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.

One thought on “Albert Wan, the Temperate Bookseller at Bleak House Books

  1. Reblogged this on Chinaman Creek and commented:

    I felt deeply saddened to hear that Bleak House Books will close down on 15 October. I hope everyone with an interest in Hong Kong and literature will rally at this difficult time. This Kongstories video on Albert Wan and Bleak House Books is a moving tribute . . .


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