Captive of Capitalism

Photo by Vic B on

Crows dive odd angles into morning —
they add oblique hints
and signs to a clueless suburb-sky.
As a backdrop, the tall metallic smoke-stack
cigarettes oxygen-fresh air with its thin, industrious taint.
Absent-minded in the rhythm of her schemes,
a jogger running late
through Sunday’s quieter park
double-takes at what she sees loom largely overhead:
a giant shark
hangs ravenous in mid-air, eyeing its prey — twenty pink squid
which dance in a line to the sun.
Streaming with light, a lithe-benign mermaid —
breasts discreetly capped with matching scallop shells —
glides gently down to soothe her baffled state:
Hello — we are kites. Today,
with the wind, we have borrowed you blue
for the sea. On behalf of us all,
I invite you to quit this element you strand in
for ours
. . . Standing on tiptoe,
the jogger stares up widely at the depths
trying, for a change,
this novel exercise: she’s simply
SWIMMING her mind with wonder.

Learning Cantonese: Wan Chai in Words and Sketches

In the 1950s, when Francis Ommanney first visited Wan Chai in the 1950s, he described it as a sailors’ town:

By day, the whole place wears a drab, hangoverish look, like parts of Paris on Sunday morning. Some of the streets are lined with food stalls and washing flutters from upper windows. Children tumble all over the arcaded pavements and relieve themselves unashamedly in the gutters. But by night these same streets blossom with flowers of neon advertising innumerable bars, big and little, and the liberty boats arriving at the waterfront jetties pour forth their crowds of hungry males. (“Joes”, Fragrant Harbour: A Private View of Hong Kong)

A recent book on Wan Chai made me see Wan Chai in a different light. It was written by 柴宇瀚 Chàih4 Yúh5-hohn6, and is richly illustrated with drawings by urban sketch artist who goes under the name 彭啤 Pàahng4 Bē1, with the character 啤 — well-known for its use in Cantonese words for “beer” — possibly meant to stand in for the English animal-word “bear”. One feature of Wan Chai they emphasize is the large Japanese population that gathered there, even before the Second World War. The other highlight concerns the 街角樓 gāai1 gok3 làuh4 or “corner buildings”, sharply-angled apartment blocks designed to fit with Wan Chai’s rather labyrinthine streetscape.

There is little to trouble you by way of grammar in this video, but I’ve included a few brief notes at the end of the transcription for anyone interested. The main focus this time is vocabulary. Firstly, there is one use of the Cantonese verb 髹上 yāu1 seuhng6, meaning “to apply paint”, but used only for houses and buildings, without any artistic connotations.

The second thing is the noun 肉眼 yuhk6 ngáahn5. Literally it means “meat eye”, but it is used much like the English “naked eye”, often in the negative sense of something being invisible to the naked eye. In this story, it is applied to the subtly curved lines of one of the corner buildings. At 1:27, Chai Yu-hon declares: 從肉眼去睇,係成一條直線咁樣 | 但係其實佢係一座弧形大廈 = to “the naked eye, it [looks as if it is built] in a straight line, but actually it is a large curved building”.

Finally, there is the noun 縮影 sūk1 yíng2 = “miniature”. Chai uses it in a very characteristic way when, at 3:32, he says 雖然灣仔好細,但係灣仔正正係香港嘅縮影 = “although Wan Chai is very small, it just happens to be [the whole] of Hong Kong in miniature”. In other words, Wan Chai is a “microcosm” of Hong Kong, expressive of the whole despite its diminutive extent.

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

柴宇瀚:灣仔係香港十八區入面面積最細嘅地方 | 但係生活範圍就係好廣闊 | 反映咗灣仔與眾不同嘅特色

Caption: 灣仔的新舊交替:歷史與速寫下的當年今日

Caption: 柴宇瀚 | 《灣仔畫當年》作者

我係柴宇瀚 | 一直以嚟,我都好鍾意香港 | 尤其是係啲特色建築 | 喺《灣仔畫當年》入面,亦都記錄咗好多 | 灣仔特有嘅建築同埋故事 | 而我選擇灣仔嘅原因 | 最主要係因為四個字 | 「新舊交替」 | 以前跑馬地河水會沿住運河 | 流向維多利亞港 | 運河好似鵝頸咁樣 | 所以啲人就會叫佢做鵝頸澗,又稱鵝澗

● 範圍 faahn6 wàih4 = scope; limits; range | ● 與眾不同 yúh5 jung3 bāt1 tùhng4 = out of the ordinary | ● 新舊交替 sān1 gauh6 gāau1 tai3 = cf. 新舊 = the new & the old + 交替 = alternately; in turns | ● 速寫 chūk1 se2 = to sketch | ● 特有 dahk6 yáuh5 = peculiar; characteristic | ● 河水 hòh4 séui2 = a river; river water | ● 運河 wahn6 hòh4 = a canal | ● 鵝頸 ngòh4 géng2 = goose neck | ● 澗 gaan3 = a ravine; a gully

Chai Yu-hon: Of the eighteen districts of Hong Kong, Wan Chai is the smallest in terms of size. However, its range of lifestyles [生活範圍] is very broad, a reflection of Wan Chai’s unusual features.

Caption: Wan Chai’s Mingling of Old & New: Those Years Today in History & Sketches

Caption: Chai Yu-hon | Co-author of A Depiction of Wan Chai in Those Years

My name is Chai Yu-hon, and all along [一直以嚟] I have really liked Hong Kong, especially special examples of the architecture. In my book A Depiction of Wan Chai in Those Years, I have made a written record of many of the characteristic buildings and stories of Wan Chai. The reason why I chose Wan Chai is mainly because of the four characters — san gau gaau tai (“a mingling of old and new”). Formerly, the river in Happy Valley used to flow down through the canal [跑馬地河水會沿住運河] and out into Victoria Harbour. The canal was shaped like a goose’s neck, so people used to call it “Goose-neck Gully” or “Goose Gully”.

【1:00】喺1920年年代,灣仔填海 | 鵝澗就變咗暗渠喇 | 第二次世界大戰之前 | 灣仔就已經大約有一千個日本人喺呢一度 | 而景星大廈附近亦都有小東京嘅稱號 | 景星大廈嘅位置 | 曾經興建咗日本人嘅醫院,馬島醫院 | 景星大廈有趣嘅地方係 ,從肉眼去睇,係成一條直線咁樣 | 但係其實佢係一座弧形大廈 | 綠屋喺1916年建成 | 樓高四層,而家係二級歷史建築 | 以前由於個外牆係髹上咗綠色,所以會叫佢做綠屋 | 其後隨住政府嘅發展同埋保育計劃 | 綠屋先後變成咗動漫基地

● 暗渠 am3 kèuih4 = a hidden drain or sewer | ● 第二次世界大戰 daih6 yih6 chi3 sai3 gaai3 daaih6 jin3 = the Second World War | ● 東京 dūng1 gīng1 = Tokyo | ● 稱號 ching1 houh6 = a title; a name; a designation | ● 肉眼 yuhk6 ngáahn5 = the naked eye | ● 直線 jihk6 sin3 = a straight line | ● 弧形 wùh4 yìhng4 = an arc; a curve | ● 二級歷史建築 yih6 kāp1 lihk6 si2 gin3 juhk6 = Grade II Historic Building | ● 髹上 yāu1 seuhng6 = to paint; to apply paint | ● 保育 bóu2 yuhk6 = usu. “to rear” | ● 動漫基地duhng6 maahn6 gēi1 deih6 = animation & cartoon base (or perhaps “hub”)

In the 1920s, land reclamation was carried out in Wan Chai and Goose Gully became an underground drain. Before the Second World War, there were already about a thousand Japanese people [living] here, and the [area] near the King Sing Mansion [apartment building] was known as Little Tokyo. In the vicinity of the King Sing Mansion [景星大廈嘅位置], a hospital was once built for Japanese people, the Ma Tou Hospital [馬島醫院]. The interesting thing about the King Sing Mansion is that, to the naked eye, it [looks as if it is built] in a straight line, but actually it is a large curved building [一座弧形大廈]. The Green House [綠屋] was completed in 1916 and is four stories high. These days, it is [classified as] a Grade II Historic Building. Back when it was first built [以前], it was called the Green House because its exterior walls were painted green. It was only later that the Green House was turned into [變成] an animation & cartoon base, in accordance with [隨住] the government’s development and heritage protection [保育] plans . . .

【2:00】同埋而家嘅茂蘿街7號 | 灣仔有唔少嘅街角樓 | 部份係圓角設計 | 部份係銳角設計 | 厘啲嘅實際係香港1950年代嘅主要建築特色 | 灣仔大樓係一座九十度轉角嘅大廈 | 喺1959年落成 | 我啲企喺遠處嗰度厘度睇 | 就可以睇到九十度轉角嘅設計喇

彭啤: 速寫嘅重點在於勾勒景物嘅特徵 | 等觀眾可以一眼認出你畫 [嘅究竟邊一度] | 我係彭啤,係一位城市速寫畫家

Caption: 彭啤 | 城市速寫畫家 | 《灣仔畫當年》作者


● 茂蘿街 mauh6 lòh4 gāai1 = Mallory Street | ● 街角樓 gāai1 gok3 làuh4 = corner house | ● 圓角 yùhn4 gok3 = (?) a rounded angle | ● 銳角 yeuih6 gok3 = an acute angle | ● 轉角 jyun3 gok3 = a corner | ● 落成 lohk6 sìhng4 = to be completed (usu. of a building) | ● 重點 juhng6 dím2 = ① emphasis ② with the focus on | ● 勾勒 ngāu1 la[a]hk6 = to sketch; to outline | ● 特徵 dahk6 jīng1 = a characteristic | ● 手筆 sáu2 bāt1 = ① (written or drawn in one’s own) hand ② a skill

. . . and becoming what is now 7 Mallory Street. There are many corner buildings [街角樓] in Wan Chai, some with a rounded angle, some with a sharp angle. In fact, [corner buildings] were a major feature in the architecture [主要建築特色] of Hong Kong in the 1950s. The Wan Chai Building [灣仔大樓] is a large [apartment] block with a ninety-degree angle completed in 1959. [If] we look at it from a distant [vantage point], we can see the ninety-degree corner design.

Caption: Pang Be: Urban Sketch Artist | Co-author of A Depiction of Wan Chai in Those Years

Pang Be: In [the book] A Depiction of Wan Chai in Those Years, the artworks, large and small, were all done by me.

【3:00】完成每一幅畫嘅時間通常都會唔同嘅 | 就好似我畫綠屋咁樣 | 就大概用咗一個多鐘嘅時間 | 我亦會根據唔同建築嘅結構同特色 | 去決定由咩角度去記錄低佢嘅 | 例如景星大廈喺個斜坡上便 | 我畫嘅時候都係會希望突出呢一點 | 於是我揀就喺斜坡下便向上望 | 用一啲微妙嘅弧線去展現佢嘅弧型大廈嘅特徵


彭啤: 由海岸線嘅變遷、建築物嘅變化 | 華洋共處嘅生活習慣 | 喺灣仔都可以追尋到歷史嘅蛛絲馬跡 | 而呢啲嘅痕跡亦都成爲我嘅速寫靈感 | 所以我哋都希望將呢一啲嘅感受放喺書入便 | 分享俾更多人認識

● 結構 git3 kau3 = a structure | ● 斜坡 che3 bō1 = a slope | ● 突出 daht6 chēut1 = to stress; to emphasize (perhaps here “to accentuate”) | ● 微妙 mèih4 miuh6 = delicate; subtle | ● 展現 jín2 yihn6 = to display; to unfold before one’s eyes | ● 弧型 wùh4 yìhng4 = (in) the form of an arc; arc-shaped | ● 縮影 sūk1 yíng2 = miniature | ● 變遷 bin3 chīn1 = (n.) change | ● 華洋共處 wàah4 yèuhng guhng6 chyú2 = roughly, “the co-existence of Chinese and foreign” | ● 追尋 jēui1 chàhm4 = to pursue | ● 蛛絲馬跡 jyū1 sī1 máah5 jīk1 = clues | ● 痕跡 hàhn4 jīk1 = a trace | ● 感受 gám2 sauh6 = an experience

The time it takes to finish a sketch generally varies. In the case of my drawing of the Green House, it took more than an hour [to do], roughly. I decide from which angle to record [a building] on the basis of the different architectural structures and characteristics. For instance, the King Sing Mansion is [situated] on a slope. When I sketched it, it was this point that I hoped to accentuate [突出]. And so I chose [a location] at the bottom of the slope [斜坡下便] looking up [towards the building] and, with subtle curving lines, unfolded its characteristic as an arc-shaped apartment building.

Chai Yu-hon: Although Wan Chai is very small, it just happens to be [the whole] of Hong Kong in miniature.

Pang Be: From alterations to the coastline, architectural changes, and the co-existence of Chinese and foreign life-habits, historical clues can be tracked down in Wan Chai. Now, these traces serve as the inspiration for my sketches. For this reason, we hope to put these experiences into a book and to share them with more people, who can come to know of them [認識].

Grammar Notes

A. The modal (or auxiliary) verb 會 wúih5 generally indicates a high degree of likelihood. It is added verbs much in the same way as “may” and “will” are in English. In this video however, which contains a fair amount of historical detail, 會 is used to talk about what was habitually done in the past:

0:47: 以前跑馬地河水會沿住運河 = formerly, the river in Happy Valley used to flow down through the canal
0:54: 運河好似鵝頸咁樣 | 所以啲人就會叫佢做鵝頸澗,又稱鵝澗 = the canal was shaped like a goose’s neck, so people used to call it “Goose-neck Gully” or “Goose Gully”
1:48: 以前由於個外牆係髹上咗綠色,所以會叫佢做綠屋 = back when it was first built, it was called the Green House because its exterior walls were painted green

Also prominent here is the use of 會 to speak about how one normally goes about things. 彭啤 Pàahng4 Bē1 uses it three times in connection with what you might call his “artistic practice”:

3:00: 完成每一幅畫嘅時間通常都會唔同嘅 = the time it takes to finish a sketch generally varies
3:08: 我亦會根據唔同建築嘅結構同特色 | 去決定由咩角度去記錄低佢嘅 = I decide from which angle to record [a building] on the basis of the different architectural structures and characteristics
3:17: 我畫嘅時候都係會希望突出呢一點 = when I sketched it, it was this point that I hoped to accentuate (this is perhaps a slightly different use — the artist seems to want to say that he hopes to accentuate the special feature of every building he sketches, but he transfers this sense to the one particular instance of drawing the building on the slope)

B. In Cantonese, there are several ways of expressing what an English-speaker thinks of as “from”. The most common (and totally counterintuitive) way is to employ that popular general verb of location, 喺 hái2. However, there are other options to keep in mind. The first of these is 由 yàuh4. It crops up twice in the video:

3:08: 我亦會根據唔同建築嘅結構同特色 | 去決定由咩角度去記錄低佢嘅
3:37: 由海岸線嘅變遷、建築物嘅變化 | 華洋共處嘅生活習慣 | 喺灣仔都可以追尋到歷史嘅蛛絲馬跡

In the first example, 由咩角度 means “from what angle”. In the second long sentence, it actually links up with the verb 追尋 jēui1 chàhm4 (“to pursue”) to express the idea of the source certain historical clues about Wan Chai. In English, this roughly corresponds to “clues can be found from changes to the coastline, etc.”

Another option is 從 chuhng4. This tends to be literary and, as is often the case, enters the spoken language only in certain fixed expressions and more figurative usages. 柴宇瀚 Chàih4 Yúh5-hohn6 uses it with the noun 肉眼, “the naked eye”:

1:28: 從肉眼去睇,係成一條直線咁樣 = to the naked eye, it [looks as if it is built] in a straight line (or “seen with the naked eye”)

Note too that 由 yàuh4 occurs in the moderately common expression 由於 yàuh4 yū1. This helpful structural element means something like “owing to; thanks to; as a result of; due to”. There is one instance of it in this presentation:

1:48: 以前由於個外牆係髹上咗綠色,所以會叫佢做綠屋 = it was called the Green House because [or “owing to the fact that/due to the fact that/on account of the fact that”] its exterior walls were painted green

C. Finally, a couple of minor points worth sharing. In Cantonese, 將 jēung is frequently used to deal with too much congestion around the main verb. Typically, this happens when both a direct object and a location figure in what one wants to say. To relieve the congestion, the object is moved, appearing before the verb with 將 jēung introducing it, just to let the world know what is going on. Here’s a perfect example, from the last sentence in the video:

所以我哋都希望將呢一啲嘅感受放喺書入便 = and so we hope to put these experiences into a book

Here, 呢一啲嘅感受 (“these experiences”) is moved in front of the verb 放 fong3 (“to put”), which has to be followed by the location expression 喺書入便 (“in[to the] book”).

Another point to watch out for is the use of 以嚟 yíh5 lèih4 to indicate periods of time extending from some time in the past up to the time of speaking. It appears at 0:27, where 柴宇瀚 Chàih4 Yúh5-hohn6 says: 我係柴宇瀚 | 一直以嚟,我都好鍾意香港 = “my name is Chai Yu-hon, and all along [一直以嚟] I have really liked Hong Kong”.

You’ll often see it added to time expressions to make meanings such as “for the past x months” or “over the last x years”, always with the suggestion that the period of time extends right up to the present moment (and is very likely to continue on into the future).


Snail by Maigheach-gheal is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

You don’t say — you make silver
your curious glide and then follow by heart
a creaturely-instinct’s road.
blades of grass you bend bridge-wise deeply in two
with the weight of your cargo-shell
till you find yourself back
where you once went wrong
to start over again with a marginally altered slant.
Rain is your birthday.
If the whole world were rain,
you would waste not a moment of your life
“indoors” but instead
go daylightly on —
always the minimal animal —
feasting outstretched stalk-eyes on Earth’s succulent Vegetable Realms.

Learning Cantonese: Kiwi Chow & the Children of the Revolution

On 16 July 2021, Stand News announced that Kiwi Chow had made a secret documentary about the 2019 protest movement entitled Revolution of Our Times [時代革命]. The idea came from a business person who had seen Ten Years, and wanted Chow to make a high-quality documentary that would “help Hong Kong tell her story to the world” [以助香港向世界訴說她的故事]. Although personally terrified by the violence of the clashes between police and protestors, Chow bought a film camera and began work in May 2019, before the ground-breaking million-person march. He filmed and edited in secret for two years, in the course of which he was drenched by one of the “special-use crowd-control vehicles” (that is, water-cannon trucks that the Hong Kong police had purchased and that sometimes sprayed something referred to as 催淚水劑, a kind of liquid tear-gas) as well as being hit on the helmet by a rubber bullet. The film follows seven different individuals involved in the anti-extradition protests, both frontline fighters as well as members of the so-called 和理非 wo-lei-fei, that is “peaceful, reasonable, non-violent” activists and is two and a half hours long. Although a trailer is available on YouTube, the film itself can never be screened in Hong Kong in the foreseeable future. Dissent is now a crime there.

The CUHK campus in Sha Tin features extensively in the video. It was here, in November 2019, that the so-called “Siege of the Chinese University of Hong Kong” took place. During the siege students occupied the campus and attempted to facilitate a general strike by disrupting traffic flows, throwing objects onto the train tracks near University Station as well as onto the Tolo Highway. The police, naturally, inevitably prevailed, and large numbers of students were arrested. It is for this reason that Chow reacts so strongly to his return there in the video. As he says, 而家好似 [走緊] 喺我啲傷口當中 = “Walking along [this particular road at CUHK] now is like walking into my wounds”. The experience was obviously visceral for him.

The aspect marker 咗 jó2 is used in this video quite a bit, so I have added a note on this at the end. 咗 is described as a “perfective” marker, which allies it with the perfect tenses in English. As opposed to the past tense (I did), the perfect tense (I have done) is more concerned with the realization or actualization of an action. If you ask someone “Have you done it?”, your main interest is not “when” but “whether” the matter has been accomplished. The perfect can therefore also be used to talk about future possible actualization, and so we have “I will have done” in English. My experience suggests to me that certain verbs in Cantonese tend to attract 咗. Often such verbs are absolute in meaning. For example, 失 sāt1 = “to lose” admits of no degree. You can’t partially lose something. Nevertheless, there are uses of 咗 jó2 that still seem elusive to me, and my note is merely a sketch. I hope to fill it out one day in a more detailed post.

The video also contains a rich store of vocabulary items, with a special emphasis on film. These include: 預告片 yuh6 gou3 pín3*2 = a (movie) trailer; 心裏準備 sām1 léuih5 jéun2 beih6 = be psychologically prepared; be mentally ready; 連累 lìhn4 leuih6 = to implicate; to involve; to get sb. into trouble;生命導師 sāng1 mihng6 douh6 sī1 = a life coach; and 膠子彈 gāau1 jí2 dáan62 = a rubber bullet.

In recent news, it was announced that a plan for synchronized screenings [全球同步嘅反映計劃] of Revolution of Our Times had been planned for 1-10 April. This means that some of you may be lucky enough to see the documentary in the near future.

Please scroll down for my transcription, English translation and notes. You can view the video here (subtitles in Standard Written Chinese and Japanese). 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 be interested in this other post on Kiwi Chow, Learning Cantonese: 周冠威 Kiwi Chow “How much are you willing to sacrifice for your home, Hong Kong?”.

[ … ] 我見到就喺地上便 | 我伸一隻手,我就掂到佢嘅 | 警察就壓住佢 | 佢好痛苦 | 佢眼神同我四目交流 | 我做唔到呀,我冇辦法幫佢 | 或者我只能夠幫佢, 只係 | 幫佢記錄 | 我好似唔係有勇氣先行出嚟 | 係行出嚟先生出勇氣

Caption: 勇氣不滅 周冠威

Caption: 法國康城影展宣佈 | 特別放映紀錄片《時代革命》| 周冠威是唯一具名的製作人

Caption: 自由

因為2019年呢場運動 | 佢哋嘅勇氣 . . .

● 掂到 dim3 dóu3*2 = to reach cf. 掂 = to touch | ● 壓 [ng]aat3 = (?) to push down; to hold down | ● 眼神 ngáahn5 sàhn4 = the expression in one’s eyes | ● 不滅 bāt1 miht6 = (?) indestructible | ● 法國康城影展 faat3 gwok3 hōng1 sìhng4 yíng2 jín2 = Cannes Film Festival (the Cantonese is something more like “film exhibition of the French city of Cannes [康 = kāng1 in Mandarin]) | ● 特別放映 dahk6 biht6 fong3 yíng2 = special screening| ● 具名 geuih6 mìhng4 = to put one’s name to a document, etc.; to affix one’s signature

I saw a protestor on the ground. I could reach out and touch him with my hand. The police were pressing down on him. He was in a lot of pain. When our eyes met, there was this exchange of looks between us [同我四目交流]. There was nothing I could do to help him. Or rather, the only thing I could do to help him was to make a record. I didn’t go out into the streets because I was brave. I became brave after getting out there.

Captions: Kiwi Chow Kwun-wai: A Bravery that Can Never Be Destroyed | The Cannes Film Festival announced a special screening of the documentary Revolution of Our Times | Kiwi Chow was the only individual personally named as a maker of the film

Caption: Freedom

Because of the protest movement in 2019 . . .

【1:00】. . . 佢哋犧牲 | [Caption: 電影導演 | 著有《十年:自焚者》、《患愛》、《時代革命》] | 為香港將來嘅美好而打拼 | 呢一樣嘢係交流嚟㗎 | 吸收咗呢場運動嘅勇氣 | 我想走出嚟 | (五大訴求,缺一不可)| 而當我攞起咗呢個責任 | 決定行出嚟嘅時候 | 我就應該行到底嘅


旁白:香港實行唔到民主嘅話呢 | 冇可能維持到香港嘅自由同法治 | 其實我只係爭取一樣嘢嘅 | 就係自由

周冠威:我應該開明呀 | 我應該負翻我嘅責任 | 曾經有一個人 | 佢為我去諗 | 呃,「你匿名啦」| 如果真係要查嘅話| 我俾名你」 | 喺53個民主派人士被拘捕當日 | 佢就同我講 | 「我願意為你坐監」| 啊,我聽完我覺得好恐怖,呢件事 | 亦都有收到恐嚇嘅電話 | 啫,叫我「即刻離開」

犧牲 hēi1 sāng1 = to sacrifice | ● 打拼 dáa2 píng2 = to go all out; to struggle to get ahead | ● 到底 dou3 dái2 = to the end; to the finish (cf. English “to see sth. through”) | ● 預告片 yuh6 gou3 pín3*2 = a (movie) trailer | ● 開明 hōi1 mìhng4 = usu. “enlightened”; here “under one’s own name; openly” ≠ 匿名 | ● 匿名 nīk1 mìhng4 [LISTEN!] = anonymous| ● 恐嚇 húng2 haak3 = to intimidate; to threaten

. . . their courage and their personal sacrifices . . .

Caption: Film director Kiwi Chow | Director of Ten Years: The Self-immolator, Beyond the Dream and Revolution of Our Times

. . . in the struggle for a beautiful future for Hong Kong. This thing is a form of exchange [呢一樣嘢係交流嚟㗎]. I absorbed the bravery of this protest movement and this made me want to go out and film it.

Chanted slogan: Five Demands, Not One Less

And when I took on this responsibility and decided to go out and make a film, I had to see it through to the end.

Footage from “Revolution of Our Times”: If democracy is not realized in Hong Kong | It will be impossible to maintain freedom and the rule of law here | In fact, I strive for one thing and one thing only | Freedom

Kiwi Chow: I had to put my name on the film. I had to assume my responsibility. There was someone concerned about me who once said: “Go on, remain anonymous. If there really is an investigation into the making of the film, use my name instead.” On the day the 53 democrats were arrested [in February 2021], this person said to me: “I would be willing to go to prison in your place”. How terrible, I thought, when I heard this. I also received a threatening phone-call, telling me to leave at once.

【2:00】「As soon as possible」| 我尋找呢個自由嘅方法 | 就係出名 | 我唔俾恐懼控制我嘅心靈 | 嗱,我講嘅自由唔係我肉身嘅自由 | 我冇犯法 | 我喺基本法長久以嚟喺香港嘅法例 | 係冇犯法 | 更何況呢個紀錄片嘅拍攝 | 係國安法之前 | 當然我有心裏準備會成爲政治犯而坐監 | 如果咁樣嘅話 | 國安法都去拘捕我嘅時候 | 我係完完全全係一個政治犯 | 而我覺得政治犯係 | 一個政權嘅自我羞辱 | 我哋有一個好大嘅信念 [吖嘛],係咪 | 啫,你追隨耶穌基督先至有自由 | 嗰個自由係真實嘅自由

我出名,我留喺呢一度 | 留喺我想留喺嘅香港嘅時候 | 呢個係我自己自由嘅選擇

尋找 chàhm4 jáau2 = to seek; to look for | ● 肉身 yuhk6 sān1 = a mortal body | ● 心裏準備 sām1 léuih5 jéun2 beih6 = be psychologically prepared; be mentally ready | ● 羞辱 sāu1 yuhk6 = 1. shame; dishonour; humiliation 2. to humiliate; to put sb. to shame | ● 信念 seun3 nihm6 = faith; belief; conviction | ● 追隨 jēui1 chèuih4 = to follow

“As soon as possible”. The way I seek freedom is to make my name public. I don’t let terror control my soul. Now the freedom I’m talking about is not the freedom of the body. I haven’t broken the law. According to the Basic Law, the law we’ve had in Hong Kong for a long time, I have not broken the law. What’s more, the filming of this documentary film was done before the National Security Law came into force. Of course, I have prepared myself mentally to become a political prisoner. If this happens, when I am arrested under the National Security Law, I will be a political criminal, completely and utterly. But in my view a political criminal is the self-humiliation of those who hold power. We have a great deal of faith that you can only be free if you follow Jesus Christ — that freedom is the true freedom.

I have gone public, and I remain in here Hong Kong, and my remaining here in Hong Kong, the place where I want to stay, is something I do so of my own free choice.


旁白:佢哋覺得抗爭先至 [可以實現] 自由 | 當我決定 [走出去] 嗰刻 | 我要撇除嗮其他嘅身份 | 作為學生 | 作為我阿爸阿媽呢個仔 | 我嘅身份呢,只有 | 即時 […] 命地行出嚟嘅抗爭者

周冠威:我仔6歲大呀 | 噉我問佢,我拍呢個紀錄片 | 但係都可以離開香港 | 避免被拘禁嘅風險 | 爸爸被拉去坐監 | 會好長時間見唔到爸爸 | 佢同我講 | 「爸爸,唔好走啦 | 我哋一齊留翻香港 | 將香港變翻美麗嘅香港」

Caption: 連累

整個拍攝《時代革命》呢個紀錄片 | 我係有一個 moment 想放棄嘅 | 中文大學之後 | 呃,我身體有好多嘅反應 | 我嘅大便係黑色啦

● 撇除 pit3 chèuih4 = (?) to put aside; to leave aside | ● 拘禁 kēui1 gam3 = to take into custody | ● 連累 lìhn4 leuih6 = to implicate; to involve; to get sb. into trouble | ● 放棄 fong3 hei3 = to abandon; to give up; to renounce | ● 大便 daaih6 bihn6 = human excrement

Footage from “Revolution of Our Times”

Voice-over: They thought that freedom could only be realized through resistance. When I made up my mind to go out onto the streets. I had to put any other identities I had aside — that of a student, that of a son of a mother and father. The only identity I had was that of a protestor, ready to give my all in the streets at a moment’s notice.

Kiwi Chow: My son is 6 years old this year. I asked him [what he thought about] us leaving Hong Kong to avoid the risk of arrest because of this documentary I had made. “If Daddy was arrested and sent to prison, it might well be [會] you wouldn’t see him for a very long time”. In reply, he said to me: “Let’s not leave, Daddy. We’ll stay here in Hong Kong together and make Hong Kong a beautiful Hong Kong.”

Caption: Implicating Others

During the whole filming of the documentary Revolution of Our Times, there was one moment when I wanted to give up. After what happened at CUHK, I had various physical reactions. My shit turned black.

【4:00】更加令我恐怖嘅係 | 呃,我影響咗屋企人 | 我太太有咳、我太太有濕疹 | 但我太太當其時係有BB | 佢係懷住身孕 | 係唯一次我有想過放棄 | 因為我連累咗佢哋 | 我好驚我嘅BB有事 | 好痛苦,其實當其時係好驚 | 但係掉轉返我諗翻起 | 噉啲手足呢?| 最怕連累人嘅 | 多謝太太 [呀],多謝我屋企呀 | 啫,佢哋 . . . 同我連成一體呀 | 佢哋跟住我嘅決定 | 啫,我嘅信仰係連死都唔怕 | 所以《十年:自焚者》嗰個對白 | 佢亦都我嘅信念 | 啫,我唔睇得唔得 | 我會唔會招致連累 | 我會唔會招致苦難 | 甚至會招致死亡

● 咳 kāt1 = a cough | ● 濕疹 sāp1 chán2 = eczema | ● 身孕 sān1 yahn6 = pregnancy | ● 掉轉返 diuh6 jyun3 fāan1 = cf. 調轉頭 = 1. to turn around (in direction) 2. on the contrary | ● 連成一體 lìhn4 sìhng4 yāt1 tái2 = roughly, “to come together (or “pull together”) as one” | ● 信仰 seun3 yéuhng5 = faith; belief; conviction | ● 對白 deui3 baahk6 = a dialogue | ● 招致 jīu1 ji3 = to incur; to bring about; to lead to| ● 苦難 fú2 naahn6 = suffering; misery; distress

But what frightened me even more was that I was affecting the rest of my family. My wife developed a cough as well as eczema, and at the time she was pregnant. She was going to have another baby. That was the only time I considered stopping, because I was implicating them. I was really worried that something would happen to the baby. It was painful, very painful at the time. But then on the other hand [掉轉返] I thought, “But what about those protestors?” The thing I feared most was implicating others. I’m very grateful to my wife, my whole family. They came together with me in this. They followed me in my decision. My faith is to fear nothing, not even death. And so the self-immolator’s dialogue in Ten Years is also what I believe: As a person, I’m not concerned whether something is OK or not, whether it will lead to other people becoming implicated, whether it will bring about suffering or even death.

【5:00】我睇嘅,唔係呢 [啲] 效果 | 唔係得唔得 | 我睇嘅係啱定唔啱 | 其實冇話連唔連累 [ … ] | 反而有一份平安喺當中

Caption: 拯救

梗係唔捨得啦!| 我拍戲梗係唔捨得啦,哈 | 我淨係識得拍戲 [嘅咋] | [咩都] 唔識 | 我鍾意學習 | 但係學校係迫我考試 | 所以我曾經喺中學階段 | 有閃過係想自殺嘅 | 噉但係某程度上係電影救咗我 | 學校、屋企唔會教我乜嘢叫做愛 | 但電影教我 | 電影就好似我個生命導師咁樣 | 噉我就同電影 | 去下咗一個浪漫嘅諾言 | 我終身追隨電影

Award ceremony announcement: 今年最佳電影得獎者係 . . . | 《十年》

周冠威:如果《十年:自焚者》. . .

● 效果 haauh6 gwó2 = an effect; a result | ● 拯救 chíng2 gau3 = to save; to rescue; to deliver | ● 閃過 sím2 gwo3 = roughly, “to flash (through one’s mind); to cross one’s mind” | ● 自殺 jih6 saat3 = to commit suicide; to take one’s own life | ● 生命導師 sāng1 mihng6 douh6 sī1 = a life coach | ● 浪漫 lohng6 maahn6 = Romantic | ● 諾言 nohk6 yìhn4 = a promise (Chow uses the “lazy pronunciation” 諾 lohk6 here.) | ● 得獎者 dāk1 jéung2 jé2 = roughly, “the recipient/winner of a prize”

What I’m concerned with is not these outcomes. It’s not a matter of whether something is OK or not. It’s a matter of whether it is the right thing to do. Actually, it’s not a question of implicating others. However, there is a peace [of mind] in this.

Caption: Deliverance

Of course, I was unwilling to give up the film! Of course, I couldn’t give up the making of the film! It’s the only thing I know how to do. I can’t do anything else. I enjoy studying. But my school forced me to take exams. For this reason, once during my high-school years, I thought about committing suicide. But to a certain extent film saved me. Neither school nor home could teach me what love was. It was film that taught me. Film is like a life coach to me. So between film and myself, I made the romantic promise that I would pursue film to the end of my life.

Award ceremony announcement: The winner of this year’s award for Best Film is . . . Ten Years

Kiwi Chow: If Ten Years: The Self-immolator . . .

【6:00】係一個 . . . 我嘅電影事業嘅自焚行為嘅話 | 呢個紀錄片《時代革命》| 係我得着自由嘅行為

Caption: 勇氣

呃,我對中文大學嘅記憶 | 而家都係全部充斥住2019年嘅畫面 | 行咗好多次嘅,呢一條路都喺當日 | 而家好似 [走緊] 喺我啲傷口當中 | 過到去嘅,係咪? | 通常訪問完之後 | 攝影師都要我行嚟行去 | […] 影啲鏡頭 | 但你帶我嚟呢個地方 | 實在太過分 | 我本身當然驚啦,哈 | 我唔係一個戰地記者 [啦] | 甚至紀錄片都係我第一次拍攝

● 勇氣 yúhng5 hei3 = courage; nerve | ● 充斥 chūng1 chīk1 = to flood; to congest; to be full of; to be replete with | ● 傷口 sēung1 háu2 = a wound; a cut | ● 鏡頭 geng3 tàuh4 = 1. camera lens 2. a scene; a shot | ● 戰地記者 jin3 deih6 gei3 jé2 = war correspondent

. . . was my own act of self-immolation in terms of my film career, then the documentary Revolution of Our Times was the act by which I obtained my freedom.

Caption: Bravery

My memories of CUHK are now completely filled with scenes from 2019. Back then I walked along this road many times. Walking along it now is like walking into my wounds. You want me to walk across the bridge? Usually when an interview has finished, the camera person usually asks me to walk around a bit for a bit of [extra] footage, but you bringing me here to this place is really too much. When I was filming of course I was very scared. I am not a war-zone reporter, and this was the first documentary I’d ever made.

【7:00】有一句説話就係 | 啲「手足」幫我擋子彈 | 當我第一次喺現場嘅時候 | 我就 physical [感到] 佢哋喺我前邊 | 砰!砰!砰!| [佢哋] 幫我擋子彈 | 我感受到佢哋嘅勇氣 | 感受到佢哋嘅抵擋 | 噉呢 [種] 抵擋好似都幫到我一齊抵擋 | 最危險我覺得係一次中膠子彈 | 一次再一次嘅受傷 | 最後都過渡,最後都治療咗 | 我自己諗,呢個過程 | 我好似唔係有勇氣先行出嚟 | 係行出嚟先生出勇氣 | 我諗同政權講嘅其實 […] | 你唔能夠借助我去傳遞恐懼 | 你只能夠借助我 | 去強調 [ … ] 香港人幾咁有勇氣 | 我希望如果 | 假設我一日被拘捕嘅話

● 擋 dóng2 = to keep off; to ward off; to block | ● 砰 pīng1 = bang; thump cf. 嘭paahng4 = bang (I am not sure what the right character should be for “bang” here!) | ● 抵擋 dái2 dóng2 = to keep out; to ward off; to check; to withstand | ● 膠子彈 gāau1 jí2 dáan6*2= a rubber bullet | ● 過渡 gwo3 douh6 = usu. “to transit”; here, perhaps, “to get through (a difficult experience)” | ● 治療 jih6 lìuh4 = to treat; to cure | ● 借助 je3 joh6 = have the aid of; draw support from | ● 傳遞 chyùhn4 daih6 = to transmit; to deliver; to transfer | ● 假設 gáa2 chit3 = to suppose; to assume; to presume

There’s a phrase that goes “my fellow protestors shielded me from the bullets”. The first time I was out there on the scene, physically I could feel these other protestors in front of me. Bang, bang, bang! They shielded me from the bullets. I sensed their courage, their protection. This shielding seemed to help shield me with them. The most dangerous thing I think was being hit by a rubber bullet one time. One wound after another. In the end you get through it, you are healed. And so I thought: In this process, It’s not as if I went out into the streets because I was brave. I only became brave after getting out there. What I’d like to say to those in power is: You can’t use me to spread terror. The only thing you can use me for is to underline how brave the Hongkong people are. If one day I am arrested, my hope is that . . .


● 訊息 seun3 sīk1 = a message

. . . this is the message that will be conveyed to others

記者 | Reporter:莫坤菱
影像製作 Video Production:劉子康
美術設計 Design: Joyce Lo

Grammar Notes

In this video, Kiwi Chow gives the aspect marker 咗 jó2 a good work-out, so I thought it might be worth reviewing its main uses. Generally speaking, 咗 is added to a verb to indicate “perfectiveness”, something akin to “completion” but also linked to “actual realization”. Cantonese does have a verb particle 完 yuhn4, which indicates completion perfectly well, a factor that we should keep in mind when approaching 咗. Yip and Matthews make the point that adverbs “such as 已經 yíh5 gīng1 ‘already’, 啱啱 ngāam1 ngāam1 ‘just’ and 頭先 tàuh4 sīn1 ‘just now’ also favour jo2” (93). Their idea of favourable “contexts” favourable to the use of 咗 should be kept in mind: as with other aspect markers, it helps to try and recognize the kinds of typical situations in which 咗 is used, rather than relying on some cast-iron grammatical rule.

One of these common contexts is when the verb is followed by a number and a measure-word (or some other equivalent mode of quantification). During the 2019 protests, the Hong Kong police purchased three new water-cannon trucks. This was conveyed by a TVB report as: 警方一共買咗三架「水炮車」 = “The police have bought a total of three water canon trucks”. A friend of mine, reporting on her latest culinary exploits, wrote in an email: 今晚煮咗一個日本甜品,日文叫大學芋,英文candied sweet potato! In the phrase “last night [I] cooked a Japanese dessert”, the quantification 一個 provides the favourable conditions for the use of 咗. The time it takes to do something can also function as a kind of quantification. So, in a report about a giant lizard on the loose in a housing estate in Tuen Mun, we were told 警方到場用咗大約十五分鐘捕足蜥蜴並帶走。= “After arriving at the scene, police took approximately fifteen minutes to catch the lizard and [並] take it away.” Here, the time expression 大約十五分鐘 quantifies the verb, and so 咗 is added. It is not added to the second verb 帶走.

We can find similar instances in Kiwi Chow’s comments. Firstly, at 5:40 he makes the memorable statement 去下咗一個浪漫嘅諾言 | 我終身追隨電影 = “I made the romantic promise that I would pursue film to the end of my life”. Here, the quantification 一個 is used in the phrase meaning “a romantic promise”. A bit later on, at 6:12, he talks about how many times he walked along a certain campus road at CUHK: 呃,我對中文大學嘅記憶 | 而家都係全部充斥住2019年嘅畫面 | 行咗好多次嘅 = “my memories of CUHK are now completely filled with scenes from 2019. Back then I walked along this road many times”. In this case, 好多次 hóu2 dō1 chi3 (“very many times”) provides the conditions favourable to the addition of 咗.

Another common context, fairly easy to spot, involves a kind of clause a bit similar to the English “after doing something”. Perhaps the most important remark made in the video uses this kind of structure. At 1:07, Chow says 吸收咗呢場運動嘅勇氣 | 我想走出嚟 = “having absorbed the bravery of this protest movement, I wanted to go out and film it”. Here, 咗 is added to the verb 吸收 kap1 sau1 = to absorb to indicate that the absorbing has been realized. This realization of the first verb paves the way to the main clause. Chow goes on to use this structure a second time in 而當我攞起咗呢個責任 | 決定行出嚟嘅時候 | 我就應該行到底嘅, where it means something like “and with my taking up/assuming of this responsibility.” In such instances, the realization of the first action serves as a precondition for the second.

A more subtle context seems to involve the specific meaning of the verb: I get the impression that there are certain verbs which tend to go with 咗 because realization or actualization is somehow integral to their meaning. After 4:01, Kiwi Chow uses 咗 twice in the following sentences:

更加令我恐怖嘅係 | 呃,我影響咗屋企人 = but what frightened me even more was that I was influencing/affecting the rest of my family

係唯一次我有想過放棄 | 因為我連累咗佢哋 = that was the only time I considered stopping, because I was implicating/making it hard them

The two verbs in question are 影響 ying2 heung2 and 連累 lihn4 leuih6? and with the addition of 咗, Chow indicates that he had influence and implicated his family members.