“Extinction” by Woo Sai Nga, translated by Audrey Heijns

Dreams have dissolved and
dew has frozen into ice
A quiet collapse takes place
when the traffic light turns red
one steps out
but then retreats to the side of the road

Hold on to your wine glass, the world is plummeting
white bubbles suddenly well up
then vanish into thin air, you have to get closer to hear
the majestic fireworks there, and the sea waves recede
a quiet collapse takes place
when the foam explodes

hot steam, rising up
everything is over
water flows along the inner wall of the bath tub
to the bottom
to the black plughole
without stopping, and also without a sound

time practiced asceticism to become a cross-harbour tunnel
that devours trains, and every type of giant vehicle
inside there are countless black bubbles
a quiet collapse takes place
inside a railway carriage:
you, standing in black time are
watching your reversed reflection, with your own
dark eyes


〈滅〉/ 胡世雅






● Woo Sai Nga, born in Hong Kong, is a member of Fannou Poetry Society. She graduated from the Chinese Department, Baptist University of Hong Kong in 2017 and is now teaching at a secondary school. She publishes poems in literary magazines in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and has won the Youth Literary Award (青年文學獎) and the Award for Creative Writing in Chinese (中文文學創作獎) in Hong Kong. She was the leader of the workshop “Literary Convergence ⸺ May Fourth Hong Kong”, Theatre-in-Education Project (Reading and Writing), held at the Hong Kong Literature Research Centre, The Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2019/20.

● 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.

Storm on the Ng Tung River 梧桐河

The river shivers in its concrete canal,
ludicrously rain-drenched. The surging current
swollen by drains is offset by single
stock-still birds. Their statue is prayer
their hunger prays
to the Gods of Wildlife and Fisheries.
I know I wish I knew how to stand like that:
out of my depth for an unknown good,
intent on the flow of concentration,
and with only the eyes in the back of my head living.

Photograph: 香港沙田萬佛寺 Ten Thousand Buddhas Temple, Sha Tin, Hong Kong (2017)

Hong Kong Uplift Two: Kongstories No. 100

This episode of 港故仔 Kongstories was made to commemorate the remarkable effort of making 100 consecutive videos in as many weeks. It brims with fantastic Kong-optimism and is full of words such as 恩典 yān1 dín2 = grace, 傳奇 chyùhn4 kèih4 = legendary, and 祝福 jūk1 fūk1 = a blessing, words now that possibly only the bravest, most visionary of Hongkongers would dare voice. The inspirational message is summed up in the phrases: 我哋香港人係有能力嘅 | 只要你願意,我哋每個人都可以成就傳奇 . . .

If you are not interested in the Cantonese aspects of the video, please click here to view it — the English subtitles are generally very good.

But if Cantonese is what you’re after, highlights in the language department include the structure 一 … 半 … used with measure words, which seems to convey a sense of “merely” or something like “measly” in English: 拍一條半條 = “to make a measly single video”. Also, there’s the adverb 不間斷 bāt1 gāan1 dyuhn6 = (?) “uninterrupted; without interruption” as well as a number of four-character phrases: 木口木面 muhk6 háu2 muhk6 mihn6 = pudding faced; 一事無成 yāt1 sih6 mòuh4 sìhng4 = accomplish nothing; get nowhere; and 成就傳奇 sìhng4 jauh6 chyùhn4 kèih4 = (?) to accomplish something that becomes a legend.

The episode finishes with a long list of personal names. Apart from being good practice (the list includes some less commonly seen surnames, including 霍 Fok3 and 詹 Jīm1) and you can also use these names to search for further videos in the 港故仔 Kongstories series.

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.


唔收錢咁樣為香港拍片 | 拍一條半條,邊個都得 | 拍十條或者都大有人在,拍到五十條可能已經唔多 | 能夠堅持一百個星期,或者香港開埠以 | 可能只有我 | 港故仔 | 由2016年嘅7月2號開始 | 第一集《港故仔》播出之後 | 不間斷持續一百個星期 | 呢份堅毅完全體現咗香港精神 | 我哋唔係講多過做,我哋做咗先講 | 香港人係有能力、有夢想、有堅持、有作爲 | 我哋每個香港人都可以,只要我哋願意一齊為自己 | 為家庭、為香港走多一步,堅持多一啲 | 我哋嘅香港本身就係一個傳奇 | 過去呢一百個星期,我哋經歷咗好多唔同嘅恩典 | 呢一百個唔同香港嘅故仔【1:00】有希望成爲你哋嘅祝福

● 收錢 sāu1 chín4*2 = to charge (money); to take money for doing sth. | ● 拍片 paak3 pín3*2 = (?) to shoot a film; make a video | ● 開埠 hōi1 fauh6 = lit. “to open a (new) port”; generally used to refer to the English settlement of Hong Kong Island | ● 播出 bo3 chēut1 = to broadcast | ● 不間斷 bāt1 gāan1 dyuhn6 = (?) uninterrupted; without interruption | ● 堅毅 gīn1 ngaih6 = firm & persistent; with unswerving determination; with inflexible will | ● 體現 tái2 yihn6 = to embody; to incarnate; to reflect; to give expression to | ● 作爲 jok3 wàih4 = 1. deed; conduct; act 2. to accomplish; to do something worthwhile | ● 傳奇 chyùhn4 kèih4 = legend; legendary| ● 恩典 yān1 dín2 = favour; grace | ● 祝福 jūk1 fūk1 = a blessing; a benediction

當我哋香港人生活上遇上唔同嘅困難 | 可能會有失意、迷茫、困惑、痛苦嘅時候 | 但係希望你唔好放棄,唔好失去盼望 | 我哋有一百個港故仔去鼓勵你、勉勵你 | 無論你以前係咪曾經喺毒海裏邊或者係讀書唔正 | 或者係木口木面,可能而家係一事無成 | 又或者環境對你有大嘅捆 [擾] | 就算冇人明白你,好似冇人幫到你 | 我哋港故仔好想話你聽:我哋香港人係得嘅 | 我哋香港人係有能力嘅 | 只要你願意,我哋每個人都可以成就傳奇 | 只要你願意,先付出,為別人貢獻自己 | 將來有一日,你會成爲香港嘅傳奇 | 我哋每一個人嘅付出 | 就係成就【2:00】呢個香港東方之珠嘅基石

● 失意 sāt1 yi3 = to have one’s aspirations, plans, etc. thwarted | ● 盼望 paan3 mohng6 = to hope for; to long for; to look forward to | ● 勉勵 míhn5 laih6 = to encourage; to urge | ● 唔正 mh4 jeng3 = not very good | ● 木口木面 muhk6 háu2 muhk6 mihn6 = pudding faced | ● 一事無成 yāt1 sih6 mòuh4 sìhng4 = accomplish nothing; get nowhere | ● 捆擾kwan3 yíu2 = to perplex; to puzzle (subtitles have 捆綁 = usu. to bind; to tie up) | ● 成就傳奇 sìhng4 jauh6 chyùhn4 kèih4 = (?) to accomplish something that becomes a legend | ● 為別人貢獻自己 wàih4 bīt1 yàhn4 gung3 hin3 jih6 géi2 = to devote/dedicate oneself for others | ● 東方之珠 Dūng1 Fōng1 jī1 jyū1 = the Pearl of the Orient | ● 基石 = gēi1 sehk6 = foundation stone; cornerstone

我係梁淑儀 Lèuhng4 Suhk6 Yìh4 / Zoe Leung
我係文曉光 Màhn4 Híu2 Gwōng1 / Henry Man
我叫黎演樂 Làih4 Yín2 Lohk6 / Lock Lai
我係鄭淦元 Jehng6 Gam3 Yùhn4 / Ken Cheng
我叫藍全傑 Làahm4 Chyùhn4 Giht6 / Manson Lam
我就江富德 Gōng1 Fu3 Dāk1 / Kong Fu Tat
我叫陳浩源 Chàhn4 Houh6 Yùhn4 / Denial Chan
我叫做謝寳達 Jeh6 Bóu2 Daaht6 / Donald Tse
我叫黃明慧 Wòhng4 Mìhng4 Wai3 / Jennifer Wong
我叫志鵬 Fok3 Ji3 Pàahng4 / Thomas Fok
我叫黃岳永 Wòhng4 Ngohk6 Wíhng5 / Erwin Huang
我係羅孟慶 Lòh4 Máahng5 Hing3 / Jeff Law
我係張柏淳 Jēung1 Paak3 Sèuhn4 / Dennis Shun
我係阿露。何嘉露 Hòh4 Gāa1 Louh6 / I am Lu
我叫糖兄峰 (潘雲峰) Pūn1 Wàhn4 Fūng1 / I am Poon Wan Fung
我叫麥心睿 Mahk6 Sām1 Yeuih6 / I am Lesley Mak
我哋叫 The Wave
我叫詹家俊 Jīm1 Gāa1 Jeun3 / I am Wallnex Jim
我叫黃子財 Wòhng4 Jí2 Chòih4 / I am Colon Wong

香港土生土長 | 七百萬個故仔 | 成就一個香 . . . 港故仔

Learning Cantonese: Kin-man’s Bookroom, Kim Dae Jung’s Prison Writings (Part 1)

陳健民 Chan Kin-man is a very thoughtful fellow and he uses the videos collected in his 健民書房 series to illuminate Hong Kong’s current predicament by offering ideas and insights from the books he has grappled with. In this episode, he tackles the question “Why do good people suffer?” via the prison letters of Korean democracy activist 金大中 Kim Dae Jung. Along the way, he also brings in a visit to Jimmy Lai, still in detention until his forthcoming trial in April or May, Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, and some of the ideas of the French philosopher, priest and palaeontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Chan uses plenty of sophisticated vocabulary, much of which is worth making your own. You’ll notice too that he tends to pronounce the third-person pronoun 佢 as héuih5 and is a heavy user of that common filler 即係 *je!

Please scroll down for my transcription and notes (the transcription is a bit rough in places, but the translation is pretty accurate, because I’ve been able to use the subtitles to fill in the parts I can’t hear clearly). You can view the video here (you are offered subtitles in both English and Standard Written Chinese). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

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.

I will add the second part of this episode in the coming weeks . . .


各位,歡迎返到我健民書房 | 前幾日我走去探黎智英先生 | 啊,非常之,即係 *je ,深感觸嘅一次探訪啦 | 我亦都 Facebook 裏邊寫一個 post 【貼文】啦 | 啊見到一個傳媒嘅老闆 | 著住件,即係 *je ,殘舊嘅囚衣 | 坐喺個探訪室玻璃窗嘅另一面 | 當然我係有特別深嘅感觸啦 | 噉但係就覺得自己嘅生命係活喺上帝嘅恩典裏邊 | 佢亦都相信上帝對佢嘅人生自有安排嘅 | 噉,呃,好多人都話,喂,其實你一早應該要走剌 | 佢就話,佢能夠為香港做多事因爲佢留咗落 | 噉佢覺得係無怨無悔嘅 | 我覺得佢係非常之堅强呀,哈 | 噉作爲一個天主教徒我好相信呢,佢嘅信仰係支撐住佢嘅 | 但當佢一講到屋企人嗰陣時候 | 特別係覺得屋企人好擔心佢呢 | 佢就差唔多,即係 *je ,講唔到,即係 *je ,説話

● 黎智英 Làih4 Ji3 Yīng1 = Jimmy Lai Chee-ying | ● 感觸 gám2 jūk1 = thoughts & feelings; feeling (感觸 is regularly used with 深 sām1 = deep)| ● 殘舊 chàahn4 gauh6 = tattered; ragged; worn out | ● 囚衣 chàuh4 yī1 = prison clothes | ● 探訪室 taam3 fóng2 sāt = (?) visitors room | ● 恩典 yān1 dín2 = grace | ● 自有安排 jih6 yáuh5 [ng]ōn1 pàaih4 = (?) has His own arrangements | ● 無怨無悔 mòuh4 yun3 mòuh4 fui3 = have neither complaints nor regrets | ● 堅强 gīn1 kèuhng4 = strong; firm; staunch | ● 支撐 jī1 chāang1 = to prop up; to sustain; to support

Note: The grammar of the sentence 噉做爲一個天主教徒我好相信呢,佢嘅信仰係支撐住佢嘅 actually suggests that Chan Kin-man is himself a Catholic, but in actual fact the phrase 我好相信呢 is an insertion, and possibly even a form of displacement, coming between 做爲一個天主教徒 and the preposition it modifies, 佢.

Welcome all of you to my “Kin-man’s Bookroom”.  A few days ago, I paid a visit to Mr Jimmy Lai, an extremely moving, a deeply moving, visit. I also wrote a post about it on Facebook. Of course, I was deeply moved, seeing this media boss dressed in ragged prison clothes sitting on the other side of a glass window in the visitors room. He, however, felt that he lived his life in the grace of God [係活喺上帝嘅恩典裏邊]. He was also of the belief that God had made arrangements of His own [自有安排] for Lai’s existence. Many people have said that he should have left [Hong Kong] long ago, [but] to this he replied that the reason why he has been able to do so much for Hong Kong is because he stayed. He felt that he had nothing to complain of and has no regrets. My sense is that he is exceptionally strong. Since he is a Catholic, I firmly believe that his faith sustains him. However, once he began to talk about his family, and feeling in particular that his family was very worried about him, it was hard for him to go on talking [講唔到説活].

【1:00】 | 甚至流眼淚落嚟嘅 | 噉啊作爲,即係 *je ,曾經坐過監嘅人 | 即係 *je ,對於屋企人嘅内疚我係好完全理解得到嘅 | 噉啊離開咗呢個監獄之後唔夠半個鐘頭呢 | 政府就宣佈呢,用國安法繼續係加控,即係 *je ,黎智英嘅罪名嘅 | 噉佢要,即係 *je ,繼續被還押至到出年四月呢,係先至受審嘅 | 即係 *je 話,未有罪都好啦,已經要坐四五個月嘅監獄嘅 | 噉呢個就係 *jai 香港嘅情況 | 喺佢探訪之後,我係諗起,呃,一本書 | um 亦都係今日呢個健民書房同大家分享嘅 | 因爲嗰個對話好宗教性 | 咁我就諗起 um, 即係 *je ,韓國嘅民主運動嘅金大中 | 佢喺獄中裏邊呢,就寫咗好多信 | 噉啊編咗本書叫做 Prison Writings | 噉啊唔係幾好睇我當時覺得 | 因爲實在太過宗教性喇 | um ,金大中呢 . . .

● 内疚 noih6 gau3 = compunction; guilty conscience | ● 還押 wàahn4 [ng]aat3 = (?) to be remanded in custody | ● 受審 sauh6 sám2 = to stand trial; to be tried | ● 宗教性 jūng1 gaau3 sing3 = of a religious nature | ● 金大中 Gām1 Daaih6 Jūng1 = Kim Dae Jung

He even shed tears. As someone who has spent time in prison, I perfectly comprehend this feeling of guilt with regard to one’s family. Less than half an hour after leaving the prison, the government announced that they would continue to add charges against Jimmy Lai by using the National Security Law. He will remain in custody [awaiting trial] until April or May next year. Which means that, even though he has not yet been found guilty, he still has to spend four or five months in prison. This is what the situation is like in Hong Kong. After my visit to him, I thought of a book, one that I am also sharing with you all today in “Kin-man’s Bookroom”.  Because my interchange with Lai was of quite a religious nature, it made me think of Kim Dae Jung, [a figure in] Korea’s democracy movement. While he was in jail, he wrote a great many letters. These were put together in a book called Prison Writings. Not a great read I thought when I first read it because it was too religious. Now Kim Dae Jung . . .

【2:00】噉係韓國嘅,即係 *je ,民主運動嘅領袖啦 | 佢曾經有一件好傳奇嘅事情 | 就喺1973年當佢流亡去到日本呢 | 韓國嘅政府呢,竟然係派佢哋,即係 *je ,C.I.A. ,哈,佢哋嘅中央情報局呢 | 走到日本裏邊擄劫咗佢呢,係返返去,呃,即係 *je ,韓國嘅 | 而喺嗰個公海嗰度呢,甚至係將佢綁咗喺石頭度 | 諗住抌佢落海呢,就整死佢嘅 | 但係點知道呢,就美國嘅,即係 *je ,軍方呢,就一路就知道呢件事情 | 噉就派飛機喺架船嘅上空裏邊呢,係徘徊 | 噉啊一路監察住佢之後呢,呢個韓國嘅軍政府先至冇落手嘅 | 噉啊結果就送返返去,即係 *je ,韓國嘅本土嘅 | 噉但係佢喺呢個1980年嗰陣時候呢 | 因爲呢個光州嘅事件呢 | 佢係曾經被政府呢,係被,呃,控告 | 跟住就送到軍事法庭裏邊呢,告佢一個叛亂罪嘅

● 領袖 líhng5 jauh6 = leader | ● 傳奇 chyùhn4 kèih4 = as an adjective, this means “legendary”, referring to someone “unusual” [奇] whose exploits are “passed on down” [傳] through the ages | ● 中央情報局 Jūng1 Yēung1 Chìhng4 Bou3 Guhk6 = the Central Intelligence Agency | ● 擄劫 lóuh5 gip3 = (?) to abduct | ● 公海 gūng1 hói2 = the high seas | ● 丟抌 dīu1 dám2 = (?) to throw away; to discard | ● 整死 jíng2 séi2 = (?) to kill; to do away with | ● 軍方 gwān1 fōng1 = the military | ● 徘徊 pùih4 wùih4 = usu. “to pace up & down” or “to wander”, but here the context suggests “to hang around” or “to fly back and forth (overhead)” | ● 軍政府 gwān1 jing3 fú2 = a military government | ● 落手 lohk6 sáu2 = usu. “to set about”; perhaps “to lay a hand on” or “to do the deed” here | ● 本土 bún2 tóu2 = one’s native country | ● 光州嘅事件 Gwōng1 Jāu1 ge3 Sih6 Gín6*2 = the Gwangju massacre in the aftermath of the coup d’état of December Twelfth | ● 控告 hung3 gou3 = to charge; to accuse | ● 叛亂罪 buhn6 lyuhn6 jeuih6 = ? cf. 叛亂 = “armed rebellion”

Note: I cannot find a dictionary definition for the compound 擄劫. Also, remember that as a verb 整 jíng2 in Cantonese can take on a whole range of meanings, just like “to make” or “to do” in English. Only the resultative 死 (“dead”) gives the specific meaning of “to kill”.

. . . was a leader in Korea of the democracy movement. Something once happened to him which is the stuff of legends. In 1973, while he was in exile in Japan, the Korean government actually went so far as [竟然] to dispatch members of their own secret service to abduct him and take him back to Korea. [Sailing back] on the high seas, they even went so far as to tie him to a rock [將佢綁咗喺石頭度] with the intention of throwing him down [into the water] in order to kill him. But who would have guessed that the American army had all along known about this matter and so sent an aeroplane to fly back and forth above the ship to keep an eye on it and only because of this, the Korean military government did not go through with the killing.  As a result, he was sent back to his own country, Korea. However, in 1980, owing to the Gwangju Massacre, he was charged by the government and sent to [appear before] a military court, where he was accused of the crime of (?) armed rebellion [叛亂罪].

【3:00】就判佢死刑嘅 | 噉結果喺美國同埋日本嘅壓力底下呢,先至係轉咗係一個,即係 *je ,入獄嘅一個嘅,即係 *je ,嘅懲罰 | 噉啊結果,獄中裏邊呢,先係,呃,坐咗大概六個月度,五、六個月都係單獨監禁嘅 | 跟住呢,先只係正式監禁大概年幾兩年度 | 佢就離開監獄嘅 | 噉佢坐過五、六個月呢,有啲似而家,即係 *je ,黎智英個情況呢,黎智英而家都係單獨監禁緊嘅 | 佢,呃,除咗嗰次嘅監禁之外呢,1985年至到86年呢,佢亦都係被軟禁,哈 | 就唔係正正式式喺監獄裏邊呢,係被軟禁嘅 | 噉所以其實佢陸陸續續咁樣不斷咁樣係坐監呀 | 受到生命嘅威脅嘅 | 佢喺佢坐監同埋被軟件期間呢 | 佢都係容許寫信俾屋企人 | 但係都係一張紙,一個信箋嘅 | 喺一張好薄嘅紙

● 死刑 séi2 yìhng4 = the death penalty | ● 入獄 yahp6 yuhk6 = to be put in prison; to be sent to jail | ● 懲罰 chìhng4 faht6 = to punish; to penalize | ● 度 dóu2 = roughly; approximately; almost | ● 單獨監禁 dāan1 duhk6 gāam1 gam3 = (?) solitary confinement | ● 有啲似 yáuh5 dī1 chíh5 = there is something of a resemblance to | ● 軟禁 yúhn5 gam3 = to put sb. under house arrest | ● 陸陸續續 luhk6 luhk6 juhk6 juhk6 = one after another; in succession| ● 容許 yùhng4 héui1 = to tolerate; to permit; to allow | ● 信簡 seun3 gáan2 = ? cf. 簡 gáan2 = letter; note; bamboo slip (for writing on) (In Cantonese 信箋 seun3 jin3 = “letter paper” is not (generally) used, it would seem.)

Subsequently, he was given the death penalty but, under pressure from the United States and Japan, this was reduced [轉咗] to punishment by imprisonment [instead]. As a result, he was put in prison for approximately 6 months, he was in solitary confinement for 5 or 6 months, then after that, he officially went to prison for roughly two years. He spent 5 or 6 months in prison, a bit like what has happened to Jimmy Lai, who is now in solitary confinement. Apart from this spell in prison, between 1985 and 1986 [Kim Dae Jung] was put under house arrest, not officially in prison but under house arrest. So, he spent his time in one form of prison or another [不斷咁樣係坐監] and he lived in danger of his life [受到生命嘅威脅嘅]. While he was in prison and under house arrest, he was permitted to write letters to his family, but only one piece of paper, a sheet of letter paper, on a sheet of very thin paper . . .

【4:00】就寫嗮下落去,而且經過政治審查 | 所以佢信裏邊呢,其實好少係講到政治嘅問題 | 基本上咪都係講佢嘅宗教信仰呀 | 呃,講佢,即係 *je ,點樣叮囑佢啲屋企人點樣去到呢,好好,即係 *je ,過生活呀 | 教啲細路仔讀大學時報咩科呀,咁樣嘅 | 噉呢一次呢,我係佢嘅呢本書裏邊呢,就揀咗一封信呢 | 係喺1985年佢軟禁嗰陣時11月2號寫嘅 | 呢封信係,呃,我覺得係好特別嘅封信呢 | 封信個題目係 “What is This Called My Life?” ,呢個:我的生命究竟係啲咩嘢呢 |  「我嘅生命究竟係啲咩嘢呢」就係 *jai 呢封信嘅主旨嚟㗎 | 噉呢封信佢寫嘅嗰陣時佢緣起呢 | 就係佢一朝早起身嗰陣時候呢 | 佢望出去出邊嗰個花園嗰度呢 | 佢發覺呢 . . .

● 審查 sám2 chàah4 = to examine; to investigate | ● 叮囑 dīng1 jūk1 = to urge again & again; to warn; to exhort | ● 主旨 jyú2 jí2 = purport; substance; gist | ● 緣起 yùhn4 héi2 = genesis; origin | ● 出邊 chēut1 bīn1 = outside

. . . the whole of [these letters] were written down and were inspected for political content [經過政治審查]. For this reason, there is actually little discussion of political matters [in them]. Basically, the letters talk about things such as religious faith, advising his family how to go about living a good life, and instructing his children about what subjects they should take at university. Now on this occasion I have chosen one letter that was written on 2 November 1985 while he was under house arrest. This letter is one I feel to be a very special letter. It bears the title of [個題目係] “What is This Called My Life?” (sic) [Kin-man then provides a translation in Cantonese]. And “What is This Called My Life?” is the main substance [主旨] of this letter. In this letter, he writes that it all started [佢緣起] when he got up one morning and looked out at the garden outside, and discovered that . . .

【5:00】. . . 佢所種嘅花呢,除咗菊花之外呢,其他全部呢,都死 | 就好似我哋嘅呢幾日突然間天氣凍呢 | 噉花呢,都突然間就凋謝咗喇 | 佢有個好强烈嘅哀愁同埋空虛嘅感覺 | 噉佢話呢,其實一個人呢,當你被某啲吸引住呢 | 噉開始你就有種依戀嘅話呢,咁你就要承受一種,即係 *je ,分離之苦喇 | 噉你可能依戀住就係呢啲花 | 呢啲花死嗰陣時,你就有一種憂愁嘅感覺 | 如果你就依戀你屋企人嘅話 | 當你同佢哋分離 | 譬如話你坐監嘅時候呢 | 你都會承受住呢一種痛苦喇 | 佢寫呢封信陣時 | 佢話佢有好强烈嘅一種,即係 *je ,想家嘅感覺 | 好懷念住佢屋企人 | 噉所以呢封信呢,係好觸動到我嘅 | 我亦都好相信呢,就好似黎智英而家,即係 *je ,呢種嘅狀態 | 噉佢問喇,話其實我啲嘅生命係啲咩嘢呢,咁樣?| 佢話佢自己覺得佢自己嘅人生呢,係充滿咗一連串嘅厄運

● 凋謝 dīu1 jeh6 = to wither & fall | ● 哀愁 ōi1 sàuh4 = sad; sorrowful | ● 依戀 yī1 lyún2 = be reluctant to leave; to feel regret at parting from | ● 承受 sìhng4 sauh6 = to bear; to support; to endure | ● 分離之苦 fān1 lèih4 jī1 fú2 = (?) the pain of separation | ● 憂愁 yāu1 sàuh4 = sad; worried; depressed | ● 想家 séung2 gāa1 = to be homesick | ● 懷念wàaih4 nihm6  = to cherish the memory of; to think of | ● 觸動 jūk1 duhng6 = to move sb.; to stir up sb.’s feelings | ● 厄運 āk1 wahn6 = adversity; misfortune

. . . all the flowers he had planted had all died, apart from the chrysanthemums. It was like the sudden cold snap we’ve had here [in Hong Kong] in these past few days. [In response to] the sudden withering of these flowers, he had very strong feelings of sadness and regret [at the loss]. He says that actually when you feel an attraction for something then you will begin to feel a reluctance to be separated from [it]. And so, you must endure the pain of separation. You may feel reluctant to be separated from some flowers, and when they die, you then have feelings of sadness. If you feel a reluctance to be separated from your family, when you come to be separated from them, for example when you are put in prison, you will also endure a form of pain. When he wrote this letter, he said he was experiencing strong feelings of homesickness and was missing [懷念] his family. For this reason, this letter moved me very much and I can well believe that [what the letter describes] is very much like Jimmy Lai’s situation at present. [So Kim Dae Jung] asks: What actually is this human life of ours? He says that he felt that his own life was filled with a series of misfortunes.

【6:00】正我 . . . 正如我 // 所講呢,係咪,佢走過生死啦、又坐過監咁樣、又被人軟禁咁樣 | 佢話自己好似都 . . . 曾經冇好快樂咁樣生活過 | 噉咩先至係所謂快樂生活過呢 | 就係無憂無慮啦 | 可以同屋企人一齊啦,咁樣 | 佢成日都過唔到呢一種嘅生活嘅 | 噉但佢又追問呢,// 其他好多人其實生活上面都係好舒適嘅 | 亦都可以同屋企人 // 喺埋一齊嘅 | 但係係咪嗰啲人就覺得自己人生好有意義嘅,咁樣? | 佢發覺唔係 | 嗰啲人又覺得好多時候係虛度人生嘅 | 噉所以究竟,即係 *je ,佢嘅生命係咩嘢呢?| 佢冇咗其他平常人嗰種快樂 | 但係係咪佢又覺得佢自己人生冇意義呢,咁樣?  | 佢又覺得佢又唔係呀 | 佢覺得佢冇後悔嘅噃 | 如果佢話佢自己有咩嘢真真正正好難受呢 | 佢覺得第一就話佢想到佢自己 . . .

● 無憂無慮 mòuh4 yāu1 mòuh4 leuih6 = not have a care in the world | ● 舒適 syū1 sīk1 = comfortable; cosy; snug | ● 發覺 faat3 gok3 = to find; to detect; to discover | ● 虛度 hēui1 douh6 = to spend time in vain; to waste | ● 後悔 hauh6 fui3 = to regret; to repent

Note: Someone was kind enough to provide the following explanation of the use of 噃 bō1 in this segment: “I think 噃 bō1 is similar, if not identical to 喎 wō1, which is used like a filler word in English, or to express a slight level of surprise. […] And in 佢覺得佢冇後悔嘅噃, it is even more pronounced since he should, in normal sense, feel that life is meaningless and would feel regret upon reflecting on his experience, yet he feels the opposite: he thinks that he had no regrets. In this case, the 噃 is quite useful to express the contrast in a subtle manner . . .”

Just, just as I mentioned just now, didn’t I, he had been through a lot [走過生死], spending time in prison as well as being put under house arrest. He said that he had never been happy in his life. Now what is needed [咩先至] before we can call something a “happy life”? Being free from all worry, and being able to spend time with one’s family. Such a life he had never enjoyed himself, but then he goes on to ask: There are many people whose lives are very comfortable, who are able to spend time together with their families, but do those people feel that their lives have any meaning? He found that this was not the case. Much of the time, such people felt that they had lived their lives in vain. For this reason, then, what was this thing called his life, when all was said and done [究竟]? He had not had those kinds of happiness that ordinary people have, but did he feel that his own life was meaningless? No, he thought, it was not. He felt that he had no regrets. He said if there was anything that he felt to be truly [真真正正] very hard to bear, he thought firstly of his own . . .

【7:00】. . . 參與喺民主運動裏邊呢,連累咗屋企人 | 噉呢個係一個好深嘅内疚 | 第二樣嘢佢覺得人生裏邊呢,好多人呢,其實都對佢好好嘅 | 亦都咗好多幫忙佢嘅 | 但佢係冇機會呢,去到報恩 | 嗱,呢一種係連累,呃,家人同埋冇法報恩嘅感覺呢 | 係佢 . . . 如果你問佢有咩後悔呢?| 佢覺得比較難受呢 | 其實係,即係 *je ,呢一個,即係 *je ,部分 // | 噉啊佢話,佢對人生其實係一個最大,最大嘅一種嘅疑惑呢 | 就係佢見到佢點樣去就係「殺人放火金腰帶」| 見到呢,就係義人、好人呢,反而係要蒙難嘅 | 噉呢種都唔係我哋話,啊「好人有好報,即係 *je ,惡人有惡報」,唔係咁喎 | 佢見到現實人世唔係咁嘅 | 噉呢個就係佢人生裏邊呢,其實係一個最大最大一個,即係 *je ,疑惑、係個謎團嚟㗎 | 噉佢就喺呢封信裏邊講到呢,中國嘅歷史裏邊呢 . . .

● 連累 lìhn4 leuih6 = to implicate; to involve; to get sb. into trouble | ● 報恩 bou3 yān1 = to pay a debt of gratitude | ● 疑惑 yìh4 waahk6 = feel uncertain; not be convinced | ● 殺人放火金腰帶 saat3 yàhn4 fong3 fó2 gām1 yīu1 daai3 = “murderers & arsonists have their purses full of gold” cf. This is part of a longer phrase used to suggest that only the wicker prosper. The second part reads: 修橋補路冇屍骸 and seems to mean something like “those who build bridges & make roads end up as penniless skeletons (?) | ● 義人 yih6 yàhn4 = ? cf. 義士 yih6 sih6 = a person who upholds justice | ● 蒙難 mùhng4 naahn6= (of a revolutionary) be confronted by danger; fall into the clutches of the enemy | ● 謎團 màih4 tyùhn4 = doubts & suspicions

. . . participation in the democracy movement [and how it] had implicated members of his family. This was a very deep guilt. The second thing was that he felt that many people in his life had actually been very good to him and had helped him enormously, but he had never had the chance to repay his debts of gratitude. Now these feelings [connected with] the implication of family members and the failure to repay his debts of gratitude were his . . . If you asked him whether he had any regrets, what he felt quite distressed about were these [two] parts [of his experience]. He said that in fact his greatest doubts about human life had to do with seeing how “murderers and arsonists have their purses full of gold”, while those who tried to uphold justice, good people, fell into the clutches of the enemy [蒙難]. Now this is not the “good people get good things, while bad people get bad things” we often talk about, it’s not like that. He saw that life in the real world was not like that. Now this was a great doubt he had in his life, a tangled mess of doubts and misgivings [謎團]. In this letter, he goes on to talk about something in Chinese history . . .

【8:00】. . . 呃,司馬遷嘅故事 | 噉啊司馬遷大家知道係一個,即係 *je ,寫,即係 *je ,咁重要嘅中國嘅歷史學家 [啦] | 噉但係當時裏邊呢,喺漢代漢武帝嘅時期裏邊呢 | 佢因爲為咗一個人,係一個將軍,去到辯護 | 因爲呢,當時呢個將軍呢,打敗仗 [呀] | 噉啊漢武帝呢,就要,即係 *je ,要殺佢,咁樣 | 噉佢就講呢,其實唔係罪 . . . 喺佢嘅身上邊 | 因爲只有啲救兵嚟唔切嘅 | 亦都係,[係] 呢個皇帝呢,即係 *je ,暗示呀,係用人嗰陣時係用得不當 | 所以呢,佢冇足夠嘅,即係 *je ,調配呀,即係 *je ,援助呀 | 結果全部都係打 // | 其實佢已經係好勇敢 | 嗱,// 講法呢,其實令到漢武帝就係好 [喇] | [就] 話,係咪我,即係 *je ,唔識,即係 *je ,調兵遣將呢?我用錯人呢?| 啊,你正 // 諷刺緊,即係 *je ,我啫 | 之前其實已經唔係幾滿意司馬遷呢,寫佢嗰陣時候 [呢],有啲嘅伏筆呢 | 其實都喺 [度] 講緊,即係 *je , 個 . . .

● 司馬遷 Sī1 Máah5 Chīn1 = Sima Qian | ● 辯護 bihn6 wuh6 = to speak in defence of; to defend | ● 打敗仗 dáa2 baih6 jeung3 = to suffer a defeat; to be defeated in battle | ● 救兵 gau3 bīng1 = reinforcements | ● 嚟唔切 lèih4 mh4 chit3 = not arrive in time | ● 用得不當 yuhng6 dāk1 bāt1 dōng1 = used inappropriately | ● 調配 diuh6 pui3 = to allocate; to deploy | ● 援助 wùhn4 joh6 = to help; to support; to aid| ● 調兵遣將 diuh6 bīng1 hín2 jeung3 = to move troops; to deploy forces | ● 諷刺 fung3 chi3 = to satirize; to mock | ● 伏筆 fuhk6 bāt1 = usu. a hint foreshadowing later developments in a story, essay, etc.; foreshadowing

. . . the story of Sima Qian. Now as everyone knows, Sima Qian was such an important Chinese historian. However, back in those times, in the days when Han Wu Di was emperor, because he [i.e. Sima Qian] came to the defence of a certain general. Because this general had, at the that time, been defeated in battle, so, Han Wu Di wanted to have him [i.e. the general] put to death. [Sima Qian] said that the crime was not his [i.e. the general’s]. It was merely because reinforcements did not arrive on time. He also implied that this emperor made inappropriate use of army personnel [用人嗰陣時]. And so, he [i.e. the general] did not have a sufficient deployment [調配] or support. And as a result, he was defeated. As a matter of fact, he [i.e. the general] showed great courage. Now [Sima Qian’s] comments enraged Han Wu Di, who asked: Are you saying (?) that I don’t know how to deploy my forces? That I made the wrong use of personnel? You are making fun of me! In fact, before that, [Han Wu Di] had not been too pleased with Sima Qian and, when he wrote about his [i.e. Han Wu Di’s] time [as emperor], there were a few hints of things to come [in his History] in which in fact he was talking about . . .

【9:00】. . . 漢武帝嘅不是嘅 | 噉結果呢,漢武帝呢,就要判佢呢,係死刑 | 噉啊判死刑呢,又有兩個方法解方 . . . 解決方法佢哋 | 嚟呀,[你] 可以取替嘅方案就係你用好多好多錢呢,你 [都] 可以贖身嘅 | 噉但係司馬遷冇 | 第樣嘢呢,就係你可以接受個腐刑 | 所謂「腐刑」,即係 *je 腐爛」嘅「腐」呢,其實就係一個,即係 *je ,宮刑嚟㗎 | 就係呢,要進行閹割嘅 | 噉啊金大中就用呢個故事 [嚟講就話] | 嘩,對一個男士嚟講係幾咁大嘅一個羞辱,去接受呢個咁樣嘅閹割 | 而佢只不過係一個正直個人,講出一啲,即係 *je ,真相,講真話 [呢] | 結果就受到咁樣嘅,即係 *je ,報復 | 噉所以 [佢] 好人唔一定係得到好報 | 噉啊點樣,即係 *je ,解脫呢件事情呢?| 即係 *je ,對呢種嘅疑惑佢 [主要]  點樣去到,即係 *je ,解開嗰啲疑惑呢,咁?| 喺呢封信裏邊呢,就話佢曾經係受到兩個人嘅作品 . . .

● 不是 bāt1 sih6 = (noun) fault; blame | ● 死刑 séi2 yìhng4 = the death penalty | ● 贖身 suhk6 sān1 = (of slaves, prostitutes) to redeem oneself; to buy back one’s freedom | ● 腐刑 fuh6 yìhng4 = (?) cf. 宮刑 | ● 腐爛 fuh6 laahn6 = 1. decomposed; putrid 2. corrupt; rotten | ● 宮刑 gūng1 yìhng4 = castration (a punishment in ancient China) | ● 閹割 yīm1 got3 = to castrate or spay; to emasculate | ● 羞辱 sāu1 yuhk6 = 1. shame; dishonour; humiliation 2. humiliation; to put sb. to shame | ● 正直 jing3 jihk6 = honest; upright; fair-minded | ● 報復 bou3 fuhk6 = to make reprisals; to retaliate | ● 解開 gáai2 hōi1 = to untie; to undo; to get rid of

. . . Han Wu Di’s faults. The upshot was, Han Wu Di condemned him [i.e. Sima Qian] to death. Now there were two options available for avoiding the death penalty. The first way was to [offer a replacement] by giving a lot of money to buy back your life [贖身]. Sima Qian, however, did not [have lots of money]. The second option was to accept a form of punishment known as fu ying. The fu here is that fu that is used in the compound fu laan, meaning “putrid” or “rotten”. This kind of castration, the carrying out of yim got, castration. Kim Dae Jung made use of this story to say that for a man to accept such a punishment by castration was an enormous humiliation. He was no more and no less than a fair-minded man telling the truth, saying what was true. As a result, [he] was on the receiving end [受到] such a form of retaliation. And so he said good people do not necessarily get good things. And so [the question is]: how do we free ourselves from such a thing? How do we rid ourselves of such uncertainties? In this letter, he states that the writings of two people . . .

【10:00】. . . 嘅影響呢 | 係令到佢開始睇通 [咗] 啲嘢 ,得到啲啓示嘅 | 第一個呢,就係我自己大學時好鍾意睇 [嘅] 一本書嘅 | 就係《卡拉馬佐夫的弟兄們》 | 噉呢本書係杜斯妥也夫斯基寫嘅一本嘅小説,哈 | 呢本俄國小説喺我以前讀大學嘅時代裏邊係一個好流行嘅一個小説 | 好重要嘅小説 | [噉] 我話俾你聽,我讀呢本書嘅感覺係點 [呀]? | 我 [又] 讀到某啲章節嗰陣時候呢 | 我覺得我想跪低祈禱嘅,係變咗好虔誠 | 但讀到某啲章節嗰陣時,我都 [覺得] 上帝已死 | 噉根本冇上帝,[喺] 呢個世界 | 即係 *je 佢可以將你個情緒帶動到咁極端嘅 | 噉我係好鍾意呢本書嘅 | 噉佢亦都提到呢一本書對佢嘅影響 | 佢覺得呢本書裏邊嘅,嗰,嗰三兄弟裏邊 // 其中嘅大哥呢 | 最臨尾因爲同個爸爸,即係 *je,爭,爭女仔呀,哈 | 結果呢,就某個情況底下爸爸死咗 | 結果佢告呀,話佢殺死佢爸爸 | 噉呢個嘅,呃,大哥 . . .

● 啓示 kái2 sih6  = enlightenment; inspiration; revelation | ● 《卡拉馬佐夫的弟兄們》Kāa1 Lāai1 Máah5 Jo3 Fū1 Dīk1 Daih6 Hīng1 Mùhn4 = The Brothers Karamazov | ● 杜斯妥也夫斯基 Douh6 Sī1 Tóh5 Yáah5 Fū1 Sī1 Gēi1 = Fyodor Dostoyevsky | ● 俄國 Ngòh4 Gwok3 = Russia | ● 章節 jēung1 jit3 = chapters (this may be one of those words that seems to have a built-in plural sense cf. 船隻 = ships) | ● 跪低 gwaih6 dāi1 = to kneel down | ● 虔誠 kìhn4 sìhng4 = pious; devout | ● 帶動 daai3 duhng6 = to drive; to spur; to bring along | ● 最臨尾 jeui3 làhm4 méih5 = ? in the end cf. 臨尾 = final (Sheik)

Influenced him and made him able to start to see more clearly about things, and to get some illumination. The first was [a book] that I myself liked very much when I was at university, The Brothers Karamazov. This book is a novel written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This Russian novel was very popular back in those days when I was studying at university, and it was a very important one. Let me tell you what my feelings were like when I read it. Some of the chapters in it made me want to get down on my knees and pray when I read them, and I felt very pious. But other chapters in the book made me feel that God was already dead, that there was no God in this world. His narrative [佢可以講?] could drive you to [different] extremes. I like this book very much and so does [Kim Dae Jung], who refers to its influence on him. In his opinion, of the three brothers [UNCLEAR] The elder brother argues with his father in the end over a woman and, as a result, the father dies in [rather] particular circumstances. This results in the elder brother being charged with the murder of his father.

Once in a Million Years

This beautiful photograph taken by Joan Law is included in the book she did with the English scholar Barbara Ward called Chinese Festivals. Since the book dates from 1982, I imagine that the children shown in this image are probably in their late 40s or early 50s by now, and I can’t help wondering how they are celebrating the current Chinese New Year in the year 2021 . . .

They play in their own innocent way with powerful forces, with rhythms and symbols the significance of which they instinctively guess at but cannot fully grasp. And yet their game is nothing less than the regeneration of the cosmos. As Barbara Ward writes:

Morally the keynote is renewal. The old year goes, and with it go old misfortunes and old wrongs; the new year comes and brings the chance for starting afresh.

The chance of a fresh start is an invaluable thing. And yet there is a danger inherent in the idea of renewal, especially to the Chinese mind, which tends to associate it with such things as harmony, stability, unity, discipline and peaceful conformity. But do such qualities truly make for a vital world? Thomas Berry provides an answer for us in the following comment in The Great Work:

We might consider, then, that the wild and the disciplined are the two constituent forces of the universe. the expansive force and the containing force bound into a single universe and expressed in every being . . .

Only Earth became a living planet filled with those innumerable forms of geological structure and biological expression that we observe throughout the natural world. Only Earth held a creative balance between the turbulence and the discipline that are necessary for creativity. The excess of discipline suppressed the wildness of Mars. The excess of wildness overcame the discipline of Jupiter. Their creativity was lost by an excess of one over the other.

To me, the main reason why Hong Kong is a world issue and not merely an internal matter for the People’s Republic of China is because, uniquely, Hong Kong is one place ⸺ perhaps the only place ⸺ where the possibility of such an unlikely creative balance was gradually being realized. True, it has entailed great suffering over a long period of time, and countless instances of unjust and inhumane behaviour. And yet this protracted, haphazard social experiment has resulted in a priceless hybrid, in which the Chinese genius for discipline has, to some degree, fused with the Western gift for individual wildness in a way that has not happened anywhere else in the history of humankind, and is not likely to happen again in the foreseeable future.

This hybrid, in which a “creative disequilibrium” exists between wildness and discipline, represents to my way of thinking the only real option for a human renewal in the genuine meaning of the words. Discipline or wildness alone can only bring sterile repetition, disguised beneath constant consumer novelty and sensational technological innovation, in the course of which our planet is increasingly degraded to the point of absolute no return.

So next time you wish someone 出入平安 during this Chinese New Year, think to yourself the following addition: And a Joyous Creative Disequilibrium to you, too!

Athletic Nude


The muscle he draws you with
threatens to turn on you.

In the beauty of a male contour
violence placidly looks the other way.

In the blinking of an eyelid,
what seduced you with its pleasure

now summons all its power
through the biceps and the triceps

of a rage.

Learning Cantonese: Alfred Chan on Hong Kong’s Dai Pai Dong Cuisine

Even if you’re not really into food, you can still be vitally nourished by Alfred Chan in terms of your Cantonese. His video posts are of a very high quality and, apart from all the detailed discussion of flavours, portions and cooking methods, there is a satisfying amount of very useful grammar and vocabulary to be savoured. Chan has also mastered the use of background music in his presentations, and at no point does the listener to his words have to struggle against an intrusive soundtrack to hear what is being said.

On the grammar front, there are three main points to look out for. Firstly, the fairly rare aspect marker 開 hōi1 makes an appearance in the phrase 酒樓用開嘅煤氣爐, modifying the verb 用 yuhng6 = to use. One of its functions is to suggest habitual action. In Intermediate Cantonese, Yip and Matthews refer to it as showing “habitual aspect”, and give the examples 我做開呢行 = We have been in this profession for some time, and 佢用開嗰隻牌子 = He regularly uses that brand. They also note that 開 hōi1 “may have a progressive meaning, indicating continuation of an activity that has already begun”, and this is most commonly seen in the sentence-opening expression 講開 góng2 hōi1 = “Speaking of …” or “On the subject of …” (See Unit 12: Aspect Markers), a phrase regularly encountered in everyday conversation.

Secondly, you are no doubt aware that Cantonese has a number of ways of suggesting approximation. Perhaps 大約 daaih6 yeuk3, an adverb meaning “approximately; roughly”, and 左右 jó2 yauh6, usually added to the end of a phrase expressing an amount, are two of the most common ways of indicating approximation. There are others. In recent times, I have been hearing 到 dóu3*2 used for this purpose (月入都,呃,三萬到呢 = [My] monthly salary, [that was about 30,000 dollars). Alfred Chan, on the other hand, prefers another post-modifying phrase: 咁上下 gam3 seuhng6 háa6*2. You’ll hear it in the following part: 咁其他小菜呢,都應該有返咁上下 = “then other items [on the menu] should be pretty much up to scratch”. Note too the tone change for下, which is usually pronounced in the low-level tone.

Alfred also makes use 零 lèhng4, which cropped up before in the second video in the “A Postman’s Gaze” series. There it was used to modify a certain time: 8 點零鐘 = around 8 o’clock or eight-ish. Here we see it in the phrase 得返廿呀零個大牌檔 with a similar kind of -ish meaning: “only twenty or so dai pai dong’s remain”.

Thirdly, watch out for Alfred’s tendency to use 厘 nēi4*1 rather than 呢 nī1/lī1 for “this”. My impression is that 厘 tends to serve as a contraction of 呢 + 一, but this is only a working hypothesis. I am not sure whether 厘 is the correct character for this: it’s just one I have seen used for this purpose.

In vocabulary terms, there are two adjectives used which contain 身 sān1 as the second character: 乾身 gōn1 sān1 = (?) dry; and 厚身 háuh5 sān1 = (?) thick. My feeling is that these are both used in spoken Cantonese rather than in the written language. There are also a couple of examples of adjectives formed with measure words: 大張 daaih6 jēung1 = big (of a flat object) and 細隻 sai3 jek3 = small (of a squid, which normally takes the measure word 隻). These are still a bit of a mystery to me, but I point them out just so that you can keep them in mind for your own learning.

Other items worth adding to your memory bank include: 興衰 hīng1-sēui1 = the rise & fall; 當眼 dōng1 ngáahn5 = conspicuous; eye-catching; 燶 nūng = to burn; 甩皮甩骨 lāt1 pèih4 lāt1 gwāt1 = to be in bad shape; to have been knocked around; 外脆内軟 [ng]oih6 cheui3 noih6 yúhn5 = crispy on the outside and soft/tender in the middle; and 腍 nàhm = ① soft; tender; mushy ② good-tempered; kind.

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.

I received this comment from a visitor to the site that sheds more light on 乾身 and 厚身:

Hello Simon. Would like to share my point about 乾身 and 厚身

The literal meaning of 身 is “body”. As a native speaker, I think 身 can be said as the “subject to be described”, from which the adjective before 身 is the description of the subject.

Normally we use 乾身 to describe a thing/dish that is supposed to be dry or better to be done dry (e.g. fried squid, best form would be dry, crisp but not greasy outside, with a succulent and tender squid inside). Alfred said the dish was 太乾身, meaning that it is fried and the dry outside, but too dry for it compare to the ideal (i.e. inside lose too much moisture, squid becomes tough).

As for 厚身, Alfred use it to describe how the eel is being cut and presented, which it thick and so it simply means the eel was cut in thick slices.

Another interesting note is that in Cantonese, 厚身 can also be used to describe wine too. From my beginner knowledge, it means the the wine has some body to it. Interesting how the two languages used the same manner to describe abstract concepts!


Hello,大家好,我係 Alfred | 拍片嘅時候係三月中,最近呢幾日已經廿幾度 | 再唔拍間,過兩個月我應該唔肯嘅喇 | 大家睇到啦,街頭行到街尾 | 幾個鋪位坐無虛席 | 話説超過60年 | 而家已經係第三代 | 上世紀五十年代 | 佢哋朝早賣粥同豬腸粉 | 下晝就賣燒味 | 後嚟先開始做埋小炒 | 再慢慢發展成今日嘅規模 | 見證住香港大牌檔文化嘅興衰【1:00】

● 坐無虛席 joh6 mòuh4 hēui1 jihk6 = (?) not a single unoccupied seat | ● 第三代 daih6 sāam1 doih6 = the third generation | ● 燒味 sīu1 méi6*2 = siu mei (roasted meat) | ● 小炒 síu2 cháau2 = stir fry; stir fried (Sheik Cantonese) | ● 規模 kwāi1 mòuh4 = scale; scope; dimension | ● 興衰 hīng1-sēui1 = the rise & fall

Note: In the phrase 見證住, the verb “to bear witness to” is used with the aspect marker 住 jyuh6 to indicate that the initial act of witnessing is maintained over a period of time (as the English verb “bearing” suggests).

Hello, everybody, I’m Alfred. When [I] filmed this video, it was the middle of March. In the past few days, [the temperature] has already [got to] 20-odd degrees, so I won’t be filming this place [anymore] and in another two months’ time I wouldn’t be willing [我應該唔肯] to come [here]. Just take a look: from one end of the street to the other, in all the various individual shops [幾個鋪位] [that make up this restaurant] there is not an empty seat. It is said that they have been in business for more than sixty years, this being the third generation [of owners (?)] now. [Back in] the 1950s, they sold rice congee and pork cheung fan in the mornings, and siu mei roasted meat after midday. Later on, they began to do stir-frying as well, gradually developing to the scale [we see] today, and bearing witness to the rise and fall of Hong Kong’s dai pai dong culture.

講到大牌檔,首先,要睇清楚個「牌」字點寫 | 話説1921年 | 港英政府將小販分成固定小販牌照同流動小販牌照兩種 | 前者叫「大牌」,後者叫「小牌」| 相傳係因爲固定小販牌照嗰張嘢真係大張嘅 | 而且開檔嗰陣要掛喺當眼嘅地方 | 到咗50年代,政府將「大牌」同熟食檔嘅牌照合倂 | 所以就出現「大牌檔」呢個稱呼喇

● 牌照 pàaih4 jiu3 = licence plate; licence tag | ● 當眼 dōng1 ngáahn5 = (?) conspicuous; eye-catching | ● 合倂 hahp6 (?) ping3 = (?) to merge; to amalgamate | ● 稱呼 chīng1 fū1 = to call or address; a form of address (perhaps even “the name you give to sth.; what you call sth.”)

On the subject of dai pai dong’s, first of all we must be clear about [要睇清楚] how the character for pai should be written [排 or 牌]. Apparently in 1921, the British Government in Hong Kong created [分] two types of licences for hawkers, a stationary hawkers licence and a mobile hawkers licence. The former was called “a big licence”, while the latter was known as “a little licence”. They say that this was because the actual licence tag for fixed hawkers was really bigger [in physical size] and had to be displayed in a prominent place when the stall was in operation [開檔嗰陣].  [This went on] until the 1950s, when the government combined “big licences” with those for cooked food stalls, and so the term dai pai dong or “big licence stall” appeared.

睇睇餐牌,一般常見嘅平民小菜都有齊喇 | 好多選擇 | 價錢唔使我講大家睇到 | 我以前都講過,我唔太讚同「食鋪租」或者「食裝修」呢類講法 | 賣幾錢,好多時都係市場定位

● 平民小菜 pìhng4 màhn4 síu2 choi3 = everyday dishes for ordinary people | ● 有齊 yáuh5 chàih4 = to have everything

[When we] take a look at the menu, [we find that] it features all those typical, commonly seen everyday dishes for ordinary people. There’s a lot of choice. I don’t need to mention prices — you can all see for yourself. As I’ve said before, I’m not much in favour [我唔太讚同] of expressions such as “eating the shop rent” or “eating the cost of renovations”. How much something sells for in the majority of cases is determined by the market price.

Caption: 家鄉小炒王 $108 | Home-style Siu Chaau Wong

試鑊氣,梗係食小炒王啦 | 香港部分鋪頭 | 用嘅係石油氣爐 | 火力【2:00】其實唔係太猛 | 呢度用嘅係火水爐 | 條片一開始幾個 shot 大家都見到個火幾猛啦 | 有魷魚仲燶咗,不過整體算好好食 | 唔知大家知唔知 | 香港某啲連鎖酒樓,近年轉咗用電磁爐 | 因爲咁樣厨房會乾啲、靜啲、涼啲、聽聞成本仲低啲 | 但講到鑊氣 | 就梗係同呢啲火水爐或者酒樓用開嘅煤氣爐差得遠啦

● 氣爐 hei3 lòuh4 = (?) a gas oven | ● 猛 máahng5 = ? hot; fierce | ● 火水爐 fó2 séui2 lòuh4 = a paraffin stove | ● 燶 nūng = to burn | ● 連鎖酒樓 lihn4 só2 jáu2 làuh4 = a restaurant chain | ● 電磁爐 dihn6 chìh4 lòuh4 = electric induction cooktop

Note: 鑊氣 wohk6 hei3 is a difficult term to translate into English. In a recent article entitled “Pop Cantonese: Big Wok 大鑊”, Erica Fong explained it as follows: “The wok is one of the most common tools in Chinese cooking –– a large, bowl-shaped pot made especially for stir-frying. Chefs are often lauded for their mastery of wohk6 hei3 (鑊氣, “wok essence” or “wok breath”), using intense heat and flames to add that all-important smoky flavour and aroma to their dishes” (you can read the article in Zolima City Mag here).

As for 小炒王, this literally means “little fried king”, but it seems to refer to a dai pai dong style mixed stir fry with chives and squid (there’s a link to a video showing how the dish is made here). An interesting feature of this segment is the use of 嘅 ge3 to form indefinite nouns, for example 香港部分鋪頭 | 用嘅 = what is used/the thing that is used (in some Hong Kong shops) and 呢度用嘅 = what is used here/what they use here.

To try out the wok hei one of course has to eat the siu chaau wong. In some places [鋪頭] in Hong Kong, what they use is a gas stove and actually the strength of the flame is not very intense. What they use here is a paraffin stove, and as you would have seen from those shots at the beginning of this video, the strength of the flame was pretty intense. One piece of the squid was scorched [燶], but on the whole the [dish] was very tasty. I don’t know whether you’re aware of this or not, but some restaurant chains in Hong Kong have, in recent years, switched to using electric induction cooktops because in this way [因爲咁樣] kitchens are [kept] cleaner, quieter, and cooler — they also say that less capital is required. But when it comes to wok hei, [the result] is far inferior to that [obtained by] a paraffin stove or the coal gas stoves [煤氣爐] used in restaurants.

Caption: 椒鹽炸鮮魷 $98 | Salt and Pepper Deep-fried Squid

椒鹽鮮魷,厘個我覺得都係好指標性嘅食物 | 一間酒樓或者大牌檔如果做呢樣嘢做得好 | 其他小菜呢,都應該有返咁上下 | 今日厘碟睇樣都知 | 算係做得好高分 | 脆漿厚薄啱啱好 | 而且好均匀 | 咬落去,個皮又唔會話甩皮甩骨 | 調味又好惹味 | 好多地方做呢樣嘢都太淡乜味 | 唯一嘅改善空間 | 係今晚隻魷魚比較細隻,好薄肉 | 食落太乾身【3:00】| 做唔到外脆内軟嘅口感

● 指標性 jí2 bīu1 sing3 = (?) indicative| ● 高分 gōu1 fān1 = a high mark; high marks | ● 脆漿 cheui3 jēung1 = batter (for deep-drying food) | ● 均匀 gwān1 wàhn4 = even; well-distributed | ● 咬 ngáauh5 = to bite | ● 甩皮甩骨 lāt1 pèih4 lāt1 gwāt1 = to be in bad shape; to have been knocked around | ● 調味 tìuh4 meih6 = to flavour; to season (food) | ● 惹味 yéh5 meih6 = Sheik: appetizing; add flavour to food | ● 改善空間 gói2 sihn6 hūng1 gāan1 = room for improvement | ● 乾身 gōn1 sān1 = (?) dry cf. 《香港粵語大詞典》形容乾貨或事物不帶水份或水份好少的狀態 (describes dry goods or foods that have no moisture content or very little moisture content) | ● 外脆内軟 [ng]oih6 cheui3 noih6 yúhn5 = crispy on the outside and soft/tender in the middle

Salt and Pepper Deep-fried Squid is one of those dishes [食物] that I think is a real indicator [好指標性嘅] [of a restaurant’s calibre]. If a restaurant or a dai pai dong does this dish well, then other items [on the menu] should be pretty much up to scratch [有返咁上下]. This dish today just by the look of it scores a very high mark indeed [做得好高分]: the thickness of the coating is just right and very even, [so that] when you take a bite, it doesn’t, as we might say, “lose both the skin and the bones” [甩皮甩骨]. The seasoning too is very appetizing. In many other places, the taste of this dish is too bland and flavourless. The only room for improvement is that this evening the squid was rather small and the flesh thin, making it too dry when eaten, [so] failing to achieve the food texture [口感] of crispy on the outside and soft/tender inside.

大家 . . . 大家應該明白點解平時我咁少做現場收音呢 | 就係 *jai 因爲其實大部分環境呢 | 根本都係收唔到音嘅 | 特別係今日呢一度啦

● 現場 yihn6 chèuhng4 = a site; a spot; on-the-spot | ● 收音 sāu1 yām1 = (?) to record the sound of sth.

You . . . you ought to be aware by now why I rarely do on-the-spot recordings. The reason is that in most environments, as a matter of fact, that it is fundamentally impossible [收唔到音]. Especially here [in this place] today.

Caption: 銀山砵酒鱔球 $148 | Eel Balls Cooked in Silver Mountain Port Wine

厘味係銀山砵酒鱔球 | 今日條鱔都幾 | 好肥,肉質係腍得嚟有少少彈性嗰種 | 師傅切得好厚身,又唔會浄係俾啲尾位 | 份量又好足,有成十幾嚿 | 味道都係好食嘅喇 | 如果砵酒味再重少少就會仲好食啲㖭

● 銀山砵酒鱔球 Ngahn4 Saan1 Jau2 Sihn? Kauh4= (?) Eel balls cooked in Silver Mountain port wine cf. 砵酒 būt1 jáu2 = port wine| ● 肉質 yuhk6 jāt1 = the texture of meat | ● 腍 nàhm = ① soft; tender; mushy ② good-tempered; kind | ● 彈性 daahn6 sing3 = elasticity; flexibility | ● 厚身 háuh5 sān1 = (?) thick cf. 《香港粵語大詞典》厚實 = thick | ● 尾位 méih5 wéi6*2 = portions from the end; portions from the tail (of the eel, in this context)

Here we have [厘味係] eel balls cooked in Silver Mountain port wine. This evening’s eel is a very fine one, very plump and the flesh is of that kind that is tender and has a bit of spring to it [有少少彈性]. The chef [師傅] has chopped it into large portions [切得好厚身], and not just bits from the tail-end. The serve is more than enough, with over ten pieces [of eel]. The flavour is delicious. If the port-wine flavour of the dish were a little stronger, it would be even more delicious.

今日三碟餸嘅份量都好多 | 比一般酒樓例牌大 | 兩個人食非常飽 | 雖然價錢唔平 | 但份量搭救 【4:00】

● 例牌 laih6 paai4*2 = (?)  cf. Sheik [3] [n] same old stuff; usual/ordinary thing [literal] regular menu

Note: The literal meaning of 搭救is “to come to the rescue”, but it is not quite the same in Cantonese. 雖然價錢唔平,但份量搭救 basically means although the dish is quite expensive, there is a lot of food on the plate –– the quantity of the food saved the day and offset the negative side (the high price). A friend in Hong Kong provided another example: 佢唔靚女,但性格搭救, which means although she is not pretty, she has an excellent personality. On top of that, using 搭救, we put the emphasis on the positive side of something/someone while pointing out the negative side.

The portions of the three dishes today were very substantial, and more than the usual thing you get in restaurants. For two people it was extremely filling. Although not cheap, the [size of the] serves well and truly made up for it.

Caption: 撞到觀衆!| [We] Bumped into a [Regular] Viewer!

大牌檔喺好多人心目中 | 都係香港最有特色嘅飲食文化 | 據估計,全盛時期 | 香港有成 2、3百檔 | 但隨住社會發展、市民對衛生水平嘅要求提高 | 街市熟食檔同埋屋邨冬菇亭嘅出現 | 以及政府其他政策 | 而家全香港,大約都係得返廿零個大牌檔 | 環境問題同飲食文化保育其實冇衝突嘅? | 睇政府有冇心攪嘅 | 大家對大牌檔又有啲咩回憶呢?

● 全盛時期 chyùhn4 sihng6 sìh4 kèih4 = period of full time; perhaps here “in its/their heyday” | ● 街市熟食檔 gāai1 síh5 suhk6 sihk6 dong3 = (?) cooked food stall inside a wet market | ● 冬菇亭 dūng1 gū1 tìhng4 = mushroom hut; mushroom pavilion (a cluster of dining pavilions so named because of the distinctive shape of their roofs; usually found in older public housing estates) [冬菇亭香港公共屋邨独有的一種設施,正式名稱是熟食亭,是一個四方形、尖頂的小型建築物,屋頂中間有拱形排氣口。因為外形像冬菇,被人們稱為「冬菇亭」] ● 有心 yáuh5 sām1 = to have a mind to; to set one’s mind on

To many people [喺好多人心目中], dai pai dong’s are also the most characteristic feature of Hong Kong’s food culture. It is estimated that, in their heyday, there were 2-300 such stalls in Hong Kong. But with the development of society, increased demands on the part of citizens with regard to the standards of hygiene, the emergence of cooked food stalls inside wet markets and mushroom pavilions, [as well as] other government policies, only twenty or so dai pai dong’s remain in the whole of Hong Kong. But there is really no conflict between environmental concerns and the preservation of food culture. It’s only a matter of whether the government has a mind to do it or not. What memories do you have of dai pai dong’s?

Caption: 仲有罐可樂!| And a Coke thrown in as well!

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