Learning Cantonese: Giving Paradise back to the Butterflies

鳳園 Fung Yuen is a butterfly oasis only a short bus journey from Tai Po, in the New Territories in Hong Kong. Despite the new buildings that have, incredibly, been allowed to go up there in recent years, the place remains an ecological miracle.

This 5-minute video is largely scripted, and so the language is fairly formal. There are, however, two more colloquial sections featuring the founder of the Reserve, 邱榮光 Dr Yau Wing Kwong and the government minister 邱騰華 Edward Yau Tang-wah, then head of the 環保局 Environmental Protection Bureau, and now by some terrible irony of politics, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development.

Needless to say, you’ll find plenty of useful vocabulary here on ecology-related areas such as 生態多樣性 sāang1 taai3 dō1 yeuhng6 sing3 = biodiversity; 品種 bán2 júng2 = a species; and 繁殖 fàahn4 jihk6 = to breed; to reproduce. You’ll also get to hear 親身嘅參與 chān1 sān1 ge3 chāam3 yuh6 = “hands-on experience” and the related idiomatic expression 落手落腳 lohk6 sáu2 lohk6 geuk3 = to get one’s hands dirty.

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.


Caption: 鳳園蝴蝶保育區 | Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve

位於大埔鳳園蝴蝶保育區 | 鄰近大埔工業邨 | 離大埔虛巴士站及小巴站 | 大約十五分鐘車程

● 鄰近 lèuhn4 gahn6 = (?) to be in the vicinity of | ● 車程 chē1 chìhng4 = transport journey

The Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve located in Tai Po is adjacent to [鄰近] the Tai Po Industrial Estate, roughly a 15-minute journey from the bus and minibus station at Tai Po Market.

鳳園村溪流充足 | 濕度較高,有利耕種 | 原居民種植嘅植物入便 | 有唔少都適合蝴蝶生長

● 溪流 kāi1 làuh4 = brook; stream | ● 充足 chūng1 jūk1 = adequate; enough; sufficient | ● 有利 yáuh5 leih6 = advantageous; favourable | ● 耕種 gāang1 jung3 = to plough and sow; to cultivate; to farm | ● 原居民 yùhn4 gēui1 màhn4 = 1. aborigine cf. 原住民 2. Indigenous inhabitants: residents in the New Territories of Hong Kong | ● 種植 jung3 jihk6 = to plant; to grow

Fung Yuen Village has many streams, making it a fairly moist [place], favourable to cultivation. Among the plants planted by the original inhabitants, not a few are suited to the growth [生長] of butterflies.

喺1980年,政府將鳳園村北面 | 大約42公頃嘅山谷地區列爲 | 鳳園谷特殊科學價值地點,簡稱 SSSI | 直到2005年 | 大埔環保會喺村内 | 成立「鳳園蝴蝶保育區」| 保育同埋推廣鳳園谷嘅生態多樣性 | 及圍村嘅文化特色【1:00】

● 公頃 gūng1 kíng2 = hectare | ● 列爲 liht6 wàih4 = to be classified as | ● 簡稱 gáan2 chīng1 = abbreviation; for short| ● 大埔環保會 Daaih6 Bou3 Wàahn4 Bóu2 Wúi6*2= Tai Po Environmental Association | ● 鳳園蝴蝶保育區 Fuhng6 Yùhn4 Wùh4 Dihp6/Díp6*2 Bóu2 Yuhk6 Kēui1= Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve | ● 生態多樣性 sāang1 taai3 dō1 yeuhng6 sing3 = biodiversity

In 1980, the government classified approximately 42 hectares of mountain valley north of Fung Yuen Village as the “Fung Yuen Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest [價值]” or “SSSI” for short. In 2005, the Tai Po Environmental Association founded the Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve to protect and promote the biodiversity of the Fung Yuen Valley, as well as the special cultural characteristics of the walled village.

大埔環保會喺1997年 | 由邱榮光博士創立 | 係一個非牟利慈善團體 | 大埔環保會自創立以 | 積極投入舉辦各類型嘅環保活動 | 致力推廣及提倡 | 環境保育嘅教育同埋認知 | 定期舉行嘉年華同埋展覽攤位 | 鼓勵市民關注環境問題

● 邱榮光 = Yāu1 Wìhng4 Gwōng1 = Yau Wing Kwong | ● 創立 chong3 laahp6 = to establish; to found; to set up | ● 非牟利慈善團體 fēi1 màuh4 leih6 chìh4 sihn6 tyùhn4 tái2 = a non-profit charitable organization | ● 自 . . . 以嚟 jih6 . . . yíh5 làih4 = ever since; from . . . up to the present | ● 致力 ji3 lihk6 = to devote oneself to; to work for | ● 提倡 tàih4 chēung1 = to advocate; to promote | ● 認知 yihng6 jī1 = (?) to be cognisant of; to be aware of | ● 嘉年華 gāa1 nìhn4 wàah4 = carnival | ● 展覽攤位 jín2 láahm5 tāan1 wái6*2 = (?) an exhibition stand/stall/space

The Tai Po Environmental Association was set up by Dr Yau Wing Kwong in 1997. It is a non-profit charitable organization. Since its inception, it has been active in running various kinds of environmental protection activities and has devoted itself to the popularization and promotion of both environmental protection education and awareness [認知]. At regular intervals [定期] it runs carnivals and exhibition sites to encourage ordinary citizens to become concerned about environmental issues.

另外,大埔環保會 | 喺三門仔成立大埔地質教育中心 | 係一個融合自然景觀 | 同埋人文景觀嘅獨特區域 | 能夠將保育地貌同埋岩石嘅信息推廣開去 | 為市民提供地質觀賞及環保資訊之餘 | 亦肩負起教育同埋推廣嘅責任

● 景觀 gíng2 gūn1 = a landscape | + 獨特區域 duhk6 dahk6 kēui1 wihk6 = a special region | + 地貌 daih6 maauh6 = the general configuration of the earth’s surface; landforms | + 岩石 ngàahm4 sehk6 = rock | + 觀賞 gūn1 séung2 = to view & admire; to enjoy the sight of | + 資訊 jī1 seun3 = information | + 肩負 gīn1 fuh6 = to take on; to undertake; to shoulder

Note: Often in Cantonese, a fuller verb form is required when the 將 jēung1 structure is used, perhaps to maintain a balanced sentence rhythm with the removal of the direct object to its pre-verbal position, hence: 能夠將保育地貌同埋岩石嘅信息推廣開去. As you can see, a directional complement such as 開去 hōi1 heui3 can be used for this purpose. Other kinds of complements such as those expressing location are also used.

In addition, the Tai Po Environmental Association established the Tai Po Geoheritage Centre at Sam Mun Tsai. It is a special district that brings together appreciation of both natural and human-cultural landscapes [景觀], [something] that can popularize both the conservation of landforms and information about rocks. And apart from providing enjoyment of the geology and information about environmental protection, the Geoheritage Centre also shoulders the responsibility of education and popularization.

邱榮光: 大家好 | 大埔環保會喺1997年成立到而家 | 主要係希望透過教育啦,同埋親身嘅參與 | / / 得到自然保育同埋環保嘅活動 | 鳳園有超過二百種嘅蝴蝶 | 啊,我發覺好嘅地方 | 我哋應該介紹多啲香港人知道 【2:00】| 所以我哋喺度 | 做教育啦 | 做一啲親手 | 等義工去落手落 | 一齊 / / 種植 | 做返個樂園俾啲蝴蝶嚟到享用 | 亦都俾我哋可以一齊嚟認識呢個大自然 | 同埋一齊欣賞呢啲咁嘅蝴蝶 | 可能都係 *dei 因爲咁多義工努力嘅工作 | 同埋咁多人嚟欣賞我哋嘅蝴蝶 | 咁其實村民亦都係好感動 | 嚟到一齊支持我哋工作 | 噉都係呢啲市民嘅支持 | 令到我哋有力量 / / 繼續去努力呢個工作 | 噉所以我都希望大家今日嚟到 | 欣賞我哋蝴蝶之後呢 | 亦都可以考慮留低 | 成爲我哋嘅義工 | 一齊嚟到保育呢笪咁靚嘅大自然 | 咁美好嘅地方

● 親身嘅參與 chān1 sān1 ge3 chāam3 yuh6 = lit. “hands-on experience”; perhaps “direct participation” here | ● 發覺 faat3 gok3 = to find; to detect; to discover| ● 落手落腳 lohk6 sáu2 lohk6 geuk3 = to get one’s hands dirty; to put one’s hands and feet to work; to take action | ● 享用 = héung2 yuhng6 = to enjoy the use of | ● 笪 daat3 = a patch; a plot (a measure word or classifier)

Yau Wing Kwong speaks: Hello everyone. From 1997, when the Tai Po Environmental Association established up till now, what we have mainly hoped for is to obtain protection for the environment and environmental activities (?) by means of education and direct participation. Fung Yuen has over 200 species of butterfly, and having discovered such a fine place, we ought to introduce it so that more Hong Kong people get to know about it. And so for this reason, here we do education, we do some direct participation, letting volunteers get their hands dirty with planting, remaking a paradise for the butterflies to enjoy the use of and for us to get to know this natural world [呢個大自然] together as well as to appreciate such beautiful butterflies. Perhaps also because of the hard work of so many volunteers, and because so many people have come to enjoy the sight of our butterflies, the [local] villagers have also, as a matter of fact, been moved to come together to support / / work. Also, the support of the people of Hong Kong has given us the strength to continue striving in this work. So, for this reason, we also hope that after you have admired our butterflies today, you might consider staying with us [留低] and joining [成爲] our volunteers, to protect with us [一齊嚟到] this beautiful piece of nature and such a fine place.

蝴蝶嘅存活係有賴於寄主植物同埋蜜源植物 | 寄主植物即係蝴蝶幼蟲食用嘅植物 | 而蜜源植物就係蝴蝶成蟲食用嘅植物 | 鳳園植物品種繁多 | 寄主植物由常見嘅植物品種 | 以至罕有同埋受保護嘅【3:00】植物 | 都可以喺鳳園到 | 由於蝴蝶幼蟲都有固定嘅寄主植物 | 息環境亦都唔會遠離寄主植物

● 存活 chyùhn4 wuht6 = to survive | ● 有於 yáuh5 laaih6 yū1 = to depend on | ● 寄主植物 gei3 jyú2 jihk6 maht6 = a host plant | ● 蜜源 maht6 yùhn4 = nectar source | ● 幼蟲 yau3 chùhng4 = larva | ● 成蟲 sìhng4 chùhng4 = imago; adult | ● 品種 bán2 júng2 = a species | ● 繁多 fàahn4 dō1= various | ● 以至 yíh5 ji3 = down to; up to | ● 罕有 hón2 yáuh5 = rare | ● 固定 gu3 dihng6 = fixed; regular

The survival of butterflies depends both on host plants and nectar sources. Host plants are the plants that butterfly caterpillars eat, while nectar sources are the plants that the adult butterflies feed on. The plants at Fung Yuen [show] a [great] variety. From common species that are host plants to rare and protected plants ⸺ they can all be found at Fung Yuen. Because larva all have their designated [固定] host plants, a butterfly’s habitat-environment [棲息環境] cannot be too far away from [such] host plants.

大埔環保會委托香港中文大學 | 定期觀察保育區入面嘅寄主植物 | 品種、數量同埋位置 | 從而推斷出區内可能繁殖到嘅蝴蝶品種 | 除咗植物普查之外 | 鳳園蝴蝶保育區每個月都會|進行定期蝴蝶普查 | 記錄蝴蝶嘅品種同埋數量 | 以監察保育區入便嘅生態質素 | 香港觀鳥會就會進行 | 每季一次嘅雀鳥普查 | 記錄鳳園範圍内所見嘅雀鳥品種同埋數目

● 委托 wái2 tok3 = to entrust; to trust | ● 推斷出 tēui1 dyun3 chēut1 = to infer; to deduce | ● 繁殖 fàahn4 jihk6 = to breed; to reproduce | ● 普查 póu2 chàah4 = general investigation/survey | ● 監察 gāam1 chaat3 = to supervise; to control | ● 香港觀鳥會 Hēung1 Góng2 Gūn1 Níuh5 Wúi6*2 = the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society | ● 每季一次 múih5 gwai3 yāt1 chi3 = every season; Summer, Autumn, Winter & Spring | ● 雀鳥 jeuk3 níuh5 = birds | ● 數目 sou3 muhk6 = number; amount

The Tai Po Environmental Association has given CUHK the task [委托咗] of supervising the host plants in the butterfly reserve at regular intervals [定期] [in terms of their] kind, number and location and, from this, deducing which kinds of butterflies can reproduce within the reserve. Apart from general surveys of plants, the Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve also carries out a monthly general survey of butterflies, recording butterfly numbers and species in order to supervise the ecological quality of the reserve. The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society carries out a general survey of birds in each of the four seasons [每季一次], keeping a record of bird species and numbers within Fung Yuen’s range.

鳳園蝴蝶保育區會定期舉行推廣活動 | 藉此提醒市民保育環境 | 活動包括生態導賞團 | 同埋各式各樣嘅講座、展覽 | 令參加者可以更加了解【4:00】| 有關鳳園嘅文化同埋生態情況

● 生態導賞團 sāang1 taai3 douh6 séung2 tyùhn4 = a guided eco-tour; an ecological guided tour

Note: The expression 令 . . . 可以 is often used as an equivalent of the English “to enable (sb. or sth.) to do sth.”

Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve regularly [定期] conducts promotional activities to remind the Hong Kong people about protecting the environment. [Such] activities include guided ecological tours, as well as all kinds of lectures and exhibitions, enabling participants to better understand the culture of Fung Yuen and the ecological situation [there].

邱騰華 (環保局局長)speaks:  | Edward Yau Tang-wah (Yāu1 Tàhng4 Wàah4), Secretary for the Bureau of Environmental Protection

鳳園呢個 ah 蝴蝶保育區呢 | 其實香港比較一個獨有嘅地方 | 呢個係三方面合作所能夠做得到嘅 | 一方面係 ah 由政府出資 | ah 去俾一個,  ah 大埔環保會就做一個環保嘅團體 | 去保育呢個地方 | 亦都同時呢,係 ah 當地嘅居民一齊去參與 | 噉先至能夠得到一地方呢 | 係既可以保留呢,現有個人民嘅文化啦,村落啦, | 亦都同時呢,係可以保育 ah 呢啲蝴蝶嘅繁殖 | / / 亦都係一個 ah 生態上面呢 | 保育嘅一個好好嘅地區

● 出資 chēut1 jī1 = (?) to put up the money; to provide the funds

This butterfly reserve in Fung Yuen is actually a rather special place in Hong Kong. It was made possible by cooperation between three different parties [方面]. One party was the government, who provided the funding to the Tai Po Environmental Association to form an environmental entity to protect this place. At the same time, the local residents have also joined in. Only thus has it been possible to obtain a site [一笪地方] in order to preserve the existing culture of the people [here], the village[s] and, at the same time, to be able to protect [UNCLEAR] the breeding of the butterflies [UNCLEAR] it is also, in ecological terms, a fine district under protection.

我自己都去過鳳園好多次 | 我覺得呢個地方好獨特 | ,一方面,現有嘅村落係保持到嘅 | 另外呢,如果你係鍾意蝴蝶 | 你鍾意生態環境嘅時候 | 或者係想做一個義工去參與 | 呢個保育工作嘅時候呢 | 我覺得鳳園係一個非常之值得去嘅地方

● 保持到 bàu2 chìh4 dou3 = to keep; to maintain; to preserve

I have visited Fung Yuen many times myself. I think this place is very special. On the one hand, the existing village has been conserved. On the other, if you have a liking for butterflies or for the natural environment [生態環境], or if you would like to come and join in the work of the reserve as a volunteer, I think Fung Yuen is an exceptionally worthwhile place.

有興趣人士可以上 www.fungyuen.org 瀏覽

● 瀏覽 làuh4 láahm5 = to glance over; to skim through; to surf (the internet)

Anyone interested can visit our website at www.fungyuen.org

Learning Cantonese: Dignified, Lucid, Restrained, Modest & Compassionate

You could do worse than model your spoken Cantonese on that of 黃之鋒Joshua Wong, 周庭 Agnes Chow and 林朗彥 Ivan Lam featured in this 2-minute video from HK01. Dignified, lucid, restrained, modest and compassionate, such eloquence inspires us with hope even as these speakers face long months in prison . . .

Given the context, much of the difficult vocabulary is legal. Nevertheless, there are some real gems here too: Joshua Wong’s 低谷 dāi1 gūk1 = a low valley; rock bottom; Agnes Chow’s 手足 sáu2 jūk1 = usually “brothers” (but here something like “sisters and brothers coming together for a common cause); and Ivan Lam’s 必要之舉 bīt1 yiu3 jī1 géui2 = (?) a necessary/essential act.

As for grammar points, there is little in what follows that ought to bamboozle you. Watch out for another use of the aspect marker 住 jyuh6 to indicate a persistent after-effect with the verb 意味 yi3 meih6 = “to mean”; one example of the conditional concessive 即使 jīk1 sí2 = “even if”; and, right at the end, the appearance of the directional complement 落去 lohk6 heui3, used with the verb 堅持 gīn1 chìh4 with the more abstract meaning of “to continue doing”.

The captions featured during the video outline the criminal charges faced by the trio. For Wong and Chow, these involve the incitement of others in Admiralty to take part in an illegal assembly and to organize an illegal assembly outside police headquarters. Lam was only charged with the first of these items.

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.

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.


黃之鋒:警察總部嘅示威案件裏邊呢 | 周庭、林朗彥同埋我黃之鋒 | 我都係選擇呢,係去承認所有控罪 | 今日嘅案件呢,係應該會直接跳過審訊階段 | 直接結案陳詞 | 甚至有可能判刑 | 亦都意味住呢,其實我哋三個人呢,係有機會即時還押 | 面對住《國安法》嘅打壓、白色恐怖嘅來臨 | 即使我哋面對住監禁刑期 | 或者我哋有機會係被還押都好 | 我哋都唔會放棄 | 喺艱難嘅時候 | 我哋仍然好想呼籲香港人 | 喺呢個低潮或者係一個民族運動嘅低谷裏邊 | 互相嘅扶持係更加可貴

● 承認 sìhng4 yihng6 = to admit; to acknowledge; to recognize | ● 跳過 tiu3 gwo3 = to skip over; to make omissions | ● 審訊 sám2 seun3 = a trial; a courtroom hearing | ● 結案陳詞git3 [ng]on3 chàhn4 chìh4 = closing statement | ● 即時 jīk1 sìh4 = immediately; forthwith | ● 還押 wàahn4 aat3 = to remand (in custody) | ● 監禁刑期 gāam1 gam3 yìhng4 kèih4 = prison term/sentence | ● 低潮 dāi1 chìuh4 = a low tide; an anti-climax; a low point; perhaps also “at a low ebb” | ● 低谷 dāi1 gūk1 = a low valley; rock bottom; perhaps also “trough” (as in “peaks & troughs”)

Joshua Wong: In the case [concerning] the demonstration outside police headquarters, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam and myself, Joshua Wong, have chosen to plead guilty to all charges. The case today could skip the hearing stage and [move] directly to the closing statement. We could even be sentenced. What this also means is, actually, that for the three of us, there is a chance that we will be immediately remanded in custody. Confronted with the repression of the “National Security Law” and the arrival [來臨] of White Terror, even if we are to face a prison sentence or have the chance of being taken into custody on remand, we will not give up. In this very difficult time, we nevertheless very much wish to appeal to the people of Hong Kong at this low point or “rock bottom” in the democracy movement [to remind them that our] mutual support for one another is especially [更加] precious.

周庭:我就同佢哋兩位唔同 | 就喺一個更加早嘅階段就選擇認罪 | 而我亦都有可能係喺今日 | 或者喺不久嘅將來 | 係有一個可能性係要面對我人生第一次坐監 | 當然我對好多【1:00】未知嘅未來 | 包括係緊嘅判斷會有好多唔同嘅不安 | 但希望大家唔好忘記就係 | 有好多或者比我哋 | 犧牲嘅更加嘅手足們、朋友們 | 可能佢哋正係面對緊更加困難嘅處境 | 除咗我哋三個之外 | 都要繼續去到聲援同埋關注唔同嘅手足

● 不久嘅將來 bāt1 gáu2 ge3 jēung1 lòih4 = the not too distant future | ● 手足 sáu2 jūk1 = usually “brothers” | ● 處境 chú2 gíng2 = unfavourable situation; plight | ● 聲援 sīng1 wùhn4 = to express support for; to support

Agnes Chow: [In my case] things are a bit different from my two friends here [佢哋兩位]. I chose to plead guilty at an earlier stage, and today or in the not too distant future I may possibly be facing my first ever stint in prison. Of course, there are many kinds of uneasiness for me, faced with a very uncertain future [好多未知嘅未來] including the coming legal sentence, but I hope that everyone will remember that there are many other sisters, brothers and friends who may have made many more sacrifices than us and who may be faced with an even more difficult plight at this moment. Apart from the three of us, there are various other sisters and brothers who one must continue to express support and to show concern for.

林朗彥:我自己,啊,本身都已經做好咗今日有機會係會被還押 | 甚至係即時入獄嘅準備 | 包圍警總到底係一個罪案定係其實係一個我哋伸張正義 | 爭取民族嘅必要之舉 | 我相信喺香港人心裏面已經有一個答案 | 噉我哋係無悔我哋所作嘅抗爭 | 亦都會繼續堅持落去

● 入獄 yaph6 yuhk6 = to be put in prison; to be sent to jail | ● 伸張正義 sān1 jēung1 jing3 yih6 = to uphold/promote justice | ● 必要之舉 bīt1 yiu3 jī1 géui2 = (?) a necessary/essential act | ● 無悔 mòuh4 fui3 = to be without regrets (for sth.)

Ivan Lam: Me, well I’ve already prepared myself for being taken into custody today and even going into prison forthwith. Was encircling [包圍] police headquarters a crime, when all is said and done [底係], or was it actually [a case of] us upholding justice, a necessary act in the fight for democracy? I believe that the people of Hong Kong have the answer to this question in their hearts already. We have no regrets for any of our acts we have carried out as part of our stand and will continue to persevere.

記者 Reporters:
林樂兒 Làhm4 Lohk6 Yìh4,鄧家琪 Dahng6 Gāa1 Kèih4 | 琪 kèih4 = a piece of jade; a jade-like precious stone

攝影 Camera:
楊凱力 Yèuhng4 Hói2 Lihk6

剪接 Film editing:
張偉江 Jēung1 Wáih5 Gōng1

Learning Cantonese: The Story of Gun Yam

In this “Story of Gun Yam”, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, we are told of the fate of Princess Miu Sin who, in order to cure her father of some terrible disease, offered up her own eyes and hands as necessary ingredients of the only medicine that would make him better. It is an extraordinary story, but one constantly being re-enacted daily in our own times by ordinary men and women, many of them persecuted and unheralded.

This is a scripted video, so the Cantonese is fairly formal and, of course, much of the vocabulary is of a religious nature, but at the same time very usual in terms of heightened cultural understanding. As for the grammar, there is one use of 使到 sí2 dou3 to express causation [使到眾生得到解脫], perhaps in place of the usual colloquial 令到 lihng6 dou3, as well as the refreshingly idiomatic 無論邊個化身, meaning “regardless of which incarnation it happens to be”!

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.


經典中曾經提到 | 人受到種種苦難 | 只要心中默唸 | 觀世音菩薩尊名 | 觀世音菩薩就能夠 | 觀其音聲 | 使到眾生得到解脫

● 經典 gīng1 dín2 = 1. classics 2. scriptures | ● 苦難 fú2 naahn6 = suffering; misery; distress | ● 默唸 mahk6 nihm6 = to read (or say) silently | ● 尊名 jyūn1 mìhng4 = (?) venerable name | ● 菩薩 pòuh4 saat3 = Bodhisattva | ● 眾生 jung3 sāng1 = all living creatures | ● 解脫 gáai2 tyut3 = to free/extricate oneself

Note: The character 其 kèih4 is frequently used in formal written Chinese as a possessive pronoun meaning “her, his, its”, etc. Observe too that 觀 gūn1 means “to hear” in this context rather than “to see”, although sight is strongly suggested by the presence of 見 gin3 in the written form.

In the scriptures, it is mentioned that if any person finds themselves in distress, all they have to do is to say silently to themselves the venerable name of the Gun Sai Yam Bodhisattva [觀世音菩薩] and Gun Yam will hear that person’s [其] voice and enable any living creature [眾生] to gain liberation.

觀音嘅信仰千百年 | 深深植根於中國民間 | 而道教就尊稱觀音為 | 慈航大士 | 係一位通過修行 | 而證道成仙嘅仙真 | 能夠救人於苦難

● 信仰 seun3 yéuhng5 = faith; belief; conviction | ● 植根於 jihk6 gān1 yū1 = (?) to establish its roots in| ● 尊稱 jyūn1 chīng1 = a respectful form of address; an honorific title | ● 慈航大士 chìh4 hòhng4 daaih6 6*2 = (?) Master of the Barge of Mercy| ● 修行 sāu1 hàhng4 = to practise Buddhism or Taoism | ● 證道成仙 jing3 douh6 sìhng4 sīn1 = (?) to witness the Tao and become an enlightened being | ● 仙真 sīn1 jān1 = an immortal; a Taoist god

Over hundreds and thousands of years [千百年嚟], faith in Gun Yam has sent its roots deep into [the lives of] ordinary Chinese people. Taoism uses the respectful term of address “Master of the Barge of Mercy” to refer to Gun Yam, an immortal [仙真] who, through religious practice [修行], witnessed the Tao and became an enlightened being able to save people from distress.

據宋代民間人士 | 對觀音嘅理解 | 觀音係古時北闕國 | 妙莊王嘅三公主 | 叫做妙善 | 妙善曾經入香山修道 | 然後證道成仙,成爲觀音 | 妙善用自己嘅雙眼同雙手 | 為自己嘅父王入藥醫病 | 父王知道之後 | 非常傷痛,【1:00】衷心發願 | 希望聖靈可以令佢嘅女兒手眼重生 | 忽然妙善消失,天上顯現 | 千手千眼大悲菩薩嘅法相

● 北闕國 Bāk1 Kyut3 Gwok3 = the name of some ancient country | ● 修道 sāu1 douh6 = to cultivate oneself according to a religious doctrine | ● 入藥 yahp6 yeuhk6 = to be used as medicine | ● 醫病 yī1 behng6 = to give medical treatment | 傷痛 sēung1 tung3 = to mourn; grief; pain | ● 衷心發願 chūng1 sam1 = heartfelt; wholehearted; cordial + 發願 faat3 yuhn6 = to vow to achieve an objective | ● 聖靈 sing3 lìhng4  = usually “the Holy Spirit”; the saintly spirits (of the dead) (Soothill) | ● 重生 chùhng4 sāang1 = a rebirth; to be reborn | ● 顯現 hín2 yihn6 = to manifest/reveal oneself; to appear; to show | ● 大悲daih6 bēi1 = (Buddhism) the great deliverance of Buddha from sufferings & afflictions; the great mercy | ● 法相 faat3 sēung1 = usually “(Buddhism) the aspects or characteristics of things”; in this context, perhaps “dharma appearance”

In the minds of ordinary people [民間人士] living in the Song dynasty, Gun Yam was the third daughter of King Miu Jong of the ancient kingdom [called] Bak Kyut, Princess Miu Sin. She had once spent time at Incense Mountain (or Gandhamādana), cultivating herself spiritually. She later achieved realization [證道成仙] and became Gun Yam. She gave her own two eyes and her hands to be used as medicine for the cure of the illness of her father, the king. When her father found out, he was deeply grieved and made a heartfelt wish, hoping that the saintly spirits could enable his daughter’s eyes and hands to be restored [重生]. Suddenly, Miu Sin vanished and there in the sky appeared the dharma appearance [法相] of the Bodhisattva of Great Mercy with a thousand arms and a thousand eyes.

根據記載觀音有唔同嘅化身 | 不過無論邊個化身 | 佢聞聲救苦嘅形象都深入民間 | 唔少善信都會向觀音 | 禮拜祈求心願 | 不過對觀音禮拜嘅同時 | 我亦都要學習 | 觀音為衆生嘅慈悲心 | 日常生活中多行善業 | 先可以得到觀音嘅庇佑

● 記載 gei3 joi3 = 1. to put down in writing 2. a record; an account | ● 化身 faa3 sān1 = an incarnation; an embodiment | ● 聞聲 màhn4 sīng1 = (?) to hear [the call of] a voice | ● 形象 yìhng4 jeuhng6 = an image; a form; a figure | ● 善信 sihn6 seun3 = (?) the faithful; true believers| ● 禮拜 láih5 baai3 = to attend a religious service; perhaps also “to worship” | ● 祈求 kèih4 kàuh4 = to earnestly hope; to pray for | ● 心願 sām1 yuhn6 = a cherished desire; an aspiration; a wish | ● 慈悲心 chìh4 bēi1 sām1 = compassion | ● 行善業 hàhng4 sihn6 yihp6 = to perform good deeds | ● 庇佑 bei3 yauh6 = to bless; to prosper

According to written accounts, Gun Yam has various different incarnations, but whichever the incarnation, the image of her responding to calls for help has penetrated deeply into the life of the people, and not a few of the faithful turn to Gun Yam, both to worship her and to beseech her to grant them their wishes. However, while worshipping Gun Yam, we must try to learn the compassion she has for all living creatures, and to perform good deeds in our daily lives. Only then can we be blessed by Gun Yam.

Albert Wan, the Temperate Bookseller at Bleak House Books

溫敬豪 Wān1 Ging3 Hòuh4 or Albert Wan is the founder of Bleak House Books. He truly is a Mr John Jarndyce of the book-world, housing not only a collection of second-hand books, many of them out of print, but providing a shelter for anyone curious in what old print might have to offer them. He says some heart-stirring things about his profession: “I started Bleak House Books,” he declares, “not to sell books but to serve the community” [我開清明堂其實唔係爲咗賣書 | 反而希望係 serve the community]. Such spirit in this world of money-driven entrepreneurs is a rare as it is refreshing.

You can enjoy this video even if you’re not interested in Cantonese: it has good English subtitles. However, if you are a committed learner, then items of vocabulary to make you own in this video include 殘舊 chàahn4 gauh6 = tattered; 斷版 tyuhn6 báan2 = (?) to be out of print; 抽到時間 chāu1 dou3 sìh4 gaan3 = to manage to find the time (to do sth.); 自我成長 jih6 ngóh5 sìhng4 jéung2 = personal growth; self-development; 深信 sām1 seun3 = to be deeply convinced; and 永恆價值 wíhng5 hàhng4 gaa3 jihk6 = (?) permanent/lasting value. And remember too that Albert’s surname 溫 Wān1 also means “1. warm; lukeward 2. to warm up 3. to review; to revise . . .”

As for grammar, please take note of 喺 . . .  當中 as a structure used for more abstract kinds of in-ness, as well as another interesting use of the aspect marker住 jyuh6, post-modifying expressions such as 呢個地方 (often used with proper nouns) and one instance of 即使 jīk1 sí2, a rather formal structural word meaning “even if”.

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. There are also many other videos of this quality produced by Kong Stories, so feel free to explore further. 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 cut and paste text into the relevant box.



過去一段時間,香港經歷好多風浪,甚至到今日都仲風浪當中 | 但係就喺困難當中,我更加認清香港係我屋企

● 風浪 fūng1 lohng6 = stormy waves; a storm| ● 認清 yihng6 chīng1 = (?) to clearly recognize; to clearly see

Note: 喺 . . .  當中 is often used for an abstract kind of in-ness, one that doesn’t really happen in physical space.  Albert Wan uses it twice here: “in turmoil” [喺風浪當中] and “in difficulties” [喺困難當中]. Perhaps you could also say “in the midst of difficulty”.

Caption: 香港家書 / Hong Kong Family Letters

Note: I think a play on words is involved in the choice of caption. 家書 gāa1 syū1 means “a letter home”, referring to a letter that is written for family members only. A favourite book of mine, 《傅雷家書》, is a collection of letters written by the famous translator 傅雷 Fu Lei (in Cantonese, Fuh6 Lèuih4) to his son. However, since 書 syū1 is also the word for “book”, there is a sense too here of “a book home” or “personal books”.

講起二手書,好多人都會覺得殘舊、乜價值 | 但係舊書盛載住人感情 | 可惜嘅係,有唔少二手書已經斷版 | 我經營二手書店就係想保存呢回憶 | 香港城市節奏比較急速,好少香港人可以抽到時間拎起本書 | 我開清明堂其實唔係爲賣書 | 反而希望去 serve the community | 有客人因爲書卷味、因爲好奇 | 甚至希望有一個屬於自己嘅空間而到書店

● 殘舊 chàahn4 gauh6 = tattered; ragged; worn out | ● 盛載 sìhng4 joi3 = ? cf. 承載 sìhng4 joi3 = to bear the weight of | ● 斷版 tyuhn6 báan2 = (?) to be out of print | ● 急速 gāp1 chūk1 = very fast; at high speed; rapidly | ● 抽到時間 chāu1 dou3 sìh4 gaan3 = to manage to find/make the time (to do sth.)

Note: In an earlier post on Anthony Lau Yin-Kun and the Hong Kong newt, I discussed the aspect marker 住 jyuh6 in terms of a persistent after-effect initiated by a simple action of short duration. 盛載 / 承載means “to bear the weight of”, but the addition of 住 suggests the carrying of this weight over time. This links up with Albert Wan’s view that books carry a permanent or lasting value that needs to be preserved.

後來書店就成爲咗我同唔同人建立關係嘅橋梁 【1:00】| 更加係一個自我成長嘅機會 | 雖然我係喺美國長大,但係我爹哋媽咪都係香港人 | 所以,我對香港呢個地方都有一種情意結 | 而呢間書店正正俾咗我融入新蒲崗呢個社區 | 過去一段時間,香港經歷好多風浪,甚至到今日都仲喺風浪當中 | 但係就喺困難當中,我更加認清香港係我屋企

● 自我成長 jih6 ngóh5 sìhng4 jéung2 = personal growth (lit. “self-growth”); I have also come across 自我發展 in the sense of “developing according to your own wishes (rather than those of your parents)” | ● 爹哋 dē1 dih6 = daddy | ● 情意結 chìhng4 yi3 git3 = “special feelings” (subtitles) cf. 情結 = (psychological) complex |● 融入 yùhng4 yahp6 = to blend in; to fuse with; to be in harmony with

Note: Post-modifying expressions such as 呢個地方 in the noun-phrase香港呢個地方are very common in Cantonese. I don’t understand this usage very well, but one function may be to add clarification to proper nouns. The second example especially 新蒲崗呢個社區 helps make it quite clear to the listener that 新蒲崗 is a place-name, potentially unfamiliar to some listeners.

有人覺得做二手書店係夕陽行業 | 我深信實體書係有一種永恆價值 | 希望清明堂能夠建立一個 cultural value(文化價值)| 即使你唔鍾意睇書,都可以上嚟逛,我隨時都歡迎你 | 我叫溫敬豪,七百萬嘅故仔成就一個香 . . . 港故仔

● 夕陽行業 jihk6 yèuhng4 hòhng4 yihp6 = a sunset industry | ● 深信 sām1 seun3 = to be deeply convinced; to firmly believe cf. 相信 sēung1 seun3 = to believe | ● 實體書 saht6 tái2 syū1 = “physical books” (subtitles); in other words, “books as physical objects” | ● 永恆價值 wíhng5 hàhng4 gaa3 jihk6 = (?) permanent/lasting value | ● 逛 kwaang3 = usually “to stroll; to ramble”; here, perhaps “to come & have a look around” | ● 成就 sìhng4 jauh6 = an achievement; to achieve

Note: 即使 jīk1 sí2 is possibly a rather formal word with the meaning of “even if”, equivalent to the more colloquial 就算 jauh6 syun3. Observe how, like 就算, it is followed by 都 dōu1 in the main clause.

Here, Especially, the Unassuming Loner Inches Inches Closer to a Particle of Half-truth

In each or any fraction of this work, there is no actual measurable sign of success.

Simply one wishes into the dark for yet another word, and tries to climb by personal pencil possibly higher than the known world’s stockpile of lead.

Eyes stare stars into space . . .

Minutes minute and hours hour almost identically . . .

Flesh and bone become ever so gently enemies of a hardwoodenchair.

Somehow sometimes pitch black ringing in the candle is turned utterly inside out, and wins for the language just a moment of freshness a century, or two, from today.

But is it really always the case that for we human beings “time alone will tell”?

Yes, absolutely ⸺ all our time alone.

Photograph: 香港龍躍頭麻笏圍附近 Somewhere near Ma Wat Wai, Lung Yeuk Tau, Hong Kong

The Good News about Hong Kong Newts

Here is another fascinating video on the Hong Kong (warty) newt or 香港瘰螈 Hēung1 Góng2 ló2 yùhn4, put together by RTHK. (Please remember that the correct measure word or classifier for this noun is 條 tìuh4 or 隻 jek3!) In it, 劉彥芹 Anthony Làuh4 Yihn6 Kàhn4, now a professor at Lingnan University, talks about his research into the newts and provides some good news about their current flourishing.

On the whole, Lau is a clear speaker and, despite the occasional 噉 gám2 at the beginning of sentences, there is very little else in the way of fillers or sentence particles.

Of course, much of the vocabulary involves the natural world and environmental protection: listen out for 蠑螈 wìhng4 yùhn4 = salamander; 幼體 yau3 tái2 = larva; 蝌蚪 fō1 dáu2 = tadpole; 遷徙 chīn1 sáai2 = to move; to migrate; 溪澗 kāi1 gaan3 = mountain stream; 無線電嘅追蹤器 mòuh4 sin3 dihn6 ge3 jēui1 jūng1 hei3 = radio tracking device; and 棲息地 chāi1 sīk1 deih6 = habitat. The pièce de résistance for me is the expression 碩果僅存 sehk6 gwo2 gan2 chyuhn4, which means a “rare survival” in the ecological context. The Far East Chinese-English Dictionary offers these following alternative translations: “the only remaining of the great (sic)” or “the only one of its kind to have survived”.

Other must-learn items include 得出結果 dāk1 chēut1 git3 gwó2 = to obtain a result; 匿埋 nēi màaih = to hide; 頑强 wàhn4 kèuhng4 = tenacious; and 九成九 gáu2 sìhng4 gáu2 = 99 percent.

On the grammar front, this video provides a timely opportunity to review the main uses of 啲 dī1. These include:

1. A plural marker for countable nouns: 將啲樹斬嗮

Interestingly, nouns considered to be uncountable or abstract in English can also take 啲 dī1 in Cantonese: 之前就有啲研究就發現咗 = previously, research [which probably implies “various items of research”] had discovered that

2. As a comparative marker with adjectives: 嗰啲生存率、存活率係高啲嘅 = the rates are higher

3. Used to form the common demonstrative adjectives and pronouns these, those, some [一啲] etc.: 嗰啲族群 = those groups; 當地嘅一啲有尾目; 放一啲無線電嘅追蹤器; 嗰啲澗入 = those mountain streams; 嗰啲BB仔 = those baby (newts); 嗰啲樹林 = those forests

As it happens, there is no use of 呢啲 = “these” in this video.

I have included some discussion about the aspect markers 返 fāan1 and 住 jyuh6 with the relevant passages. Another small but important point is the use of the verb “to come” 嚟 làih4/lèih with time expressions. For example, the reporter uses 多年嚟 = for many years. Basically, 嚟 here creates a time expression that is open (on-going up to the time of speaking) and of some duration (that is, not a point in time).

You will also come across various helpful structures, such as: 除咗 . . . 之外 = in addition to; 除非 = unless; and 嗮 = all; complete, e.g. 以前嗰啲樹林差唔多斬嗮嘅時候呢 = previously, when those forests had all but been chopped down

This video has recently (September 2021) been removed from the RTHK website. However, you can listen to the audio here:


Series Title: 生態人 / People of the Ecology

Caption: 尋找香港瘰螈的足跡 / In Search of the Footprints of the Hong Kong Newt

劉彥芹:我叫劉彥芹呀 | ah 浸會大學生物系嘅一個講師呢 | 我本身係一個生態學家 | 主要研究就係 eh 兩同埋爬蟲類 | 分別對佢嘅保育同埋生態比較有興趣

● 劉彥芹 Làuh4 Yihn6 Kàhn4 = Anthony Lau Yin-Kun | ● 兩棲 léuhng5 chāi1 = amphibian | ● 爬蟲類 pàah4 chùhng4 leuih6 = reptile

Lau Yin-Kun: My name is [Anthony] Lau Yin-Kun | I am a lecturer in the biology department of Hong Kong Baptist University

劉彥芹:主要 project 就係 eh 想研究香港嘅瘰螈嗰啲族群 | 究竟有冇真菌病係會影響佢哋 | 真菌病呢,就喺世界其他地方被引入之後呢 | 就對當地嘅一啲有尾目呢,造成好大嘅傷害 | 之前就有啲研究就發現咗 | 深圳個族群呢,就係有呢種病,但係又好似受到影響 | 噉我就想知道呢種病究竟喺野生嘅蠑螈入便 | 究竟有幾普及喇 | 同埋佢哋點解唔會受到嗰病影響 | 得出結果呢,就有可能會幫到【1:00】其他地方 | 受到呢種病影響嗰啲有尾目

● 族群 juhk6 kwàhn4 = (?) group | ● 真菌病 jān1 kwán2 behng6 = (?) fungal infection | ● 引入 yáhn5 yahp6 = to introduce from elsewhere | ● 有尾目 yáuh5 méih5 muhk6 = caudate | ● 野生 yéh5 sāng1 = wild | ● 蠑螈 wìhng4 yùhn4 = salamander | ● 普及 póu2 kahp6 = to spread

Note: Sometimes, the idea of “from” can sometimes be expressed in Cantonese by 喺 hái2 rather than the usual 由 yàuh4, hence the phrase就喺世界其他地方被引入 = were introduced from other parts of the world.

Lau Yin-Kun: An important project is to try to find out a bit more [想研究吓] about that cohort [(?) 族群] of Hong Kong newts, and to see whether [究竟有冇] they have been affected by fungal diseases or not. After fungal diseases were introduced from other parts of the world, they have been very damaging to the caudates of this part of the world. Previously, research had discovered that the cohort of [newts] in Shenzhen had contracted this kind of disease, but did not seem to have been affected by it. So, what we would like to know is how widely spread [究竟有幾普及] this disease is among [Hong Kong] newts born in the wild, and why they have not been affected by it. The results we obtain could be of help to caudates in other places affected by this disease.

劉彥芹:拎住 sample 返去實驗室嗰度喇,跟住就會做一個基因嘅測試咁樣嘅 | 睇吓每一個族群入便 | 大概有幾多成嘅瘰螈係帶有嗰種病 | 或者冇帶有嗰種病 | 噉另外, 都想研究吓天氣因素啦、又或者水嘅溫度呀 | 會唔會對嗰種病嗰個普及程度 | 有冇影響呢

Lau Yin-Kun: [We] take a sample back to the laboratory, and then we do a genetic test [基因嘅測試] to see approximately how many Hong Kong newts in each cohort [族群] are carrying this disease or not carrying it. In addition, [we’d] like to find out a bit more about whether weather factors and the temperature of the waters has any effect on the degree to which that disease spreads.

同事: 重量 10.5 gram

Colleague: Weight, 10.5 grams

記者:劉彥芹 Anthony 係香港瘰螈嘅專家 | 除咗呢個關於真菌嘅研究之外 | 亦都進行緊另一個香港瘰螈幼體嘅研究

● 幼體 yau3 tái2 = larva; the young cf. 成體 sìhng4 tái2 = adult (newt)

Reporter: Lau Yin-Kun (Anthony, in English) is an expert on the Hong Kong newt. Apart from this research on fungal diseases, he is also doing research on the larvae [幼體] of the Hong Kong newt.

劉彥芹:香港瘰螈嘅幼體同成體個樣係唔一樣呀 | 就係 *jai 佢好似一條蝌蚪咁樣 | 但係就有手有 | 蝌蚪同埋有個 eh 外鰓咁樣喇 | 點解開始我會對呢樣有興趣呢 | 因爲我成日喺嗰啲澗入便捉蠑螈 | 噉可能就會見到好多蠑螈呢 | 但係就唔會見到好多【2:00】BB仔呀 | 噉我就覺得係唔係嗰啲BB仔全部都匿埋喇 | 噉但係之前我都偶然發現 | 如果喺實驗室養佢哋時候呢 | 佢哋會 eh 食佢哋嘅同類嘅 | 噉我就想研究吓係唔係因爲冇嘢食 | 先會令到佢食同類呢 | 定係其實 eh 食同類根本 係佢進化上嘅 | 其中一個重要嘅功,功能 | 就係 *jai 冇嗰樣嘢 | 佢哋就絕大部分都唔會變到中成體

● 蝌蚪 fō1 dáu2 = tadpole | ● 外鰓 ngoih6 sōi1 = external gills |● 匿埋 nēi màaih = to hide| ● 偶然 [ng]auh6 yìhn4 = accidental; fortuitous; chance | ● 同類 tùhng4 leuih6 = one’s own kind; of the same species | ● 進化 jeun3 faa3 = evolution | 中成體 jūng1 sìhng4 tái2 is not listed in my dictionaries, but it does appear on the internet with the sense of an intermediate stage in the life-cycle, midway [中] between larva and adult.

Note: I have noticed that when 佢 is used to refer to non-human subjects, speakers tend to switch between plural 佢哋 and singular 佢 without much regard for consistency.

Lau Yin-Kun: The larvae of the Hong Kong and the adult form [成體] look different. They are like a tadpole, but a tadpole with arms and legs as well as having external gills. Why did I get interested in this in the beginning? The reason is, I spent a lot of time [成日] catching newts [蠑螈] in mountain streams, and I might see a lot of them, but I wouldn’t see many babies. I wondered [我就覺得] whether the babies all hid themselves away. However, previously, I made the chance discovery [偶然發現] that baby newts tended to eat one another when reared in the laboratory. And so, I wanted to find out a bit more about whether they only ate one another because they didn’t have anything [else] to eat or because in fact it was fundamentally an important function in their evolution. That is, without this, the majority of them would not turn into adult [newts].

劉彥芹:香港蠑螈係一種以香港命名嘅動物喇 | 亦都係香港唯一種有尾目 | 噉我覺得佢係非常之獨特喇 | 另外,佢嗰個生活習性我都覺得係幾有趣 | 一般人會諗,遷徙嘅動物就會諗起雀仔喇 | 但係 *dai 其實蠑螈都係一種會遷徙嘅動物 | 佢都係 eh 季節性咁樣會遷徙呢 | 呢樣嘢我覺得非常之特別 | 佢哋分佈,其實,非常之廣 | 但係九成九嘅香港人可能都唔知咩叫【3:00】香港蠑螈 | 其中原因就係 ah 好少見到佢哋 | 就係 *jai 除非特登會找去佢哋溪澗嗰度 | 因爲佢有「香港」呢個名呢 | 亦都係一個好頑强嘅動物嚟㗎 | 以前嗰啲樹林差唔多斬嘅時候呢 | 佢都可以碩果僅存呀 | 噉而家嗰啲樹林開始返返嚟喇 | 佢個數量跟住再上升返 | 我覺得係一個比較好嘅一個例子呀

● 生活習性 sāng1 wuht6 jaahp6 sing3 = (life) habits & characteristics | ● 遷徙 chīn1 sáai2 = to move; to migrate; to change one’s residence | ● 季節性 gwai3 jit3 sing3 = seasonal | ● 廣泛 gwóng2 faahn6 = extensive; wide-ranging; widespread | ● 九成九 gáu2 sìhng4 gáu2 = 99 percent | ● 溪澗 kāi1 gaan3 = mountain stream | ● 頑强 wàhn4 kèuhng4 = indomitable; staunch; tenacious | ● 斬 jáam = to cut (for firewood) | ● 碩果僅存 sehk6 gwo2 gan2 chyuhn4 = rare survival | ● 數量 sou3 leuhng6 = quantity; amount

Note: Firstly, the aspect marker 返 fāan1 is used a few times here in ways that seem a bit tautological. In the first instance, it is added to the verb 返, which already means “to go back”, in the phrase 嗰啲樹林開始返返嚟喇, where it reinforces the idea of the “regeneration” of the forests. 返 is also used in 再上升返 = “are rising again”, where 再 also gives the meaning of “again”. There is also the case of 計返佢嗰個平均距離 = “calculating the average distance for a newt”, which appears in the final paragraph. Literally, this means “to calculate back” and perhaps has the sense of working through the numbers to get back to an average distance. It is a reminder that 返 fāan1 may sometimes have rather idiomatic meanings. Secondly, 特登 dahk6 dāng1 is a common Cantonese colloquialism that means “purposely; on purpose; deliberately; intentionally; specially; especially”.

Lau Yin-Kun: The Hong Kong newt is a creature named after Hong Kong [以香港命名嘅] and it is Hong Kong’s only type of caudate. I think that it is extremely special. Furthermore, its life habits and characteristics are, I feel, quite interesting. Now your average person [一般人] thinks, [when it comes to] animals that move around, of birds, but in fact newts are also animals that move about. They move according to the season [季節性]. This I feel is something extremely special. Their distribution is, in actual fact, extremely extensive, but 99 percent of Hong Kong people have no idea what a Hong Kong newt is [都唔知咩叫香港蠑螈]. One reason for this is that [people] seldom see them unless [they] make a special [特登] trip to look for [one of] their mountain stream[s]. Because it has “Hong Kong” in its name, it is also a very tenacious creature. Previously, when those forests had all but [差唔多] been chopped down, they managed to be [可以] a rare survival. Now these forests are beginning to come back and along with this its numbers are rising again. I think that this is a pretty good example.

記者:Anthony 口中「比較好嘅例子」 | 係指喺香港多年嚟嘅保育工作中 | 香港瘰螈係難得有比較好消息嘅動物

Reporter: What Anthony calls “a pretty good example” refers to [the fact that], in the work done over many years to protect Hong Kong’s environment, the Hong Kong newt is one creature for which there has been that rare thing: quite good news.

劉彥芹:大概喺我七年嘅時間 | 兩個我研究族群 | 都差唔多 ah 增加咗大概五十至到八十嘅 percent 咁樣 | 應該同嗰個森林嘅恢復度有關呢 | 我哋發現森林比較完好嘅地方 | 或者成熟森林嘅地方呢 | 嗰啲蠑螈【4:00】嗰啲生存率、存活率係高啲嘅 | 差唔多高升二十至三嘅 percent,比起嗰啲樹林冇緊密嘅地方

● 森林 sām1 làhm4 = forest | ● 恢復度 fūi1 fuhk6 douh6 = (?) degree of recovery/restoration/regeneration | ● 完好 yùhn4 hóu2 = intact; whole; in good condition | ● 生存率 saang1 chyùhn4 léut6*2 = (?) the number of individuals in existence | ● 存活率 chyùhn4 wuht6 léut6*2 = survival rate | ● 緊密 gán2 maht6 = usu. “close together”; perhaps “dense” in this context

Note: I am not sure whether the terms 生存率 and 存活率 refer to different things, or both mean “survival rate”. Observe, too, how “thirty” is expressed by 三 sāam1 alone in the phrase 差唔多高升二十至三嘅 percent; the context is enough to make it clear!

Lau Yin-Kun: Roughly over the course of my seven years, the two cohorts that I have been studying have, roughly, increased by approximately fifty to eighty percent. [This] ought to be connected with the degree of recovery in the forests. We discovered that the numbers and the survival rate of Hong Kong newts is higher in places where the forests are relatively intact or are mature by 20 to 30 percent in comparison to those places where the forests are not dense.

記者:香港瘰螈雖然有半年繁殖期 | 不過每條瘰螈大概只會留喺水入便 | 一個至個半月 | 噉其他時間會去咗邊呢?

● 繁殖期 faahn6 jihk6 kèih4 = breeding period/season | ● 一個至個半月 yāt1 go3 ji3 bun3 yuht6 = one to one and a half months

Reporter: Although the Hong Kong newt has a breeding season of six months [半年], each newt only stays in the water for one to one and a half months. Where does it go for the rest of the time [其他時間]?

劉彥芹:之前會放一啲無電嘅追蹤器喺啲蠑螈入便 | 噉就每日就去追蹤佢哋 / / 行 / / | 呢個表其實就係代表住 | 我哋嗰陣時揾到嗰啲蠑螈離開水個距離喇 | 揾咗一百一十七隻 | 計返佢嗰個平均距離喇 | 九十五嘅 percent 嘅瘰螈呢 | 都係喺 within 溪澗大概一百二十米嘅距離 | 譬如你想保育呢種物種嘅棲息地 | 咁你就要離開溪澗呢段距離 | 係唔會受到人爲因素影響 | 或者將啲樹斬嗮

● 無線電嘅追蹤器 mòuh4 sin3 dihn6 ge3 jēui1 jūng1 hei3 = radio tracking device cf. 追蹤 = to follow the trail of; to track; to trace | ● 物動 maht6 júng2 = a species | ● 棲息地 chāi1 sīk1 deih6 = habitat | ● 人爲因素 yàhn4 wàih4 yān1 sou3 = man-made factors; human factors

Note: 代表住 presents a less obvious use of the aspect marker 住 jyuh6. Its basic meaning seems to be one of insistence or persistence of an effect after an initial act. I remember reading somewhere (unfortunately I don’t remember where) that its basic function can be seen in the case of the verb 掛 gwaa3 = to hang. In a simple act of short duration, a picture is hung on the wall, but as a result of this action, it continues to 掛住 “hang” on the wall. The basic meaning of 代表 doih6 biu2 is “to represent”. Perhaps the sense of it is that, once the chart is drawn up, its meaning persists as an enduring after-effect. Earlier in the video, Lau Yin-Kun uses the aspect marker 住 jyuh6 in the phrase 拎住 sample 返去實驗室嗰度. The verb 拎 ning1/ling1 = carry or hold with a hand; lift up. When 住 jyuh6 is added, the effect of the action is extended: from the initial “seizing”, there comes a “holding” or “carrying”. Maybe for this reason 住 jyuh6 also seems to imply in some situations a taking “hold” or getting a firm “grip” on something.

Here are some other examples I came across recently in a clip about the Pak Tai Temple on Cheung Chau:

● 哦,噉所以佢哋呢,就踩住蛇同龜 | 噉就係代表住「邪不能勝正」| 踩住 = to step or tread on; 代表住 = to represent
● 彩擋係做咩呢? | 啫,擋住呢污穢嘅嘢啦  | 擋住 = to obstruct or ward off; here again, the initial positioning of the 彩擋 or “coloured screen” in the temple has a persistent after-effect
● 大家 / / 見到一個老人家呢,就揸住水桶 | 揸住水桶 = to hold/carry a bucket of water
● 就將自己身上嘅佩劍呢,/ / 掟咗落海 / / 鎮壓住啲風浪喎 | 鎮壓住 = to suppress (the wind and the waves). In English, the sense of a persistent after-effect is built into the basic meaning of the verb.

Lau Yin-Kun: Previously, [we] placed radio tracking devices in the newts and tracked [UNCLEAR] their movements every day. This chart actually represents what we found [about] the newts’ distance away from water at that time. [We] found that 117 [UNCLEAR] . . . Calculating the average distance for a newt, 95 percent of them were within approximately 120 metres of a mountain stream. So, for example if you wish to protect the habitat of this species, you must [ensure] that there are no effects from human factors [人爲因素影響] or clearing of trees [將啲樹斬嗮] in this zone bordering the mountain stream.

● Another interesting video on this subject from HK Apple Daily can be viewed here with a rough transcription and English translation:
引水道困死香港瘰螈 水務署仲未知點算?》

“Mother Cat” by 張婉雯 Cheung Yuen Man, translated by Audrey Heijns

Pregnant cats always remind me of Aunt Ng.

When we were still getting to know each other, I found it hard to know how to talk to her. Her voice is very loud, and if she shouts from one end of the street, you can hear what she says at the other end. When the people she hangs round with start discussing political issues, she is liable to suddenly go off on a tangent and start talking about a cat on Yau Ma Tei Street or dog kennels in the northern New Territories, about cats and dogs that were fortunate and those who were unlucky, about volunteers who were poor and others who were very wealthy, long and short stories, one after another. But issues such as policies, rights, pressure groups, social activities… these she knows next to nothing about.

Yet once in a while she calls me to have a chat—no not a chat: in her case she would talk “official business” when she spoke of her days looking after cats and dogs out on the street day after day, about feeding them and taking them to the vet. Sometimes in a single night she would catch seven or eight cats from the neighbourhood and call a van the driver of which she knew and she would pay for transport herself. She would take them to the SPCA to be neutered and then return them to where they came from. That was Aunt Ng’s main job for many years, but besides that she had another profession—she was a casual cleaner.

Just like all affairs of the world, along the way there are bound to be obstacles. Aunt Ng said to me:

“Last night when I caught a street cat, a couple of Nepalese asked: ‘Why are you catching those cats? Are you doing something against the law?’ I told them I was taking them to the vet to get neutered. They said ‘Oh,’ and walked away. But there were some local people instead who made some sarcastic comments. For crying out loud!”

That is why I say that she and I live in two different worlds. While I sit at home sipping hot tea in front of my computer writing essays criticizing the policies of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Aunt Ng is outside on the cold street, hoping to bump into a cat. One winter in the middle of the night, some of the night stores on main street were still open. There was one that had a steaming hotpot on the table where guests were playing the drinking game Chai Mui, they were shouting numbers and drinking. In the dim kerosene lamplight at dawn Aunt Ng transformed into a dark figure at the entrance of the lane. With a cigarette in the corner of her mouth, arms crossed, eyes narrowed, line of vision sneaking off far into the deep lightless alley. The dark figure flew past with a swish, then the cage snapped shut with a click. A sad and shrill cry of a cat was heard. The spark in the dark night that flew mid-air was Aunt Ng’s cigarette stub tossed accurately in the bin nearby. Unhurriedly she walked over, crouched down, tapped the top of the cage with her fingers and laughed saying:

“Dear cat, be good now. You’ll be back in two days.”

That scene is based on my imagination after watching too many martial art movies. In the way I imagined it, there is none of the actual fatigue and frustration. That night, between 12 midnight and four, Aunt Ng caught six cats. Whereas I as the writer, who is good at making things up but hopeless when it comes to taking any real action, was already sleeping like a log.

But Aunt Ng isn’t bothered by that. She only wants to have someone to listen to her. Many of her stories she told me either over the phone or in text messages—she has no idea about the internet. As a result she also doesn’t have any web-friends. She only has real life friends, volunteers, people who listen to her troubles, and in turn she listens to theirs. Everyone feels a bit better after that and returns to the street to continue being busy feeding cats, trapping cats, neutering cats and returning them again … after the torment, cats and humans live on and occasionally bump into some luck and kindness after the fatigue and disappointment. There was a man who would walk his dog every night and he would help Aunt Ng throw dry cat food on top of a high eaves, so that the cats could eat their fill straight away. “He is tall and I am short so when he turns up I don’t need to go looking around for help.”

The other day Aunt Ng received another call for help. “There’s an old lady who keeps a dozen cats. Five of them had feline ringworm (a common type of skin disease) and she didn’t have money to cure them. She said she wanted to commit suicide with the cats in her arms. I said, ‘Don’t even think about it. Ringworm is easy to fix,’ so I went to the pharmacy to buy some ointment, I showed her how to apply it and later all the cats got better. I even had to call her every day just so that she could get a few things off her chest.” I said: “So, Aunt Ng, you care for human beings as well as animals.” It seems that she expected that remark for she chuckled, “Sometimes when you care for cats, you also have to care for their owners.”

Later I finally understood why Aunt Ng would make such a statement: one afternoon many years ago, when she was on her way home, she saw a pregnant mother cat on the side of the road. Only her belly was big—the rest was a bag of bones. Her eyes were closed up because of infection. She was curled up in a ball and shivering in the flowers. When Aunt Ng saw her, it reminded her of something that happened to her many years ago: pregnant, single, no one to take care of her, no money. So then she went out and started to feed stray cats.

That day I arranged to see Aunt Ng, having bought some extra cat medicine and food for her. When I saw her cross the street, she was limping with her left foot, so I asked about her health, and she said that she suffered from joint strain, as a result of all those years lugging the vacuum cleaner back and forth. And staying up late to roam the streets at night to catch cats. I handed over the goods, and she thanked me. Then she told me that she had got three fines from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department—each of them for $1,000. I know it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. Nor is she the only volunteer who gets them. Later I saw her limping into a vet clinic. I know the clinic is kind. It gives 30% discount on the treatment of stray cats. I saw Aunt Ng pull out of her pocket a wad of $500 bills held together with a rubber band.

Officials once proclaimed: “The Trap-Neuter-Return Plan is not ideal.” I wonder what their interpretation of “ideal” is. But I think the view of those honourable senior officials must be very different from that of Aunt Ng’s. Sometimes I run across a mother cat in the street. While next to her a few kids get carried away playing a game, the mother cat looks around carefully and makes sure she protects her kittens. Her demands are voiceless. Yet her dignity is innate. Yes, I see Aunt Ng in every mother cat.


母貓 / 張婉雯















● Cheung Yuen Man likes writing and is concerned with animals. She won the 25th United Daily News Award for fiction debut (short story) in 2011. Her publications include You Are Here 《你在》 (2020), Those were the Cats 《那些貓們》 (2019), Daily of Dust《微塵記》 (2017), Sweeties 《甜蜜蜜》 (2004), and The Pole《極點》 (with Mok Wing Hung). In 2019, Cheung won the Recommendation Award in the Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature, the Hong Kong Bookprize and the Hong Kong Publishing Biennial Award for Daily of Dust.

● Audrey Heijns
, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.