Learning Cantonese: The Pillar of Shame at HKU


One direct consequence of Hong Kong’s so-called “National Security” law has been the suppression of all forms of commemoration of the June Fourth Tian’anmen Massacre, a suppression that constitutes implicit denial. Just before Christmas, on 23 December, authorities at the University of Hong Kong order the dismantling and removal of the June Fourth memorial sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt. Not long after, two other universities followed suit, removing other expressions of commemoration linked to the 1989 Pro-democracy Movement and effectively betraying the aspirations of their respective student populations.

Not surprisingly, this report on the removal of the Pillar of Shame by reporter 林彥邦 Lam Yin-pong at Stand News was itself removed from the web after police raided the offices of the organization and arrested both staff and members of its board. However, at the time of writing this, a back-up version was still available on YouTube.

In Chinese, the Pillar of Shame (was) known as 國殤之柱 gwok3 sēung1 jī1 chyúh5. In Cantonese, 殤 sēung1 is not seen very often. It means “to die young” and in the compound 國殤 has the sense of “national martyr”. The connotations of the term are linked primarily with mourning rather than with shame, which is why Lam has to explain the English meaning at the end of his report.

One useful grammatical point in this video concerns a special class of verbs known as verb-object verbs. A common instance is a verb like 睇書 tái2 syū1 = “to read”, where 睇 is the verb “to see” and 書 is the noun “book”. Since aspect markers are generally attached to verbs (or co-verbs), verb-object verbs have to “split” in two when this happens. For example, when the aspect-marker for “finishing” 完 yùhn4 is added to the verb 拆彈 = “to defuse a bomb”, the aspect-marker appears between the verb and its object: 拆完彈. In another example, when the marker 埋 màaih4 (according to Intermediate Cantonese by Yip & Matthews this can mean “in addition to all the rest”) is used with the verb 報警 bou3 gíng2 = “to report (an incident) to the police”, we get 報埋警.

On the vocabulary side of things, you’ll encounter a few uses of the verb 剷 cháan2 = to shovel; to level off. In this video, it seems to have the sense of “to scrape (away)”. I have also heard it in reports of traffic accidents, where it seems to mean something like “to plough into” or perhaps “to shear”. It can also be used in soccer to denote a sliding tackle, 剷球 cháan2 kàuh4.

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


各位歡迎收睇 |《三分鐘時事杯麵》| 今集節目嘅首播日係聖誕節 | 首先祝各位聖誕平安 | 本來佳節當前 | 想講啲輕鬆啲嘅議題 | 但作爲香港人 | 去到一年最後一個禮拜 | 都仲係冇鬆口氣嘅空間

國殤之柱係丹麥雕塑家 | 高志活嘅作品 | [Caption: 國殤之柱製作者高志活] | 廿幾年嚟,一直都矗立喺 | 港大黃克競平台 | 去到 2021年12月23號凌晨| [Caption: 2021.12.23 凌晨「國殤之柱」被拆走] | 被港大校方漏夜拆走 | 其實國殤之柱一開始 | 就已經唔係好受港大校方歡迎 | 時間返到去主權移交之前

● 佳節 gāai1 jit3 = happy festival time; festival | ● 丹麥 dāan1 mahk6 = Denmark | ● 雕塑家 dīu1 sou3 gāa1 = sculptor | ● 矗立 chūk1 laahp6 = stand tall & upright | ● 凌晨 lìhng4 sàhn4 = in the small hours; before dawn | ● 漏夜 lauh6 yeh6 = the dead of night | ● 主權 jyú2 kyùhn4 = sovereignty | ● 移交 yìh4 gāau1 = to turn over; to transfer

Welcome everyone to 3-minute Noodle Current Affairs. [Because] this edition is appearing for the first time on Christmas Day, let me first of all wish you all a Safe Christmas. Given the present festival atmosphere [佳節], I had originally planned to talk about some fairly light topics, but in this last week of the year, we Hongkongers still had no space in which to take a breather [冇鬆口氣嘅空間].

The Pillar of Shame is the work of Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt.

Caption: Jens Galschiøt, Maker of the Pillar of Shame

For the past twenty years, it has stood [矗立] on the Haking Wong Podium at the University of Hong Kong, until the early hours of 23 December 2021, when it was dismantled in the dead of night by the authorities at HKU and taken away.

Caption: In the Early Hours of 23 December 2021, the Pillar of Shame is Dismantled & Removed

Right from the beginning, in actual fact, the Pillar of Shame has never really been welcomed by the authorities at HKU. [When we go back] to the time before the transfer of sovereignty . . .

1:00】最後一次六四晚會之後 | 港大學生護送國殤之柱 | 送去港大校園 | 但當時港大派保安阻止 | 拒絕開車閘,仲報埋警 | 港大學生、支持者 | 就同保安同警方對峙 | 爭執咗一輪,國殤之柱最終先入到校園 | 去到1998年9月 | 港大學生會投票通過 | 國殤之柱永久喺黃克競平台展示 | 時間去到今年嘅6月 | 有團體向警察國安處投訴 | 指控國殤之柱散播仇恨 | 可能違反國安法 | 之後港大校方就提出 | 要拆走國殤之柱 | 半年之後嘅凌晨 | 佢哋深夜喐手 | 港大校委會就解釋話 | 國殤之柱日久失修 | 可能有安全問題,亦都 [有] 法律風險 | 實際理由係咩 | 大家心中有數 | 要留意嘅| 係港大校委會主席李國章 | 12月19號立法會選舉投票日 | 佢投票嗰陣話,國殤之柱 | 嘅擁有權問題未解決

● 護送 wuh6 sung3 = to escort; to convoy | ● 阻止 jó2 jí2 = to prevent; to stop; to hold back | ● 車閘 chē1 jaahp6 = (?) traffic barrier-gate | ● 報警 bou3 gíng2 = to report (an incident) to the police | ● 對峙 deui3 chíh5 = to stand facing each other; to confront | ● 爭執 jāng1 jāp1 = to disagree; to dispute; to stick to one’s guns | ● 一輪 yāt1 lèuhn4 = roughly, “a round” | ● 永久 wíhng5 gáu2 = permanent; perpetual; everlasting | ● 展示 jín2 sih6 = to reveal; to show; to lay bare | ● 散播 saan3 bo3 = to disseminate; to spread |● 仇恨 sàuh4 hahn6 = hatred; enmity; hostility | ● 喐手 yūk1 sáu2 = to start work; to get to work; to take action | ● 日久 yaht6 gáu2 = with the passing of time | ● 失修 sāt1 sāu1 = be in bad repair; fall into disrepair | ● 心中有數 sām1 jūng1 yáuh5 sou3 = have a pretty good idea of; know fairly well | ● 投票日 tòuh4 piu3 yaht6 = polling day | ● 擁有權 yúng2 yáuh5 kyùhn4 = (?) the right of possession; ownership

. . . after the last June Fourth Candle Vigil [六四晚會], the students of HKU escorted the Pillar of Shame back to the HKU campus. However, HKU dispatched security guards to stop them, refusing to lift the road-barrier [車閘] and reporting the matter to the police as well. There was a confrontation between HKU students and their supporters with security guards and the police. It was only after arguing the matter for a while [爭執咗輪] that the Pillar of Shame finally entered the campus. In September 1998, HKU students voted in favour of the Pillar of Shame remaining permanently on display on the Haking Wong Podium. Moving along to June this year, certain groups [團體] complained to the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force, claiming that the Pillar of Shame incited hatred [散播仇恨] and that it “might contravene the National Security Law”. Afterwards, HKU indicated that it intended to remove the Pillar of Shame. Six months later, in the small hours of the night, the university took action. The HKU board explained that the Pillar of Shame had, in the passage of time, fallen into disrepair and this quite possibly was a safety issue. In addition, there were legal risks [風險]. What the real reason was is something you all have a pretty good idea about. It is worth noticing that when voting on polling day on 19 December, the chairperson of the HKU board Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said that the issue of who owned the Pillar of Shame had not yet been resolved . . .


2:00】似乎未有動作 // | 但係三日之後,港大就喐手 | 而李國章本身仲有一個禮拜就離任 | 到底係巧合 [呀],等拆完彈先至走人呢?| 港大拆完國殤之柱 | 兩日之内 | 中大搬走咗民主女神像 | 剷走嗮民主牆上面嘅文宣 | 嶺大剷走咗六四浮雕 | 同民主女神壁畫 | 噉到底又係巧合,有人驚「執輸」| 定係收到指示呢? | 港澳辦主任夏寳龍 | [Caption: 夏寳龍 | 當年超過2000間基督教堂十字架被移除] | 做浙江省委書記嘅時候 | 拆走咗2000座教堂嘅十字架或者建築 | 又係咪巧合嚟呢?| 高志活嘅國殤之柱作品 | 總共有六座 | 分別喺香港、意大利羅馬 | 墨西哥墨西哥城 | 巴西巴西利亞 | 丹麥哥本哈根同埋 | 德國柏林 | 國殤之柱英文叫做 | pillars of shame | 恥辱柱 | 當其他五座國殤之柱都安然無恙 | 香港呢一座就喺矗立咗廿三年之後 | 漏夜被人拆走咗 | 成日稱呼自己係國際城市嘅香港

● 離任 lèih4 yahm6 = to leave one’s post | ● 拆彈 chaak3 dáan2 = (?) to defuse a bomb | ● 趁勢 chān1 sai3 = to take advantage of a favourable situation | ● 剷 cháan2 = to shovel; to level off | ● 文宣 màhn4 syūn1 = (?) a written declaration | ● 浮雕 fàuh4 dīu1 = a relief sculpture | ● 執輸 jāp1 syū1 = to miss (a great opportunity) | ● 十字架 sahp6 jih6 gaa3 = crucifix |● 總共 júng2 guhng6 = in all; altogether |● 安然無恙 [ng]ōn1 yìhn4 mòuh4 yeuhng6 = safe & sound; (escape) unscathed

. . . and it seemed that no moves were yet being made. However, three days later, HKU [authorities] set to work and, a week later, Arthur Li Kwok-cheung left his post. Is that just a coincidence, only leaving when the bomb has been defused [拆彈]? Two days after HKU removed the Pillar of Shame, the Chinese University of Hong Kong took away its Goddess of Democracy and scraped away all the written declarations posted up on Democracy Wall. Lingnan University also scraped off its June Fourth relief sculpture as well as the mural of the Goddess of Democracy. Now was this just a coincidence, with people worried that they might “miss out” on “a golden opportunity”, or had they received a directive?

Caption: Xia Baolong Removed over 2000 Crosses from Churches

When he was secretary of the Zhejiang provincial party committee, Xia Baolong, [current] head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, removed over 2000 church crosses [教堂嘅十字架] or [other] structures. Is this [another] coincidence? Jens Galschiøt’s Pillars of Shame includes a total of six pieces [located in] Hong Kong, Rome, Mexico City, Brasilia in Brazil, Copenhagen and Berlin. In English, they are known as the “Pillars of Shame” (that is, chi yuk chue in Cantonese). When the five other Pillars of Shame remain unscathed, in Hong Kong — where the Pillar of Shame stood tall for twenty-three years before being taken away in the dead of night — couldn’t people bear keeping a place for even this work of art . . .

3:00】係咪連呢一件藝術品都 [做唔落] 呢?| 又或者,拆走恥辱柱呢件事本身 | 就已經係一個恥辱 | 今個星期講到呢個先 | 節目完之前,我哋花多少少時間 | 懷愐一下,喺過去短短呢幾日 | 我哋又再失去咗啲乜嘢

● 做唔落 jouh6 mh4 lohk6 = (?) cannot bear to do cf. Sheik Cantonese: 噉做會棒打鴛鴦,我做唔落 = Doing this would break the couple apart. I cannot bear to do it | ● 懷愐 wàaih4 míhn5 = (?) to cherish the memory of; to recall

. . . despite all the talk about being “an international city”? Furthermore [又或者], to dismantle and remove a pillar of shame is itself a shameful thing. Well, that’s it for this week, but before the end of the program, let us spend a little more time recalling what more we have lost within the short space of just a few days.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s