or because their living conditions were not as good [as others]. That’s not true. In their eyes, the rule of law in Hong Kong was getting weaker and weaker, while freedom in Hong Kong was being clamped down on more and more. Our peaceful demonstrations were severely repressed. I have no idea what the future will be like, but I firmly believe that there are a great number of possibilities. [I say this] because I once gave up on myself. But I was wrong. I was once someone who went and studied at the Academy for the Performing Arts and whose results were far from ideal. I really wanted to study at the Film Academy, but I couldn’t manage to get in. I gave up on myself. My personal experience [taught me] that any person has many possibilities. You shouldn’t be so arrogant as to give up on yourself.

【2:00】你唔好 [咁] 自大,你唔係上天 | 你唔好睇死香港啦 | 當人睇一樣唔睇死嘅時候 | 你就覺得有盼望

● séuhng5 tīn1 = to go up into the sky | ● 盼望 paan3 mohng6 = to hope; to wish

Don’t be so arrogant or you won’t reach the heights [上天]. Don’t give up on Hong Kong. When a person doesn’t give up on something, then you will feel that there is still hope.

Caption: 近作《幻愛》| 相信自己可以改 | His Most Recent Film Beyond the Dream | Believe that One Can Change

過去一年 | 喺 *hei 香港發生嘅嘢 | 我覺得係整體上嘅集體嘅創傷後遺症 | 我哋| 喺 *hei 過去一年釋放咗好大嘅情緒 | 我哋需要去梳理 | 而希望達致一啲嘅療癒 | 我係一個電影導演呢 | 我當然相信電影嘅力量 | 我希望我嘅電影係可以拍到多點人嘅善良 | 去梳理我哋嘅過去 | 我希望《幻愛》[呢個] 電影都間接上可以彌補到呢個位置 | 呢套係一套愛情片 | 裏邊所探討嘅就係 | 每一個人都有一啲嘅過去,[一啲嘅] 情緒要去梳理、要去療癒 | // 一個更加新嘅路 | 經過同人同人嘅關係去療癒自己、去療癒對方 | 原來我嘅情緒唔單止係我自己一個 | 我唔孤單嘅 | 我同好多人同樣

● 梳理 sō1 léih5 = (?) to put order into; to organize | ● 善良 sihn6 lèuhng4 = good and honest; kindhearted | ● 間接 gaan3 jip3 = indirect | ● 彌補 nèih4 bóu2 = to make up; to remedy; to make good | ● 探討 taam3 tóu2 = to inquire into; to probe into

What has happened in Hong Kong over the past year is I think as far as the whole is concerned [整體上] a collective post-traumatic disorder. Over the past year, we have released a great amount of emotion. We need to work through this [梳理] in the hope of reaching some degree of healing. I am a film director. Of course, I believe in the power of film. It is my hope that my films will spark kindheartedness in more people, and help us to work through our past. I hope the film Beyond the Dream can, indirectly, help to make good in this regard [呢個位置]. It is a love film and what is probed in it is that everyone has a past, has some emotions that need to be worked through. Only then can one walk a whole new path [更加新嘅路]. By mean of relationships with others one can heal oneself and the other. My emotions it turns out don’t belong to me alone — I am not alone. There are a lot of other people like me.

【3:00】一個精神病患者 | 佢已經康復咗 |佢睇完《幻愛》同我講翻 | 我睇呢套戲,我多咗盼望 | 我就係呢種感覺 [] | ,我希望睇呢套戲 | 係俾到人有力量 [囉] | 將來我唔知發生 [緊] 啲乜嘢 | 你唔好睇外在環境得[與] 唔得 | 你睇定唔啱 | 我希望懷住呢種可能性 | 去繼續去走 | 你有啲 你追求嘅價值你好 believe [相信] 嘅 | 你繼續去啦

A person who had suffered from a mental illness and later recovered said to me after watching Beyond the Dream, “Watching this film has given me more hope”. This is the kind of feeling I am talking about. That is, I hope that watching this film will give people strength. I have no idea what will happen in the future. Don’t worry about whether the external environment is OK or not. Worry about what is right. I hope that by holding on to this sense of possibility I can continue to go on. You have values you pursue which you believe in: keep going then.

Caption: 不要看行不行,要看對不對 (《十年 ● 自焚者》)| It’s not a matter of whether it’s feasible. It’s whether it’s right

Silent B (For Those who have to Make Themselves up out of No One)

Nathan Prayre stares inwards from an odd angle
at himself: Who is this stranger
stronger in conscious than me?
He minds
the abrupt unwelcome of all the personality’s lame haberdashery —
is this the desert of forty days
once so faithfully promised in scripture? Awake by night
to a stray patch of phantom glow on his bedroom wall
and the work of laboured breath,
he prays for tears — or sleep — or comfort
in precisely that order, pleading
to the active no one in himself
for the chance of a trace of a truce
with non-human human-being
or even some ever-so-slight side-benefit of the doubt.

My Head Still Hangs in the Clouds (東平洲 Tung Ping Chau)

I stand at the back of the boat, letting the scene do most of the thinking
for me. The jagged coast
with its rugged panorama won’t let go, but the engines chant
only the chance of a wide-opening sea. Absentmindedly
I watch waves break on inaccessible shores —
over and over — so many waves —
and only the one, short, four-letter word, in English,
for them all. Particular trees rarely distinguish themselves.
What covers these Hong Kong hills is a lush self-centreless green
drawing equally from water, land, and sky
a sane amalgam, staunch in the name of growth
and complemented by rock’s gaunt bone,
rich in its way with echoes and undergalaxies of life,
but still forever-stranger to this animate animal whirl —
look, here it comes now: flat chat billow-bellowing out of Big Indigo
with my very own NEXT DEEP BREATH.

Learning Cantonese: Long Yuen’s Modern Pan

噉從中我哋都可以介紹翻,即係, 咦, 稻米係咩嚟啦 | 點解要種米啦 |  咦,原來中間有好多生態㗎喎 | 香港嘅歷史文化原來係咁㗎喎 | 噉希望多啲人去關注翻、留翻住我哋一啲嘅綠色嘅環境

Pan was a rural god in ancient Greek belief, and an embodiment of the spirit of Nature. I think he would be proud of his contemporary incarnation in Hong Kong, 劉善鵬 Làuh4 Sihn6 Pàahng6, an environmental manager who goes by the English name of Pan, an able and self-deprecating fellow who likes to refer to himself as 煎 Pan or “Frying Pan”!

In this video, part of RTHK’s fascinating “Hong Kong Ecologists” series, we get an overview of the work that The Conservancy Association is doing in a place near 上水 Sheung Shui called 塱原 Long Yuen, a stretch of freshwater wetlands that grows rice and other crops as well as providing a habitat to a large number of birds and frogs. Management of this region, soon to become an environmental park, obviously involves a delicate balancing between the needs of agriculture and ecology.

The most interesting grammatical feature of Pan’s speech is his frequent use of the aspect marker 翻 fāan1 which, as I mentioned in my last post, often appears in unexpected contexts. Although the basic meaning is “again”, it often implies that an action has resumed after an interruption. This meaning is suggested in 喺〇九年都喺塱原種翻稻米 = “In 2009, we also planted a rice crop in Long Yuen again”. Sometimes, it seems to imply “restoration”, a taking back of things to an earlier state, as in 噉希望去維持翻塱原你原本好多嘅啲水田嘅環境 = “in the hope that [we] can preserve the place and bring back a large number of these paddy-field environments to the way they used to be”. Pan also uses it with verbs such as 調查 = to survey, 反映 = to reflect, 介紹 = to introduce and 關注 = to show concern for, suggesting that it has various other nuances that serious learners might like to ponder!

As for the vocabulary, there’s a delightful instance of the verb 抰 yéung2, which Sheik Cantonese defines as ① to unwrap; to display; to uncover ② to shake off; to jerk; to flick. The last time I came across it was in a Buddhistdoor interview with Queenie Chu, who used 抰走 to refer to flicking an insect off her clothing rather than squashing it. Here in 會成籃擺落去抰走啲泥沙、昆蟲呀咁先攞去賣嘅, it indicates the removal of soil and insects from basket loads of plants before they are taken off to market to sell.

Other items include: 現存 yihn6 chyùhn4 = extant; in stock; 農作物 nùhng4 jok3 maht6 = crops; 產卵 cháan2 léun2 / léuhn5 = to lay eggs; to spawn; 數據 sou3 geui3 = data; 求偶 kàuh4 ngáuh5 = (?) to look for a mate; 西洋菜 sāi1 yèuhng4 choi3 = watercress; 逗留 dauh6 làuh4 = to stop (at a place); 石屎森林 sehk6 sí2 sām1 làhm4 = a concrete jungle; 體驗活動 tái2 yihm6 wuht6 duhng6 = roughly, “activities for learning through practical experience”; 陣間 jahn6 gaan1 = soon; in a moment; in a while; 講解 góng2 gáai2 = to explain; 下旬 haah6 chèuhn4 = the last ten-day period of a month; 收割 sāu1 got3 = to reap; to harvest; to gather in.

Unfortunately, just as I was finalizing the text for this post, the video was removed from YouTube and the RTHK website.

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:面積大約五十公頃塱原 | 位於香港新界北區 | 係香港現存最大片、最完整嘅 | 淡水農耕濕地 | 由四百幾塊農地連接組成 | 大嘅地方當然需要有管理員 | 自長春社嘅劉善鵬,就係其中一位管理員 | 除要不時同農夫溝通 | 都會進行一生態調查 | 又會透過唔同嘅活動 | 向公衆同埋小朋友介紹呢個地方

● 公頃 gūng1 kíng2 = a hectare | ● 現存 yihn6 chyùhn4 = extant; in stock | ● 完整 yùhn4 jíng2 = complete; integrated; intact | ● 農耕 nùhng4 gāang1/gāng1 = (?) to cultivate | ● 連接 lìhn4 jip3 = to join; to link | ● 長春社 Chèuhng4 Chēun1 Séh5 = The Conservancy Association | ● 不時 bāt1 sìh4 = frequently; often

Reporter: With an area of approximate 50 hectares, Long Yuen — which is located in North District of Hong Kong’s New Territories — is Hong Kong’s largest and most complete [最完整] fresh-water agricultural wetland [淡水農耕濕地]. It is made up of over 400 linked plots of farmland. Such a large place obviously [方當] requires administrative personnel. One of these is Lau Sin-pang, who is from [嚟自] the Conservancy Association. Apart from keeping in frequent communication with the farmers, he also conducts ecological surveys and, by means of different kinds of activities, introduce this place to the general public and to children.

Caption: 劉善鵬,長春社助理保育經理 | Lau Sin-pang, Assistant Environmental Manager with the Conservancy Association

劉善鵬:我叫煎 Pan 呀 | 塱原度做咗大概差唔多十年喇 | 我長春社同香港觀鳥會 | 〇五年開始就嚟到塱原同當地嘅農夫去合作 | 噉一齊去做一啲生境管理 | 噉包括係去維持一啲水田啦,噉同埋引入一啲新嘅水田農作物 | 例如慈菇、馬蹄 | 喺〇九年都喺塱原種【1:00】翻稻米 | 噉希望去維持翻塱原你原本好多嘅啲水田嘅環境 | 噉啲動物就可以喺度息 | 塱原其實主要有兩大類嘅保育對象啦 | 第一類就雀仔 | 仲一個大嘅家族希望去保護就係青蛙 | 噉原來青蛙佢哋會使用淡水濕地去產卵去繁殖嘅 | 噉雖然話佢係農田 | 噉但係上面去棲息嘅生物其實都幾多嘅 | 最新嘅雀仔數字都有三百一十六種 | 噉其實都超過,呃,香港總數嘅六十個 percent

● 香港觀鳥會 Hēung1 Góng2 Gūn1 Níuh5 Wúi6*2 = the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society | ● 生境 sāng1 gíng2 = habitat | ● 維持 wàih4 chìh4 = to keep; to maintain; to preserve | ● 水田 séui2 tìhn4 = paddy field | ● 引入 yáhn5 yahp6 = to lead into; to draw into | ● 農作物 nùhng4 jok3 maht6 = crops | ● 慈菇 chìh4 gū1 = arrowhead, katniss (Sagittaria sagittifolia) | ● 馬蹄 máah5 tái4*2/tàih4 = water chestnut | ● 稻米 douh6 máih5 = rice (crop) | ● 棲息 chāi1 sīk1 = to perch; to dwell | ● 保護對象 bóu2 wuh6 deui3 jeuhng6 = roughly, “the object of protection [efforts]” | ● 家族 gāa1 juhk6 = a clan; a family | ● 使用 sái2/sí2 yuhng6 = to make use; to use; to employ | ● 產卵 cháan2 léun2 / léuhn5 = to lay eggs; to spawn Note: According to Sheik Cantonese, léun2 is the standard reading for the character 卵, while léuhn5 is a variant | ● 繁殖 fàahn4 jihk6 = to breed; to reproduce

Lau Sin-pang: My name is Chin Pan (“Frying Pan”). I have been working in Long Yuen for roughly ten years. The organization I work for, the Conservancy Association, together with the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, has been working together in Long Yuen with the local farmers since 2005. Together we have been doing some environmental management. This includes preserving some of the paddy fields. It also involves introducing [引入] some new paddy-field crops such as arrowhead [慈菇] and water chestnut. In 2009, we also planted a rice crop in Long Yuen again, in the hope that [we] can preserve the place and bring back a large number of these paddy-field environments to the way they used to be. Creatures of various kinds [動物] could then inhabit this place. In fact, there are two main kinds of creatures that are the object of protection [efforts] here in Long Yuen. First of all, birds. The other big family [大嘅家族] that [we] hope to protect are the frogs. As it turns out [原來], frogs make use of fresh-water wetlands for breeding. Now although these fields are under cultivation, there are many creatures inhabiting [棲息] them. [According to] the latest bird figures, there are 316 [different] kinds. This is more than 60% of the sum total for Hong Kong.

記者:作為管理員,煎 Pan 佢哋當然要知道喺厘塊土地上面生活緊嘅 | 除咗人以外,仲有咩動物 | 佢哋嘅數量有冇多到?| 厘啲數據可以話係佢哋嘅成績表 | 今晚佢就進行緊青蛙生態調查

● 數據 sou3 geui3 = data | ● 成績表 sìhng4 jīk1 bíu2 = ① school/academic report; student report card; school record ② table of results/scores

Reporter: As a manager, Chin Pan and his team [煎 Pan 佢哋] naturally need to know what is living here on this patch of ground. Apart from human beings, what other creatures are there and have their quantities increased? You could say that such data is their table of results. This evening, he is doing and environmental survey of frogs.

劉善鵬:噉我哋都會去調查翻我哋嘅對象到底有冇使用我哋嘅管理嘅生境啦 | 呢塊田可能米田 | 我哋會到幾多個品種或者個數量係多定係少嘅 | 反映翻其實到底我哋嘅田係有冇【2:00】成效呢,對於個生態 | 青蛙有個特性 | 就係呢,佢哋夏天,尤其是落完大雨之後啦 | 雄性嘅青蛙係會求偶會叫嘅 | 噉我哋會憑聲音呢,去判斷嗰塊田嘅青蛙嘅多少啦 | 品種呢,因為唔同青蛙叫嗰,呃,聲音都唔同嘅個品種 | 幾有趣嘅,我哋,呃,發覺呢,呃,原來塱原一個農耕嘅環境呢 | 好多嘅微小嘅生境呢,都係一啲農耕嘅設施 | 例如洗菜池啦 | 噉啲農夫收割完啲通菜、西洋菜呢 | 會成籃擺落去抰走啲泥沙、昆蟲呀咁先去賣嘅 | 我哋發覺原來夏天呢 | 都好多青蛙會走落去繁殖,咁會好多蝌蚪嘅 | 你都幾意外地 | 原來都係製造咗一個生境呢啲嘅生物去使用囉

● 成效 sìhng4 haauh6 = an effect; a result | ● 雄性 hùhng4 sing3 = male | ● 求偶 kàuh4 ngáuh5 = (?) to look for a mate | ● 憑 pàhng4 = to go by; to base on; to take as a basis | ● 發覺 faat3 gok3 = to find; to detect; to discover | ● 微小 mèih4 síu2 = small; little | ● 洗菜池 sái2 choi3 chìh4 = roughly, “a pool for washing vegetables in” | ● 通菜 tūng1 choi3 = water spinach; Chinese spinach (also known as 蕹菜 ung3 choi3 and 翁菜 yūng1 choi3 | ● 西洋菜 sāi1 yèuhng4 choi3 = watercress | ● 抰走 yéung2 jáu2 = roughly, “to shake off”  | ● 泥沙 nàih4 sāa1 = silt; soil; earth | ● 蝌蚪 fō1 dáu2 = a tadpole

Jin Pan: We will conduct a survey [to find out] whether the objects [of our protection efforts] [對象] are making use of the habitats we are managing. This patch of land is probably a rice paddy. We will find out [揾到] whether the numbers of certain species have gone up or down. This reflects whether in fact our fields are effective [有冇成效], in terms of the environment. A characteristic of frogs is that, in Summer, especially after a heavy shower of rain, the males will call in order to find a mate. On the basis of the sound, we judge the number of frogs on that piece of land and what species there are, because different frogs have different calls. Quite interestingly, we have found that that Long Yuen is basically [原來] an agricultural environment [and] many of the micro-habitats [within it] turn out to be agricultural facilities [設施], for instance, washing pools for vegetables. After the farmers have harvested [their] water spinach or [their] cress, they tip whole basket-loads [of vegetables into the ponds] to get rid of the dirt before taking them off to sell. We have found that as it turns out in Summer lots and lots of frogs will go into these ponds to reproduce, and there are lots of tadpoles. This is quite surprising. As it transpires, a habitat has been made for these creatures to make use of.

劉善鵬:噉我哋會做聽聲去做一個,呃,記錄嘅 | 噉首先其實我哋第一樣我哋會熄燈啦 | 燈呢,對於青蛙都有影響嘅 | 噉我哋想靜止咗 | 等啲青蛙習慣咗個黑夜嘅環境 | 就開始做記錄 | 噉啊暫時一種澤蛙啦 | 噉我哋會再逗留【3:00】可能五分鐘 | 噉啊聽吓,有啲咩青蛙叫囉

● 熄燈 sīk1 dāng1 = to put out the light; to turn off the light | ● 靜止 jihng6 jí2 = static; motionless; at a standstill | ● 澤蛙 jaahk6 wāa1 = literally, “pond frog” | ● 逗留 dauh6 làuh4 = to stop (at a place)

Jin Pan: We make a record based on? what we hear. First off all, we turn off our torch [熄燈]. Lamp-light has a [real] influence on frogs. [Then] we want to [想] stand still to allow [等] the frogs to get used to the night environment.  Then we start to make a record. Just for the moment, [there is] a pond frog. We stay around for maybe for five minutes, listening out for what kinds of frog-calls there are.

記者:稻米由落種到收割都牽涉到大量人力 | 煎 Pan 佢哋喺唔同時段 | 會同小朋友同埋「石屎森林」中嘅大人 | 舉行唔同嘅體驗活動 | 等大家可以更加了解水田嘅特性 | 農田呢,可以俾到個空間呢好多雀仔、好多動物呢 | 可以喺度生活甚至生 BB 嘅 | 噉我哋陣間呢,會落田呢,就會做一個,呃,除草嘅工作

● 落種lohk6 júng2 = (?) to plant seeds | ● 牽涉 hīn1 sip3 = to involve; to concern; to drag in | ● 石屎森林 sehk6 sí2 sām1 làhm4 = a concrete jungle | ● 體驗活動 tái2 yihm6 wuht6 duhng6 = roughly, “activities for learning through practical experience” | ● 陣間 jahn6 gaan1 = soon; in a moment; in a while | ● 落田 lohk6 tìhn4 = (?) to go into the fields | ● 除草 chèuih4 chó2 = weeding

Reporter: From planting to harvest, rice involves a large amount of human effort. Jin Pan and his team [煎 Pan 佢哋] conduct different kinds of hands-on activities [體驗活動] at different times for small children as well as adults from “the concrete jungle”, enabling everyone [who participates] to better understand the special features of the paddy fields. (Jin Pan speaks) Land cultivated for farming [農田] can provide many [different] spaces for a large number of birds and animals. Here they can live and have babies. In a moment, we will go down into the fields to do some weeding work.

劉善鵬:咁大個泥俾我有得放 | 透過教育嘅活動啦,咁帶啲小朋友過嚟呢 | 噉講解呢,農田上面嘅一啲嘅功能啦,我叫 | 噉第一樣嘢就食物啦,咦,農田有食物喎 | 噉第二樣嘢,就,,原來今日玩得好開心 | 農田係一個開心、休嘅地方嚟嘅 【4:00】| 噉第三樣嘢,我哋就覺得就重要啲呢,就係 | 我哋會介紹一啲小動物俾佢聽啦,呃,雀仔啦、青蛙啦 | 噉 就等佢知道,咦,原來平時食物製造出嚟嘅過程呢咁  | 原來都提供到一個空間俾啲動物住

● 講解 góng2 gáai2 = to explain | ● 休閒 yāu1 hàahn4 = ① to lie fallow ② to be not working; to have leisure; to be idle

Jin Pan: I can take that, such a big [piece of] dirt. By means of educational activities, we bring the children [down] here. [I] provide some explanation about some of the functions of the fields. Firstly, [it’s about] food: there are things to eat in the fields! The second thing is that it’s great fun: the fields are a fun, leisurely place. Thirdly, and the thing we feel is more important, is that we can introduce [children] to some small creatures such as birds and frogs. This enables them to learn that in the normal process of producing food, spaces are also provided for the creatures to live in.

劉善鵬:而家十一月,係啦, 噉我哋秋收啦 | 噉我哋今日呢,用咗半朝時間呢,噉就收咗塊田啦咁樣 | 今年好呀,啲田。我哋收成都有少少豐收

● 秋收 chāu1 sāu1 = the Autumn harvest | ● 收成 sāu1 sìhng4 = a harvest; a crop | ● 豐收 fūng1 sāu1 = a bumper harvest

Jin Pan: Now, in November, that’s right, we [have] the Autumn harvest. Today we have spent half [our] morning harvesting a field. This year it has been very fine, this field. Our harvest has been a small bumper harvest.

Long caption: 塱原已於2019年12月下旬成為政府土地。由於塱原擁有生態價值,塱原濕地將會經過期約三年的改善工程后,成為自然生態公園。

● 下旬 haah6 chèuhn4 = the last ten-day period of a month| ● 為期 wàih4 kèih4 = (to be completed) by a definite date

At the end of December 2019, Long Yuen became government land. Due to the fact that Long Yuen possesses ecological value, The Long Yuen Wetlands will become a Nature and Ecology Park after undergoing improvement works lasting approximately three years.

劉善鵬:種米嗰個過程其實幾有趣呢 | 呃,要動用到好多人呀 | engage 到多啲嘅公衆參與啦 | 所以今日見到,咦,好多大朋友、小朋友啦,都過嚟 | 幫手收割 | 噉從中我哋都可以介紹翻,即係 *je, 咦, 稻米係咩嚟啦 | 點解要種米啦 |  咦,原來中間有好多生態㗎喎 | 香港嘅歷史文化原來係咁㗎喎 | 噉希望多啲人去關注翻、留翻住我哋一啲嘅綠色嘅環境

● 動用 duhng6 yuhng6 = to put to use; to employ; to draw on | ● 大朋友 daaih6 pàhng4 yáuh5 = adults (lit. “big friend”); I suspect that this is a humorous invention based on the word for “child”, 小朋友 (lit. “little friend”) | ● 收割 sāu1 got3 = to reap; to harvest; to gather in

Jin Pan: The process of growing rice is really quite interesting. You have to draw on a large number of people and “engage” many members of the public to take part. And so, [we] see so many “big friends” [that is, “adults”] as well as children come [out] today to help with the reaping. In the process [從中], we can give an introduction to what rice is, why it is planted — oh, so growing rice has a lot of ecological [aspects] to it! So that’s why Hong Kong’s history and culture is like that! We hope that more people will pay attention to our green environments and look out for them more.

Learning Cantonese: 蔣曉薇 Jeung Hiu-mei on Hongkongers — Leaving, Staying or Stranded?

「我諗,我哋都係等緊咁樣嘅時刻囉 | 等唔等到唔知嘅 | 但係我覺得人為嘅努力都好緊要 | 啫,人嗰種手牽手 | 去想一同去挽救生命嗰一種付出 | 覺得自己當下仍然可以挽救一啲生命嗰種意願 | 係無比重要 | 喺擱淺嘅時候,呢,呢一個信念係無比重要」

Hong Kong writer 蔣曉薇 Jeung Hiu-mei’s new novel 《秋鯨擱淺》has been attracting widespread attention in recent months. The title roughly translates as “the beaching of Autumn whales”, and this image of Hong Kong (as it used to be) as a stranded whale seems to have captured the imagination of a number of commentators. In this video from Ming Pao’s 《文化後浪》 (roughly, “Cultural Successors”) series, she discusses the issues that arise from the novel, the big question being: is there any possibility that some form of intervention could rescue the Hong Kong from its life-threatening predicament?

There are three grammatical points that are worthy of the Cantonese learner’s attention. Firstly, there is a good example of the final particle 囉 lō1. According to Yuen-lam Tsang’s helpful guide Basic Sentence-final Particles in Hong Kong Cantonese (Greenwood Press 2020), the main function of 囉 lō1 is to inform the listener that what is being said is obvious and natural. When it is paired with 咪 maih6, we get what Yip and Matthews call “an obvious conclusion” (Intermediate Cantonese). Thus, 噉我咪執筆去寫囉 means something like “and so I picked up my pen and wrote”.

The second point involves住 jyuh6, a widely used aspect marker that indicates that the effects of a particular (one-off) action persist over an extended period of time. Jeung uses it in 係一個傷口裏面滲透住一啲東西出嚟嘅 = “some things that came seeping out from a wound”; 你面對住變化嘅時候 = “when we face up to changes”; and the classic use of with the wearing of clothing, since once the clothing is put on in a single act, it remains in that state (until another act comes along to change it): 好似披戴住一啲你好喜歡嘅作家佢哋嘅身影 = “it is like wrapping the images of the writers you really like around your shoulders”.

Thirdly, another aspect marker 翻 fāan1 is used on several occasions. Its basic meaning involves repetition or reconnection, but you often come across instances that seem a little counterintuitive! For example, the phrase 我都想寫翻發生喺香港嘅故事 seems to suggest getting stories that happen in real life (back) into writing. There’s also 呢個作品只不過係我想呈現翻當下香港一個離開或者留低擱淺嘅狀態, in which the marker indicates that the writer wants to “re-present” a certain condition affecting Hong Kong in her novel. In both cases here, there is a sense of transfer or translation from one realm to another.

As usual, there is plenty of useful vocabulary to take away from this video: 滲透 sām1 tau3 = to permeate; to seep; 無助 mòuh4 joh6 = helpless; 氛圍 fān1 wàih4 = atmosphere; 命題 mihng6 tàih4 = a proposition; statement; thesis; 手牽手 sáu2 hīn1 sáu2 = hand in hand; 挽救 wáahn5 gau3 = to save; to remedy; to rescue; 出身 chēut1 sān1 = one’s previous experience or occupation; 影視 yíng2 sih6 = film & television; 呢一輩 nī1 yāt1 bui3 = this generation; and 根基 gān1 gēi1 = a foundation; a basis.

Please scroll down for my transcription (again, it’s a bit ragged in places), 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.


文學傳承 灌溉我城土壤 作家蔣曉薇 | Literary Inheritance & Continuation Watering the Soil of Our City   Author Jeung Hiu-mei

我都想寫呢度街道 | 我都想寫翻發生香港嘅故事 | 我咪執筆去寫囉 | 就好似一個脈絡承傳 [呢]

● 灌溉 gun3 koi3 = usu. “to irrigate” | ● 脈絡傳承 mahk6 lok3 chyùhn4 sìhng4 = (?) to carry on in the same vein or tradition

I too would like to write about the streets here. I too would like to write the stories that have happened here in Hong Kong. So, I picked up my pen and wrote them, as if I were carrying on in the same tradition [好似一個脈絡傳承].

Caption: 用寫作留住香港 | To Stay in Hong Kong by Means of Writing

起初開始創作嘅時候 | 其實我覺得係,係一個傷口裏面滲透住一東西出嘅 | 噉我傷口係由於自己經歷啦 | 亦都有一部分源自於社會嘅變化啦 | 你面對住變化嘅時候 | 其實係好多焦慮呀、無助呀、無力感呀 | 噉但寫作 // 讓自己可以重新去正視 | 究竟自己嘅恐懼係嚟自啲乜呀?| 點解對於一啲變化咁焦慮呀?

● 滲透 sām1 tau3 = to permeate; to seep | ● 焦慮 jīu1 leuih6 = feel anxious; have worries & misgivings | ● 無助 mòuh4 joh6 = helpless | ● 無力感 mòuh4 lihk6 gám2 = helplessness; perhaps also “powerlessness” | ● 正視 jing3 sih6 = to face up to (a difficult situation; reality)

When I first began to create, it actually felt to me like a wound out of which things came seeping. The wound was due to what I had been through; it also partly originated from changes in society. When you confront the changes, then there are in fact many misgivings, helplessness, powerlessness. However, writing can give [you] the ability to face up to [such things] anew. What exactly what is the source of one’s terror? Why does one feel so anxious about certain [一啲] changes?

【1:00】對抗緊一個好大 // 嘅 . . . 氛圍嘅時候 | 其實可唔可以令到自己嘅内心强大一啲呢?| 噉喺寫作裏面係咁樣嘅操練 [呢]

● 氛圍 fān1 wàih4 = atmosphere, perhaps even “mood” | ● 操練 chōu1 lihn6 = to drill; to practice

Can [you] make you own inner self stronger when opposing a formidable [大] atmosphere? [What happens in] writing is a kind of training for this.

Caption: 香港人的留離與擱淺 Hongkongers: Leaving, Staying or Stranded

世界既有悲哀的時刻 | 也必然有美麗的時刻 | 這正是他們在鯨魚身上做了美好的事情 | 正是給擱淺的鯨魚一點希望 | 最初個命題呢,係關於留同離留離之間嗰種狀態 | 亦都係源於一個好,好大嘅掙扎 | 點解身邊多人走 | 再去問深一個問題 | 問自己,你自己係咪要走?| 如果唔係一件容易嘅事 | 你背負緊啲乜嘢而去選擇離開?

● 悲哀 bēi1 ōi1 = grieved; sorrowful | ● 命題 mihng6 tàih4 = a proposition; statement; thesis | ● 源於 yùhn4 yū1 = to originate from; to stem from | ● 掙扎 jāng1 jaat3 = to struggle | ● 背負 bui3 fuh6 = to bear; to carry on the back

(Jeung Hiu-mei reads a passage from her novel) “[In] this world, there are times of sorrow. There are also times of beauty. This was the fine thing they were in the process of doing on the bodies of the whales (?), giving the beached whales sone small hope.” The original proposition was to do with staying, leaving and the state in-between the two. It also had its origins in a very great struggle. Why had so many people close to [me] left? To probe even more deeply into this issue, I asked myself whether I wanted to leave. [Assuming] that it were no easy matter, what are the things one would have to bear if one chose to leave?

【2:00】噉我就去透過寫作去問呢個問題 | 我尊重每個人嘅答案 | ,呢個作品只不過係我想呈現翻 | 當下香港一個離開或者留低擱淺嘅狀態 | 擱淺嘅時刻就係無力走落去 [喇] | 唔知點樣走落去 [喇] | 我成日睇唔到路 [囉] | 譬如鯨擱淺嘅時候 | 佢好需要嘅就係水漲呢個時機 | 令到佢可以游返去海 | 亦都可以需要外在嘅力量 | 啫係,人嘅努力去讓佢落返海 | 啫,我諗,我哋都係等緊咁樣嘅時刻 [囉] | 等唔等到唔知嘅 | 但係我覺得人為嘅努力都好緊要 | 啫,人嗰種手牽手 | 去想一同去挽救生命嗰一種付出 | 覺得自己當下仍然可以挽救一啲生命嗰種意願 | 係無比重要 | 喺擱淺嘅時候,呢,呢一個信念係無比重要

● 尊重 jyūn1 juhng6 = to respect; to value; to esteem | ● 呈現 chìhng4 yìhn6 = to present (a certain appearance); to appear; to emerge | ● 當下 dōng1 haah6 = ① instantly; immediately; at once ② that very moment | ● 水漲 séui2 jeung3  = (of water) to rise; to go up | ● 時機 sìh4 gēi1 = an opportunity; an opportune moment | ● 外在 ngoih6 joih6 = external; extrinsic | ● 人為 yàhn4 wàih4 = artificial; human-made | ● 落返 lohk6 fāan1 = (?) to go back (into the sea) | ● 手牽手 sáu2 hīn1 sáu2 = hand in hand | ● 挽救 wáahn5 gau3 = to save; to remedy; to rescue | ● 付出 fuh6 chēut1 = to pay; to expend; in some contexts, it suggests “the effort you put into something” | ● 意願 yi3 yuhn6 = a wish; a desire; an aspiration | ● 無比 mòuh4 béi2 = incomparable; unparalleled; matchless | ● 信念 seun3 nihm6 = faith; belief; conviction

So, I went and asked myself this question in my writing. I respect each individual’s answer. This work is nothing more than my own wish to present that state of being stranded between leaving or staying in Hong Kong at this moment. At times of feeling stranded, [you] have no energy to go on [走落去], nor do [you] know how to go on. I can’t ever see a way forward. For instance, when a whale is beached, what it really needs is for the level of the water to rise [水漲呢個時機], so that it can return to the sea. It also needs some external force, I mean, I human-made effort to enable it to return to the sea. I mean, I think we’re all waiting for such a moment [when the sea-level rises], but who knows whether we can wait long enough for it to happen [等唔等到唔知嘅]. But my feeling is that the human-made effort is very important, that kind of output of energy [付出] where people go hand in hand to try together to save lives. That aspiration [according to which] one feels one can still save some lives at the present moment is of incomparable importance. At a time of being stranded, this belief is of incomparable importance.

Caption: 香港文學建構本土 | Hong Kong Literature Constructs One’s Native Place

【3:00】讀文學出身啦。噉我讀現代文學啦 | 一讀到香港文學呢 | 你就會發現佢寫嘅嘢就係你嘅生活 [囉] | 喺大量嘅閲讀裏面或者睇一啲影視嘅作品裏面呢 | 建立咗一種本土嘅身份 | 慢慢你就發現 | 當你閲讀咗咁多嘅時候 | 有 [一] 日你覺得我都好想去承傳呢個記憶 | 我呢一輩都有我嘅記憶吖嘛 | 我唔係,啫,停留喺,呃,董啓章 [啦]、韓麗珠呀、陳慧呀 | 佢哋嘅記憶嗰度咁呀 | 我呢一輩都有我嘅聲音 | 我有我對城市記憶,我有我嘅感受 | 我都想寫呢度嘅街道 | 我都想寫翻發生喺香港嘅故事 | 噉我咪執筆去寫囉 | 就好似一個脈絡承傳 [呢] | 斷咗唔得,我記憶或者我哋書寫斷咗 | 你要 [想去] 記錄呢個城市嘅聲音 . . .

● 出身 chēut1 sān1 = one’s previous experience or occupation | ● 影視 yíng2 sih6 = film & television | ● 本土bún2 tóu2 = one’s native land | ● 承傳 sìhng4 chyùhn4 = to inherit and pass on (Note: Subtitles have 傳承) | ● 呢一輩 nī1 yāt1 bui3 = this generation

I started out [出身] as a reader of literature. I read modern literature. Once you begin to read Hong Kong literature, you will find that the things that it writes about are [part of] your life [too]. In reading a large amount [of literature] or in watching some works for film and television, a local identity of a kind [一種本土嘅身份] is established, and gradually you come to discover — when you have read a lot — that one day you [yourself] get the desire to inherit this memory [that is, of Hong Kong] and to hand it on to others. This generation I belong to naturally has its own memories, too. I don’t stop there at the memories of Dung Cheung-kai or Hon Lai-chu or Chan Wai. My generation has its voices, too. I have my memories of the city, I have my experiences, and I too would like to write about the streets here. I too would like to write the stories that have happened here in Hong Kong. So, I picked up my pen and wrote them, as if I were carrying on in one and the same tradition [好似一個脈絡傳承]. It’s not right to break [this tradition] off. If we break off in our memories, our writings, then you have to [UNCLEAR] the voices of their memories of this city . . .

【4:00】| 去書寫呢度城市嘅故事 | 你要肩負嘅嘢係更加多 | 好似披戴住一啲你好喜歡嘅作家佢哋嘅身影 | 披戴住佢哋嘅社會責任 | 佢哋喺文學上面嘅承擔,佢哋喺文學上面嘅角色 | 好似呢個擔子都落咗喺你身上 | 你都有責任去寫,去發表 | 去傳承佢哋咁辛苦去建立嘅一個香港文學嘅根基

● 肩負 gīn1 fuh6 = to take on; to undertake; to shoulder; to bear | ● 披戴 pēi1 daai3 = (?) to wear draped over (or wrapped around) one’s shoulders | ● 身影 sān1 yíng2 = a person’s silhouette; form; figure | ● 承擔 sìhng4 dāam1 = to bear; to undertake; to assume | ● 擔子 daam3 jí2 = load; burden | ● 根基 gān1 gēi1 = a foundation; a basis

. . . and go and write the stories of this city. The things you have to shoulder are more numerous. It’s like wrapping the forms of your favourite writers around your shoulders, them as well as their [sense of] social responsibility, what they undertook in terms of literature, the literary roles they assumed. It’s as if this load has fallen to you [to shoulder]. You too have the responsibility to go and write, to express [yourself], to take over and pass on the foundation of a Hong Kong literature they took such pains to establish.

Homing (Another Near Life Experience)

Photo by Harrison Haines on

In eight months the new house assimilates the jangled stranger.

But, now and then, random olfactory flashbacks come banging down the doors of second nature’s numb fortress.

Forgotten unforgettable conjunctions of brick-, paint-, timber-, cement-, corrugated-iron-, cloth-, soil-, and garden-smells reanimate those early impressionable days of first acquaintance.

How odd to lose touch — thanks to daily close contact — with intense networks of such visceral-physical fact!

Buried memories surface through gaps in inattention to the fanfare of tingling, dumbfounded nerves.

(Awareness in its high-beam headlights gets so easily lost in a tunnel vision’s on-rushing detail . . . )

Fortunately, unnoticed, something sensitive in us registers out of turn the world’s appeal to the body and takes life-pleasure in disrupting by means of involuntary recollection thought’s endless, teeming, habitually dogged ant-lines.


Photo by Daniel Eliashevsky on

You’re only the spire. You don’t ever touch down
right to the foundations. “Upwards” is a word
you may often happen to take seriously. The vista
seems to shape itself — flawless — all around you,
its beauty one unbroken ring. “Centre”
and “circumference” inevitably creep into your thoughts
as well as values and, on the whole,
you can’t help looking down a little. One day,
when the physical temple starts to rot,
belatedly you will realize
just how much extraordinary emptiness exists
between you and the actual — neglected — textures of the ground,
textures Planet Earth always freely, openly offers.