Hong Kong: Once in a Million Years


For the past two years, Hong Kong has been repeatedly in the international spotlight. A decisive clash between civilizations is the main reason for such world interest, the Chinese desperate to make good the wrongs done to it by the British Empire in the nineteenth century, while Western nations strive to preserve a remnant of threatened democracy. But I think something else ― and potentially far more important ― is ultimately at stake.

In February this year, Hong Kong’s Stand News produced a video entitled “If Today is the Last Day of Freedom” [假如這是自由的最後一天], about a number of dangerous “criminals” facing a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. It begins with 24-year-old 鄒家成 Owen Chow, who uses his last free day to see a movie and get a new tattoo ― “If I’m put away, maybe sometimes I won’t be in control of my feelings, . . . Perhaps seeing this [tattoo] will calm me down a bit”. There’s 岑子傑 Jimmy Shum, who rolls his own cigarettes and wears rainbow shoelaces in his boots. There’s 袁嘉蔚 Tiffany Yuen, shown hugging her life-size Buzz Lightyear doll in anticipation of the loss of such comforts should she be taken into custody immediately. And then there’s 呂智恆 Hendrick Lui, one of the few individuals to be granted bail. Ironically, we see him at work on the street, encouraging passers-by to write letters to other Hong Kong democracy activists already behind bars.

These individuals are just a few of the 53 people arrested on 6 January for allegedly “conspiring to commit subversion”, a grave violation of the new National Security Law. Of these, some were released, while 47 were granted bail and told to report to their local police station on 8 April. However, at the end of February, they were contacted to report to police five weeks earlier than originally scheduled. They then appeared in court on the same day and, after a protracted hearing, most of them were denied bail and were taken into custody. At the time of writing, they are still in detention awaiting trial, scheduled now for November.

What was their offence? They had all taken part in peaceful and perfectly legal primary elections in July 2020 in an attempt to identify the strongest candidates for the Legislative Council elections planned for later in the year.

When Hong Kong reverted to the People’s Republic of China in 1997, it was written into the Basic Law of the Territory that gradual progress would be made towards granting Hongkongers the right to elect their own law-makers and even eventually their Chief Executive. However, a counterfeit system was put in place that meant most members of the legislative council were not directly elected, and that made it virtually impossible for pan-democrats to gain a majority anyway. Nevertheless, after the Million-people Protest March of 9 June 2019 and the months of demonstrations that followed, supporters of Hong Kong democracy scored a massive victory in the November 2019 district elections, and at that point a pro-democratic majority in the Legislative Council became practically thinkable. For this reason, not long after, the National Security Law was enacted and democracy was effectively criminalized. The promise of universal suffrage ― so long flouted and frustrated ― was finally openly broken.

The response from supporters of Hong Kong democracy was summed up by the writer 鄧小樺 Tang Siu Wa ― currently Chief Curator of the House of Hong Kong Literature ― who said in a video interview with Vision Times:

I hope that the international community will be able to make the Chinese people ― and make China as a whole ― regain some respect for what it means to make a promise. “One Country, Two Systems” is an international promise. Supposedly, it is a solemn promise. If a promise is being ripped to shreds, this can’t happen without any consequences, there ought to be consequences. Then all of us, [working] together, should make the people who broke their promise face up to the consequences. That’s how it ought to be.

Have you ever wondered what Hong Kong truly is? On my first trip there in 1998, my head was already filled with the usual misconceptions. The glossy Baedeker I bought to guide me on my journey only helped to cement the stereotypes: Victoria Harbour with its sky-scraping corporate architecture, and the shops of Kowloon, crowded ― just as Ainslie Meares once described it ― with groups of “jabbering tourists on their world cruise bent on buying junk”. Nothing could have been further from the truth. My small flat in the village of Cheung Shue Tan was just down the road from the pristine mountain streams and abundant wildlife of the Tai Po Kau nature reserve, and within easily travelling distance of the Ten Thousand Buddhas Temple in Sha Tin, where the gold-coated “diamond body” of its founder, Reverend Yuet-kai, can be seen in its glass case on the altar. Without realizing what was happening, I gradually came under the spell of the “Hong Kong Effect”.

I’ve spent the last ten years trying to clarify this phenomenon as it affects people from English-speaking countries. In a book called Hong Kong: A Moment in Time (1997), there’s a collection of one-line explanations gathered from many sources. For some people, the appeal is primarily energetic, and expressed in formulae such as “Hong Kong is all about living life to the full ― work hard, play hard, make money, spend money, nothing in moderation”. This view is often supported with evidence from fung shui, according to which the flows of ch’i concentrated in the Territory infuse this little corner with energy and vitality to a degree which perhaps nowhere else in China possesses, as Richard Gee puts it.

Other explanations build on this, suggesting the laissez-faire business attitude of the Chinese colony leads to a high degree of social autonomy which is remarkably enabling: “A unique, multi-national pin prick on the map which gives everybody a chance in life”. In some cases, Hong Kong even manages to transform people entirely, leading them to an identity they could have never have imagined for themselves back home. Take Gregory Rivers from Gympie in Queensland, who fell in love with Cantonese pop music while studying at the University of New South Wales. Eventually, he abandoned his medical degree and came to Hong Kong on a one-way ticket in 1987. He remains there to this day, having reinvented himself as 河國榮 Ho Kwok-wing, actor, singer and fluent Cantonese-speaker.

However, I think the most promising answer to the riddle is the following cryptic statement: “Hong Kong is a privilege of the twentieth century”. Privilege? Light is shed on this by 莫華德 Barbara Ward, another individual miraculously transmuted by Hong Kong. In Chinese Festivals, a book she worked on with the photographer 羅美娜Joan Law Mee Nar, she points out that contemporary, industrialised Hong Kong is also a centre of flourishing Chinese traditionalism, where the spectacular festival activities forbidden in mainland China ― including celebrations of the birthdays of the Sea Goddess Tin Hau and the Buddhist goddess of Mercy, Goon Yam ― unexpectedly live on. It may be that the profound stability of the Chinese ritual cycle facilitates Hong Kong’s high-degree of creativity, innovation and resilience, providing an optimal channel for social, environmental and technological change to happen without excessive turmoil or dislocation.

But there’s more to it than this conjunction of authentic tradition and sophisticated modernity. Another facet of Hong Kong’s privilege is that it has managed to fuse ― over more than 150 years of continuous effort ― two great but vastly different cultures. An enormous price has been paid for this in terms of human suffering, social injustice, and great divisions of wealth, opportunity and wellbeing, but the resulting hybrid is a priceless treasure, something both Eastern and Western, and at the same time neither Chinese nor Anglo-European ― an entity unique in the history of the world. To me, it is an attempt to imagine what the future could look like, beyond the self-enclosed, nation-obsessed, toxically “patriotic” states that most of us find ourselves caught up in today.

As Jan Morris reminded us in her 1998 book Hong Kong/Xiangang, China’s loss of territory to England as a result of the Opium Wars was utterly devastating. The then emperor Dao Guang, she writes, “was seen by courtiers, incredulously wandering his palace in the night, murmuring ‘impossible, impossible’, and repeatedly sighing”. Dao Guang’s lament continues to resonate loudly in the Chinese psyche, and is perfectly audible now in the People’s Republic of China. Yet, reasonable as they might seem, such claims to lost territory are questionable. The Hong Kong journalist 陳寳珣 Chan Bou-seun puts them into perspective in his novel Love Song for a Sinking Island [沒島戀曲] (2015):

Some said that Ah Cho had left Hong Kong and gone to Europe somewhere, and that he had changed his field of research to the sovereignty of nations and the constitution. He was writing a thesis on the subject of the creation and break-up of ancient Rome, with the purpose of looking into the legal principles behind why Italy did not announce that much of Europe and the Middle East was its own innate territory on the basis of the fact that these places had once been part of the Roman Empire. Over the course of history, in Europe, the Middle East and in Turkey, a succession of empires had emerged straddling a number of regions, and they had all ruled for many centuries. Why didn’t they go on carrying the historical burden of a unified nation and insist on revitalizing the territory of a Greece, a Rome, or an Ottoman Empire, instead of choosing the way of break-up and self-rule?

Here Chan suggests that the move towards “revitalization” is both imperialistic and anachronistic, for history has already shown that the time for empires is over. What 鄒家成 Owen Chow had tattooed on his right inner forearm on his last free day was the mantra Om mani padme hum in Tibetan script, a prayer for enlightenment and the cultivation of a new way of being. Rather than yearn for the past, let us continue to pray forwards for Hong Kong, neither “country” nor “system”, just an inspiring social possibility for the future that perhaps only comes to us once in a million years.

Learning Cantonese: Chu Man on the Death of Socrates & the Unexamined Life

I transcribed 豬文 Chu Man’s lively “On Hating and Despising Philosophy” back in April, and have been working on other videos by him since then, including his 2019 TEDx talk on Socrates’ maxim 「未經反省嘅人生,係不值得活嘅」 [“An unexamined life is not worth living”]. At a time in which individual freedoms in Hong Kong are under unprecedented threat, it is wonderful to be reminded that, without critical reflection on the life you lead, there is a danger that you will end up leading not your own but someone else’s idea of what your life should be.

The great difficulty with this piece is the absence of any subtitles. I have done my best, but have been unable to fill in all the gaps. Fortunately, for the most part, the context makes it pretty clear what Chu Man is driving at.

Actually, Chu Man is the nickname of 鄺雋文 K[w]ong3 Jeun3 Màhn4 or Chun Man Kwong, a doctoral student at Oxford University who is committed to bringing philosophy to the people. It occurred to me that you might think of him as “Piglitt” in English, since 豬 jyū1 = pig and 文 màhn4 = “literature; writing” . . . As for the character 雋 jeun3 in his real name, that means “unusually talented”.

There are no real gems of Cantonese grammar in the extract I have chosen, but there are a couple of uses of the 咪 . . . 囉 structure to indicate an obvious conclusion (Yip and Matthews in Intermediate Cantonese, Unit 23). So, at 7:20 you’ll hear 開開心心咪得囉 = “it’s ok to be happy”, while at 8:37 the speaker says 就算你要反對呢個哲學反省,你反對嘅時候,咪就係做緊哲學反省囉 = that is being engaged in philosophical reflection.

There is plenty of good vocabulary in the extract, including: 保持警覺 bóu2 chìh4 gíng2 gok3 = to stay/remain alert; 順勢 seuhn6 sai3 = take advantage of an opportunity; 預設 yuh6 chit3 = (?) to presuppose; 自主性 jih6 jyú2 sing3 = roughly, “the quality of deciding for oneself” or “initiative”; 嚴格嚟講 yìhm4 gaak3 lèih4 góng2 = strictly speaking; 打個譬如 dáa2 go3 pei3 yùh4 = to give an example; 高薪厚職 gōu1 sān1 háuh5 jīk1 = a high salary & a substantial position | ● 成世人 sèhng4 sai3 yàhn4 = one’s whole life; an entire lifetime; ● 雙向 sēung1 heung3 = two-way.

Please scroll down for my transcription, English translation and notes. You can view the video here (remember: there are no subtitles). 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.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

【4:11】噉其實蘇格拉底呢,係有機會唔使死嘅 | 噉只要佢認罪呢,嗰個雅典嗰啲法官呀,或者嗰啲權力人士就「哦,哦放逐你得㗎喇。唔使驚,唔使死呀。」| 但蘇格拉底講咩呢?佢就話「如果你哋呢班人,啫,按公義去審判嘅,唔單止我唔使死同埋放逐,你哋更加應該請我食飯 ,佢係咁講 | 點解呢? | 因為蘇格拉底自比呢,自己係一隻牛虻 | 一隻牛身上嘅小昆蟲 | 不斷叮住雅典呢隻牛 | 睇落好似又煩又乞人憎又無用咁,但其實佢有一個功能 | 佢令到呢隻牛不斷保持警覺 | 所以因為佢呢種追問同埋批評嘅精神其實係服務緊【5:00】個社會呀 | 所以雅典政府應該請請佢食飯

● 放逐 fong3 juhk6 = to send into exile; to exile; to banish | ● 牛虻 [ng]àuh4 mòhng4 (?) = gadfly | ● 叮dēng1 = to sting; to bite | ● 保持警覺 bóu2 chìh4 gíng2 gok3 = to stay/remain alert

In actual fact, Socrates was given a chance [which meant] he didn’t have to die. Had he accepted the charges made against him, those Athenian judges or those in power [would have said]: “Oh, banishing you is enough. You have nothing to fear. You don’t have to die”. What did Socrates say to that? He said: “If you lot had tried [me] according to justice, there would have been no need for me to die or to go into exile — in fact, you would have treated me to a meal”. That’s what he said. Why? Because Socrates compared himself to a gadfly, a small insect [found] on the body of a cow, constantly biting the Cow that was Athens. By the looks of it irritating, hateful and of no practical use [無用], he nevertheless had a function: he forced [令到] the cow to stay constantly alert. For this reason, because of this questioning and critical spirit of his, he was actually serving his society. And so the Athenian government should have treated him to a meal.

噉我做一個讀哲學嘅人,其實蘇格拉底好多哲學理論或者立場我都唔係好認同,但係淨係呢點呢,我係一路都好認同嘅 | 所以 *so 一路都等緊呢個政府出翻糧俾我或者請我食飯,俾錢我去讀哲學嘅 | 噉蘇格拉底認爲呢,呢種批判嘅精神呢,唔單止係對個社會有用 | 佢覺得呢,更加係人人都應該做嘅嘢 | 佢嘅名言嘅係一個自辯入便,啫,佢審判嘅時候為咗辯護有個名言嘅,就係呢句 | 佢話「未經反省嘅人生呢,係不值得活嘅」| 噉呢個係佢自辯一個名言,亦都係影響[到] 後世最多嘅説話 | 噉正如蘇格拉底自己呢,佢都唔會因為嗰啲專家嘅身份就亂信仰 | 我哋都唔應該因為蘇格拉底係一個偉大嘅哲學家就順勢講嘢㗎嘛 | 噉所以 *so 我哋都應該問清楚,究竟未經反省嘅人生,係咪真係不值得活嘅呢?【6:00】| 「係」嘅話,理由又喺邊度呢?

● 出糧 chēut1 lèuhng4 = to pay a salary | ● 名言 mìhng4 yìhn4 = a well-known saying; a celebrated dictum; a famous remark | ● 自辯 jih6 bihn6 = (?) to argue in self-defence | ● 後世 hauh6 sai3 = ① later ages ② later generations | ● 順勢 seuhn6 sai3 = take advantage of an opportunity | ● 理由 léih5 yàuh4 = a reason; a ground; an argument

As a student of philosophy, in actual fact I don’t really approve of [我都唔係好認同] many of Socrates’ philosophical theories or standpoints, but I have always approved of this one point. For this reason, I am waiting for this government to pay me a wage or treat me to a meal, and to pay me to study philosophy. Now, Socrates believed that this critical spirit is not only useful to society but that it was something each and every individual should do. In his self-defence, [he said something that has become] a well-known saying, a well-known saying that he used while defending himself during the trial: “An unexamined life is not worth living”. This celebrated dictum used by Socrates in self-defence and the remark has had the most influence on later ages. Now like Socrates himself, who stated that he wouldn’t rashly believe in [亂信仰] something just because of the status of those experts, we too ought not simply take his words at face-value [順勢講嘢] just because the man was a great philosopher. And so we have to be clear about whether the unexamined life really is not worth living, and if it is, what [邊度] the reason for it is.

噉嚟緊厘短短嘅幾分鐘,我哋就嘗試一齊扮吓蘇格拉底,質問翻蘇格拉底自己 | 係咪真嘅呢?| 噉啊我曾經喺課堂上邊都同啲學生討論過呢個故仔或者討論過呢個諗法嘅 | 噉啊不如大家估吓,我嘅學生係支持厘個説話多定係 *dei 反對嘅多?. . .

● 嚟緊 lèih4 gán2 = coming | ● 課堂 fo3 tòhng4 = classroom

In the coming few short minutes, we will try together to play the part of Socrates, and to question Socrates himself about [whether what he said] is true. I have discussed this story in the classroom with students or discussed this way of thinking. How about you try and guess whether more students supported [Socrates’] remark or disagreed with it?  . . .

【7:05】噉啲有認同嘅同反對嘅各佔一半呀 | 噉我覺得反對嘅同學呢,講嘅講法都幾 make sense 嘅,幾合附我哋嘅直覺 | 佢講啲咩呢?| 佢話,人點解要諗嘢?點解要反省呢?開開心心咪得囉 | 呢啲主觀嘅嘢喎 | 噉如果佢揀咗好似 TVB 咁樣《愛回家》咁樣好開心過一世 | 你憑咩話佢唔值得活 [啫]?咁樣 | 佢係咁講 | 噉我估呢個講法可能大家都某個意義上係 share 厘個講法嘅 | 但係我當時係點樣回應佢呀?| 我當時就係話,冇錯呀,人生係有好多好多種,千千萬萬咁多種 | 就好似呢個 hall 入便,百零二百人 | 我哋都 [過] 得好唔同嘅人生 | 有人係攝影師,有人係建築師,我係讀哲學嘅人 | 唔一定個個都讀哲學嘅,但個問題係,你要揀㗎嘛?【8:00】| 要揀㗎嘛?| 究竟係做隻所謂快樂嘅豬定係 *dei 痛苦嘅蘇格拉底,呢個係要揀㗎嘛?| 呢個問題本身就預設咗我哋要做抉擇,而做抉擇我哋就要去諗嘢 | 所以 *so 個問題係,無論如何,我哋都要用蘇格拉底式嘅哲學反省去選擇 | 所以其實呢種哲學反省係必須嘅 | 即使你揀做 [咗一隻快樂嘅豬] 或者開心嘅人生 [你都] 要揀咗先呀,你都要經過一種所謂 self-examination 嘅洗禮,你嘅選擇先係有意,你嘅人生先至值得活嘅 | 所以 *so 個講法就係,就算你要反對呢個哲學反省,你反對嘅時候,咪就係做緊哲學反省囉 | 所以呢種哲學反省係不能迴避

各佔一半 gok3 jim3 yāt1 bun3 = roughly, “each one occupied a half”, in otherwise, the class was divided “fifty-fifty” between those who agreed and those who did not | ● 合附 hahp6 fuh6 = (?) to accord with | ● 憑 pàhng4 = to rely on; to depend on | ● 預設 yuh6 chit3 = (?) to presuppose | ● 抉擇 kyut3 jaahk6 = to choose | ● 洗禮 sái2 láih5 = a baptism | ● 迴避 wùih4 beih6 = to evade; to dodge; to avoid

Half the students agreed with the idea, and half disagreed. Now I thought that what the students who disagreed said did make a lot of sense, according with one’s intuitions. What did she say? She said, “Why should people have to think about everything? Why should [we] have to reflect? It’s OK just be happy [with (?)] these subjective things. Now if [you] have chosen to live your life very happily in the manner of TVB’s Love Comes Home, what right have you to say [你憑咩話] that the life of such a person is not worth living?” That’s how she put it. Now I suppose that all of you here [大家] probably share this view in one sense or another. But at the time, how did I respond to her? At the time I said, “True, there many, many different ways to lead a human life, hundreds and thousands of different ways just like here in this hall of somewhere between one and two hundred people [百零二百人]. We all of us live our different lives — some are photographers, some are architects, and I study philosophy. Not everyone is necessarily a student of philosophy, but the question/problem is: Did you choose [your life]? Did you choose it? Whether you lead the life of a happy pig or a suffering Socrates, the thing is [呢個], did you choose it [係要揀嘅嗎]? This issue itself presupposes that we have to make a choice, and that to make a choice we have to think. And so the thing [所以個問題係] is, no matter [what the situation], we all have to make use of a Socratic-style philosophical reflection in order to choose. For this reason, such philosophical reflection is necessary. Even if you decide to be a happy pig or live a happy, carefree life [開心嘅], you have to make a choice, you have to undergo a baptism self-examination. Only then will your choice be meaningful and will your life be worth living. And so one could say that [Socrates’ remark about the unexamined life means that], even if you are opposed to philosophical reflection, your opposition to it is still [a way of] engaging in [做緊] philosophical reflection. For this reason, you can’t escape this kind of philosophical reflection.

噉究竟點解用哲學反省去令到我哋嘅人生變得值得活或者有意義呢?噉呢度有好多唔同嘅講法嘅,唔同嘅哲學家有唔同嘅詮釋。噉我或者分享吓我自己嘅比較簡單嘅理解 【9:00】。我理解係,呢種講法背後顯示咗一種對人嗰種自主性嘅重視。我哋要安排自己人生,為自己人生負責,咁呢,我哋 [成爲] 自己人生嘅主人。你諗吓,如果你唔反省,你嘅好多諗法或者你做緊嘅嘢係咪真係你自己嘅呢?定係 *dei 你屋企人、你朋友、你嘅社會俾你嘅呢?如果你冇反省過,其實你冇揀過。你冇揀過,嚴格嚟講,你連自己人生都承唔上,你冇 [過緊個] 自己嘅人生。

● 詮釋 chyùhn4 sīk1 = to explain; to interpret | ● 顯示 hín2 sih6 = to show; to display; to manifest | ● 自主性 jih6 jyú2 sing3 = roughly, “the quality of deciding for oneself” or “initiative” | ● 嚴格嚟講 yìhm4 gaak3 lèih4 góng2 = strictly speaking | ● 承唔上 sìhng4 mh4 seuhng6 = roughly, “to be able to undertake/take on/assume”

Now why does the use of philosophical reflection make our lives worth living or meaningful? Many explanations [講法] are given to this, and different philosophers have different interpretations. I’d like perhaps to share my rather simple understanding [of the matter] with you. My understanding is that behind [Socrates’ comment about the unexamined life] there is a laying of importance on an individual’s initiative. We have to arrange our own lives and take responsibility for ourselves, and by doing so we become the masters of our own lives. Think about it. If you don’t [engage in] reflection, are what you think about and what you do truly your own? Or are they something you have been given by your family, your friends or your society? If you haven’t examined [your life], then you actually haven’t made any choices. And if you haven’t chosen, then — strictly speaking — you cannot even undertake your own life, and you’ve never lived the life that is yours.

打個譬如 [啦]。如果有個人自細受到屋企嘅教育話,我哋仔要努力搵錢、結婚、買樓,於是乎佢大學就揀咗搵錢嘅課,後尾揀咗高薪厚職,然之後就做一個幸福嘅家庭。如果佢成世人都冇曾經 一刻,跳後一步,望翻呢個人,望翻呢條命,諗吓究竟咩值得做咩唔值得做嘅話,究竟佢過緊一個自己嘅人生呢,定係佢只不過係沿緊一個嘅社會俾佢嘅角色呢?【10:00】如果佢連自己人生都承唔上嘅時候,佢人生又仲有咩所謂值得唔值得活呢?可能佢反省完,揀翻一樣嘅嘢,但重點唔係佢揀啲咩,係佢要揀,佢先能夠成爲佢人生嘅主人。所以 *so 我哋會 [相信],揀咗,嗰條命先係你自己,而揀,[就係] 你要反省。所以 *so 無論如何,我哋都需要一個哲學嘅反省去幫助我哋 . . . 重新獲得自己嘅人生。

● 打個譬如 dáa2 go3 pei3 yùh4 = to give an example | ● 搵錢 wán2 chín4*2 = to make money | ● 高薪厚職 gōu1 sān1 háuh5 jīk1 = a high salary & a substantial position | ● 成世人 sèhng4 sai3 yàhn4 = one’s whole life; an entire lifetime cf. 一生人 yāt1 sāng1 yàhn4 = one’s whole life (used in the next section) | ● 沿 yùhn4 = to follow (a tradition, a pattern, etc.) | ● 角色 gok3 sīk1 = a role; a part

Let me give you an example. Imagine a man who has been instructed [in the following manner] by his family: our son must do all he can to get a job, to marry, and to buy a place to live. Then, when he goes to university, he chooses a course that means he can earn [good] money and, in the end, he lands a substantial position with a high salary. After that, he makes a happy family [for himself]. If he has never in the whole course of his life jumped back for a moment and looked [back (?)] at this person [he has become] and at this life of his, and wondered about what is worth doing and what is not, then is he living his own life, or has he merely accepted a role [沿緊一個 . . . 角色] given to him by his society? If he is unable to undertake even his own life, then what in his life can be said to worth the living? Perhaps he did reflect on his life and, after doing so, chose to live [exactly] the same [way], but the main thing is not what he chose but that he did chose [佢要揀], enabling him to become the master of his life. For this reason, we can believe [我哋會相信] that, only when we have chosen can that life be yours — and to choose requires you to reflect. And so, no matter what, we all of us need philosophical reflection to help us . . . to regain for ourselves our own lives.

噉呢種對人嘅自主性嘅重視,其實都體現咗蘇格拉底對教育或者學習嘅理解。蘇格拉底雖然係一個好偉大嘅哲學家,但好有趣地,佢連一生人都冇寫過書。噉係唔係因為佢唔識字呀?噉當然就唔係啦。噉好多關於佢嘅記載都只能夠憑其他人嘅描寫去獲知呀,例如派拉圖嘅著作咁樣。噉蘇格拉底點解唔寫書呀?係因為佢認爲追求知識同埋學習必然係一個即時同埋雙向嘅活動【11:00】,而書呢,係死 [㗎]。書寫低咗就擺咗喺度呢,你冇即時同本書辯論嘅。噉所以只能夠透過佢嗰種我哋叫做 Socratic dialogue 去同其他人辯論嗰種即時性先能夠獲得知識嘅。噉所以大家聽到呢度就發現,原來追求知識唔一定睇書可能大家就好開心 [喇],而家。哈哈,都唔係我問題啫,我唔睇書都唔代表我唔追求知識嘅,咁樣。[哎],但係大家都唔使開心得咁早喎。嗱,大家呢,嚟呢個TEDx啊,好開心啦,呃,覺得,[哎],有啲做啲文化活動,幾高級嘅,應該追求知識嘅,咁樣。[哎],噉啊坐喺度聽咗咁多「專家」嘅演講 [呀],包括我呢啲所謂「專家」演講,應該學到好多嘢,返到屋企就應該自命得意,就可以喺IG 呀、Facebook 就 share,啊,[咁樣] 好 inspiring 囉,咁樣,係啦。啫,// 咁樣。// 我估大家都有類此嘅心態嘅,但係我,我sorry 呀,我,我代蘇格拉底同大家講聲 sorry 先。唔係呀。你冇學過嘢呀。點解呀?你哋全部都只係坐喺度【12:00】聽我講。你冇真正發問。你冇真正提出自己意見。只能夠喺你真正提出自己嘅意見、發問、甚至挑戰我哋呢啲所謂專家嘅諗法嘅時候,你先真係 engage 緊嗰啲思想、嗰啲知識,而到你就係 engage 嗰刻,你先真係搭上追求知識嘅路。所以呢,一陣 lunchbreak,記得啦,把握機會,問吓啲專家,係呀。多啲討論。噉 [呢],[就係非常大] 嘅嘢,你先就係學到嘢,OK。

● 體現 tái2 yihn6 = to embody; to incarnate; to give expression to | ● 一生人 yāt1 sāng1 yàhn4 = one’s whole life | ● 記載 gei3 joi3 = a record; an account | ● 派拉圖 paai3 lāai1 tòuh4 = Plato | ● 即時 jīk1 sìh4 = usu. “immediate; forthwith”; here perhaps “on the spot” | ● 雙向 sēung1 heung3 = two-way| ● 自命得意 jih6 mihng6 dāk1 yi3 = cf. 自命 = to consider oneself; to regard oneself + 得意 = (?) interesting | ● 挑戰 tīu1 jin3 = to challenge

This valuing of individual initiative is an expression of Socrates understanding of education and of study. Socrates was a great philosopher, but one interesting fact is that he never wrote a book in the whole course of his life. Was that because he was illiterate? No, of course not! For accounts of him, [we] can only rely on descriptions written by other people, works by Plato, for example. Why didn’t Socrates write books, then? Because he believed that the pursuit of knowledge as well as learning required on-the-spot-ness and a two-way exchange. Books, on the other hand, are dead: once they are written they just sit there [擺咗喺度] — you can’t have a two-way argument with them. And so the only way you can obtain knowledge is by means of what we call the Socratic dialogue, having an immediate interchange with other people. Now, you might be happy to hear that you don’t have to read any books to acquire knowledge. “Ha, there’s nothing wrong with me! Just because I don’t read doesn’t mean I’m not engaged in the pursuit of learning.” But please don’t celebrate too soon [但係大家都唔使開心得咁早喎]! Here you are, happy to be at this TEDx talk, thinking that at these cultural events, really quite high-class, you can pursue knowledge. You sit here listening to talks by all these experts — including so-called experts like myself — thinking that you ought to learn something, and when you get back home you’d consider yourself someone with something to say [自命得意], something you can share on Instagram and Facebook, how inspiring! Something like that. I guess most of you here might have an attitude like that, but I’m sorry: on behalf of Socrates, I have to tell you that I’m sorry. No, actually, you didn’t learn anything. Why not? [Because] the lot of you sat here listening to me speak. You didn’t ask questions. You didn’t get to express your own ideas. It’s only when you have really put forward your own ideas — even [daring to go so far as] to challenge the views of us, the so-called experts — that you are truly engaging with those ideas, with that knowledge and at the time when you are engaging, you can truly be said to have embarked on the road to knowledge. So for this reason, on your next lunchbreak, remember to take advantage of the opportunity to asks the experts questions. Discuss more. Only then UNCLEAR will you learn things. OK.

Learning Cantonese: Painting Hong Kong Landscapes with 黃進曦 Stephen Wong


有陣時都會驚有一啲地方係會畫唔翻嘅 | 噉但係呢樣嘢我覺得係冇得驚嘅 | 啫,我意思係唔到我控制嘅呢樣嘢,本身係 | [因為] 風景畫家其實就係你去 capture 一個你眼見,啫,或者當下嘅一個,一個景象


Hong Kong landscape painter 黃進曦 Stephen Wong Chun Hei is a very thoughtful artist, and he says some intriguing things in this 5-minute Ming Pao video about painting during an epidemic and the time for greater creative reflection it enables. He also muses on the distinctive qualities of the Hong Kong landscape (“Wherever you go in Hong Kong, as long as you can see a mountain that you recognize, it helps you to some degree to get your bearings”), and on the anxiety everyone feels about the sacrifice of landscape to so-called “development”: perhaps many of Hong Kong’s existing natural scenes will one day only exist within paintings.

In terms of grammatical riches, the most interesting thing to listen out for is Wong’s use of the aspect marker 開 hōi1. You will hear it at around the 1:13 minute mark in the phrase 噉我就都第一次就嘗試將我平時用開嘅大畫嗰啲canvas呢, and it crops up again at 2:31 in 因爲睇開嗰啲風景畫家嗰啲或者鍾意嘅風景畫都係一啲外國嘅風景咁樣嘅. In Intermediate Cantonese, Yip and Matthews state that it generally has “a habitual meaning” and this is certainly the case here, with the first meaning “those canvases that I usually use for big paintings” (note how 平時 pìhng4 sìh4 explicitly underscores the habitual nature of the act), and the second, “because those landscape paintings I usually looked at by those landscape painters I may have liked”.

There is also one use of the structure 冇得 + Verb to indicate inability. I am still puzzled by this usage, but my current thinking is that it expresses a universal inability, covering all those nuances involving physical ability, know-how, permission, etc. It crops up at 3:46 in the phrase 呢樣嘢我覺得係冇得驚嘅, where 冇得驚 means something like “cannot fear that” or “cannot be frightened about”. You’ll hear it again at 4:14 in 冇得要求 = “cannot demand”. You will also encounter a couple of examples of that very useful aspect marker 翻 fāan1, concerned with repetition. It is used by Wong in 見唔翻 = “unable to see again” and, more creatively, 畫唔翻 = unable to paint again”.

There are also some gems in the domain of vocabulary, the pick of the crop being the verb 打戙 dáa2 duhng6 = to set vertically/upright. Other worthwhile items include 環遊世界 wàahn4 yàuh4 sai3 gaai3 = to make a round the world trip; 寫生 sé2 sā[a]ng1 = to paint from life; to draw, paint or sketch from nature; 草原 chóu2 yùhn4 = grasslands; prairie; 辨認 bihn6 yihng6 = to identify; to recognize; 定位 dihng6 wái6*2 = to orientate; to position; 景象 gíng2 jeuhng6 = a scene; a sight; 然之後 yìhn4 jī1 hauh6 = after; subsequent; later on; and 演繹 yín2 yihk6 = usu. to elaborate.

Please scroll down for my transcription (it’s not perfect, but most of it is accurate), 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.

You can view another post on 黃進曦 Stephen Wong Chun Hei here.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

黃進曦:而家畫風景好似有種責任 | 去,去記錄一覺得自己,呃,會遲早見唔翻

Stephen Wong Chun Hei: [I] would have this one extra feeling, the feeling that a landscape painter now seems to have a responsibility to record things that he or she feels that, sooner or later, will never be seen again.

Caption: 收藏香港風景的人:以畫作為我城留下印證 The Man who Collects Hong Kong’s Landscapes: Leaving Confirmation [印證] Our City in Painting

Caption: 黃進曦 | 風景畫家 Stephen Wong Chun Hei | Landscape Painter

其實呢張畫畫係今次我六月尾有一個個展呢 | 就做關於喺疫情開始以呢 | 我就用 Google Earth 去環遊世界 | 去唔同世界各地嘅風景去畫畫嘅 | 其中一張大畫嚟嘅 | 呢個地方呢,其實係喺美國嘅一個地方,叫做 Big Trees Trail 咁樣 [呀] | 噉而我【1:00】諗緊嘅係點樣可以到觀衆睇一張畫嘅時候 | 都有嗰種好高大嘅感覺 [呢] | 噉我就都第一次就嘗試將我平時用開嘅大畫嗰啲 canvas 呢,就打戙咗佢 | 第一次畫一張三米高嘅,嘅作品

噉但係當有停落嚟嘅時間 | 你就會發現原來人係需要有放 break 嘅時間 | 喺呢一段時間裏邊,我反而係更加享受到創作嘅 | ,以前都創作 | 但問題以前嗰種呢,就係 . . . 好似冇咁多反思嘅時間 | 噉而家反而係疫情關係呢 | 噉令到我諗,究竟點樣利用創作去面對呢一段咁樣嘅時間呢 | 會開始覺得所有都唔係咁必然 | 去到而家嚟講,就算我行出去 . . .

● 個展 go3 jín2 = (?) a solo exhibition; a one-man show cf. 個人展覽 | ● 環遊世界 wàahn4 yàuh4 sai3 gaai3 = to make a round the world trip | ● 高大 gōu1 daaih6 = lofty | ● 利用 leih6 yuhng6 = to use; to utilize; to make use of | ● 打戙 dáa2 duhng6 = to set vertically/upright cf. 戙 = to erect; set upright; lift up | ● 創作 chong3 jok3 = creative work; creation | ● 必然 bīt1 yìhn4 = inevitable; certain

Actually, this painting is (?) [part of] (?) a solo exhibition at the end of June. Since the beginning of the covid virus, I have been making a round-the-world trip with the help of Google Earth, going off in search of landscapes in various parts of the world in order to paint them. One of [the paintings] is a large painting. This place is in America and is called Big Tree Trail. Now what I have been thinking is how to give viewers a lofty emotion even [都] when they are looking at a large painting. For the first time, I have tried taking those canvasses I normally use for big paintings and tipping them on their side. The first painting is a work three metres tall.

However, at a time when things have come to a stop [當有停落嚟嘅時間], you will find that it turns out that people need to take a break. In this period of time, I find that I am nevertheless enjoying [my] creativity more. I mean, I was creating too before, but the problem was that I didn’t have much time to reflect on things. Now, on the contrary, owing to the virus, I have been made to wonder about how to make use of creativity to confront just such a period of time and I have begun to think that nothing is so certain. Up till now, even though I have headed out . . .

【2:00】  . . . 香港嘅地方,去行山都好啦 | 我都真係會有多咗一個感覺,就係唔知,啫,有冇下一次嘅,其實好多嘢都 | 但係呢一個珍惜呢,其實往往係令到我去觀察一個地方會嚟得更加深入嘅

最開頭呢,我以為我會好鍾意外國嘅風景嘅 | 因爲睇開嗰啲風景畫家嗰啲或者鍾意嘅風景畫都係一啲外國嘅風景咁樣嘅 | 噉但係當我去過外國去寫生之後 | 就會發覺原來我自己掛住嘅係香港嘅風景 | 因望到外國嘅 // 大嘅草原啦 | 或者一啲一望無際嘅山脈 [啦] ,咁樣嘅時候呢,你會覺得好陌生 | 噉 [呢個] 嘅陌生感係令到我個腦裏邊 | 啫,會諗住:嗯,香港嘅風景 . . .

● 珍惜 jān1 sik3 = to treasure; to value; to cherish | ● 寫生 sé2 sā[a]ng1 = to paint from life; to draw, paint or sketch from nature | ● 草原 chóu2 yùhn4 = grasslands; prairie

. . . to go places in Hong Kong and gone hiking, there is really something extra in my feelings — that is, actually for a lot of things I don’t know whether there will be a next time. But this [sense of] cherishing actually usually makes me scrutinize a place all the more deeply.

Back when I first started [最開頭], I thought I would really like the landscapes in other countries, because the landscape paintings I genuinely admired by the landscapes painters I looked at were all foreign landscapes. However, when I went overseas to paint from life [寫生], I discovered that it was the Hong Kong landscape that I was missing. The reason is that when you look at sweeping grass plains or a chain of mountains stretching as far as the eye can see, it feels alien to you. This feeling of alienation makes me think [instead] about Hong Kong’s landscapes . . .

【3:00】. . . 係點嘅呢 | 於是我自己就會覺得同我自己生活有關係嘅風景 | 先至係我最想去用,用創作去描寫佢嘅 | 例如 ,今日嚟到呢一度嘅時候,我,呃,望到八仙嶺 | 跟住我而家面對住嘅馬鞍山咁樣 | 噉都係 . . . 對我嚟講,係香港好獨特嘅一種山型嚟㗎 | 無論你去到香港嘅邊一度 | 只要你望到某一座你辨認到嘅山 | 某程度係幫到你定位 | 知道自己去咗邊咁樣嘅 | 有陣時都會驚有一啲地方係會畫唔翻嘅 | 噉但係呢樣嘢我覺得係冇得驚嘅 | 啫,我意思係唔到我控制嘅呢樣嘢,本身係 | [因為] 風景畫家其實就係你去 capture 一個你眼見,啫,或者當下嘅一個,一個景象

● 山型 sāan1 yìhng4 = (?) mountain-type | ● 辨認 bihn6 yihng6 = to identify; to recognize | ● 定位 dihng6 wái6*2 = to orientate; to position | ● 眼見 ngáahn5 gin3 = (?) here, “to see” | ● 景象 gíng2 jeuhng6 = a scene; a sight

. . . and what they are actually like. And so, I myself tend to think that the landscapes that have some connection with my own life are the only ones [先] that I want most of all to make use of, to portray [描寫] them by making use of [my] creativity. For instance, here today, we can see the Pat Sin Leng mountain range and then now I am facing Ma On Shan. Such [sights] [噉都係], as far as I am concerned, [involve] a type of mountain that is special to Hong Kong. Wherever you go in Hong Kong, as long as you can see a mountain that you recognize, it helps you to some degree to get your bearings [定位] and you know where you have got to. Sometimes, I’m really worried [都會驚] that I won’t get to paint some of these places ever again but, on the other hand, I think I can’t be afraid of such an eventuality. What I mean [我意思唔到] is that I am unable to control such things, in themselves [本身]. [Being] a landscape painter [means] in fact that you go off and “capture” a scene that you see, something in the moment.

【4:00】你係做一個決定。噉然之後你亦都用你自己嘅手法嚟到去演繹你所見嘅嘢 | 你,你唯一去保留佢嘅就係用你嘅作品 [去] 保留佢嘅 | 噉真係冇得要求佢係不變嘅 | 係會有多咗一種感覺 | 係而家畫風景好似有種責任 | 去,去記錄一啲覺得自己會遲早見唔翻嘅 | 個變化,啫,自己都預咗係唔知幾時嚟嘅 | 噉所以我,我就係畫多咗一種感覺 | 係一種更加珍惜當下嗰刻嘅,嘅嘢 [喇]

● 然之後 yìhn4 jī1 hauh6 = after; subsequent; later on | ● 演繹 yín2 yihk6 = usu. to elaborate, but perhaps here “to interpret” | ● 不變 bāt1 bin3 = not to change

You make a decision. After that, you make use of your own personal methods to interpret the things that you see. The only way you can hold onto them is by means of the work of art that you make [用你嘅作品嚟保留佢]. You really can’t demand that things mustn’t change. [I] tend to have this one extra feeling, the feeling that a landscape painter now seems to have a responsibility to record things that he or she feels that, sooner or later, will never be seen again. You cannot know in advance when that change will come. For this reason, there is an added feeling in my painting [我就係畫多咗一種感覺], one of cherishing the things of the present moment more.

記者:許莉霞
拍攝:劉錦欣、姚旨豐
剪接:劉錦欣

Learning Cantonese: 7.21 尋源 Seeking the Sources of 21 July

Yuen Long, c. 1960

This is neither pleasant nor easy watching, but if you are concerned about what is going on in Hong Kong then this Stand News video on the 2019 21 July Yuen Long Mob Attacks is essential viewing.

The “revised” view of the incident as a clash between protestors and pro-government forces is precisely what the video wants to challenge. This challenge involves four aspects, two of which are covered in this first part (the first 7 minutes). Firstly, there is the testimony of Mr So, who was attacked by a stick-wielding mob on his way home from work. Given the fact that he was unarmed and alone calls into question the idea that the attacks were an act of self-defence on the part of locals. Nothing about Mr So suggests that he was part of pro-Hong Kong plot to overrun Yuen Long in order to liberate [光復] it.

The second aspect is the influence of the pro-Beijing group “Safeguard Hong Kong” [守護香港]. One of the “men in white” [白衣人] was seen wearing a marshall’s token [糾察牌] on which the name of the organization was written. Also of possible relevance are the comments of 石鏡泉 Arthur Shek Kang Chuen who, at a large rally organized by Safeguard Hong Kong at Tamar Park on 20 July, urged members of the audience to find a cane rod or a length of water piping “to teach the kids a lesson” [教仔]. Also relevant here is the woman 李璧而 Sandy Li Pik Yee, the convenor of a pro-Beijing group called [珍惜群組], who led a small demonstration in Yuen Long on the night of the attacks and who, by her own admission, had worked as a marshall at Safeguard Hong Kong events. Recently, Sandy Lee also filed a complaint against Eddie Yip, the judge who sentenced seven of the men in white so far charged over the Attacks.

The third very important aspect concerns a poster allegedly circulated by protestors carrying the inflammatory wording “Capture Yuen Long and You’ll Gain the Whole Empire” [得元朗得天下]. In the second part of this video, we will see that evidence uncovered by Stand News shows that, although the origins of this poster are impossible to determine, its earliest traceable appearance was on a Weibo page called “Dust in the Wind” [風中微塵] run by a woman married to a Hong Kong policeman and known for her active support of the police force. The final aspect involves the role of certain organizations in the New Territories, especially the various Rural Committees [鄉委會] and also a “New Territories Working Group” attached to the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government 中聯辦新界工作部部長, headed by a man called 李薊貽 Li Jiyi.

I hope to post the remaining two parts in the coming weeks.

Please scroll down for my transcription (unfortunately, the remarks of both Mr So and Sandy Lee are a bit unclear, so I have transcribed the Chinese subtitles as well), English translation and notes. You can view the video here (subtitles in English and 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.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

旁白:7.21 [七二一] 元朗襲擊事件兩周年 | 過去連儂牆已經空白一片 | 只係剩低每個月嘅21號 | 有大批警員駐守

蘇先生:(字幕)香港人沒有忘記7.21事件| 只係形式上不同了,不在牆上,在心中(粵語)香港人呢,都係忘記7.21呢件事 [呢] | 只係 [形式]可能 // 形式上唔同 [啦], 唔度,// 心入便咁樣

白衣人:(字幕) 不聽話就打

蘇先生:我最想知嘅唔係邊個打我 [嘛] | 我最想知嘅係點解會打 | 後邊 [邊]個 策劃成件事係點樣發生嘅

李璧而:(字幕)他們(示威者)吹得好犀利 | 說「得元朗得天下」| 整件事是爲了守護元朗 | 守護自己的家園而被迫還手 | 這就是真相(粵語) 佢哋吹得好緊要 | 話「得元朗得天下」| 成件事呢,[都係咗] 守護元朗[咋嘛] |守護自己嘅家園被迫還手 | 呢個就係真相

● 連儂牆 lìhn4 nùhng4 chèuhng4 = Lennon Wall | ● 空白一片 hūng1 baahk6 yāt1 pin3 = roughly, “completely blank” | ● 駐守 jyu3 sáu2 = to garrison; to defend | ● 策劃 chaak3 waahk6 = to plan; to plot; to scheme; to engineer | ● 家園 gāa1 yùhn4 = home; homeland | ● 還手 wàahn4 sáu2 = to strike back; to hit back; to retaliate

Voice-over: It is the second anniversary of the 21 July Yuen Long Mob Attacks. The Lennon Wall that was once here is now completely blank and the only reminder of the incident [只係剩低] is the large police presence [大批警員駐守] here on the 21st of every month.

Mr So: The people of Hong Kong haven’t forgotten the 21 July Yuen Long Attacks. It’s just that [we] remember it in a different form — not on a wall but in [our] hearts and minds.

Attacker: (Subtitles) If you disobey, we will hit you.

Mr So: What I really want to know is not who hit me. What I really want to know is why they did it, who the people were behind it were, and how it happened.

Sandy Lee Pik-yee: They (the anti-extradition protestors) were talking up things [吹] in the most exaggerated fashion, saying that if they captured Yuen Long they would then have taken all of China [得元朗得天下]. The whole incident was merely a matter of protecting Yuen Long. We were forced to protect our homeland. That is the truth of it.

【1:00】遭襲擊嘅市民: (字幕)不要打呀 | 只是放工回家呀 | 把眼鏡還給他

旁白:7.21 兩周年 | 事件由最初公認嘅白衣人襲擊市民 | 變成建制所講有「暴徒」| 帶人入元朗掀起雙方衝突 | 究竟7.21係點樣發生呢?| 白衣人背後有冇組織呢?| 「得元朗得天下」厘個消息 | 又係點嚟呢?| 立場新聞翻查當日嘅閉路電視同網絡片段 | 分析互聯網歷史數據,追尋新線索

Caption: 7.21尋源 Seeking the Sources of 21 July

旁白:做厨師嘅蘇先生 . . .

● 建制 gin3 jai3 = (a) pro-establishment or pro-Beijing (organization) | ● 掀起 hīn1 héi2 = to set off (a movement, etc.); to start | ● 翻查 fāan1 chàah4 = roughly, “to look through” | ● 追尋 jēui1 chàhm4 = to pursue; to search; to track down

People being attacked: (Subtitles) Don’t hit [us]. We’ve finished work and we’re just going back home. Give him back his glasses.

Voice-over: On the second anniversary of the 21 July Yuen Long Attacks, the incident has gone from being an attack on civilians by the men in white to what pro-Beijing groups [call] the taking of thugs into Yuen Long to provoke conflicts between the two parties [that is, pro-Beijing parties and pro-Hong Kong parties]. Why in the final analysis did 21 July happen? Was there a particular organization behind the men in white? And where did the news [concerning] the “capture of Yuen Long” come from? The Stand News [team] has looked through footage from closed-circuit TV and the internet from that day, and analyzed historical data from the internet in pursuit of fresh clues.

Mr So, who works as a chef . . .

【2:00】. . . 2019年7月21日,夜晚9點幾收工嘅時候 | 喺元朗鳳攸北街 | 被一班白衣人用藤條襲擊 | 一年後,警方先至安排認人手續 | 蘇先生兩次都認唔到

Caption: 蘇先生 | 7.21襲擊事件傷者 | Mr So | A Victim of the 21 July [Yuen Long] Mob Attacks

蘇先生: (字幕) 爲何事隔一年後才找我認人?| 一年了,甚麽記憶也衝淡了 | 怎會認到人?| 我自己嘗試過找線索找資料 | 方向是7.21(襲擊)前有一個小遊行 | 圍繞元朗行一圈 | 主題和之後的7.21襲擊都好相似 | 都是穿白色衫、手持藤條之類 (粵語)點解要隔咗一年先我認人呢?| 一年 [喇] 喎,我咩記憶都衝淡咗啦 | 唔會認得人 [吖] | 我自己我都 試過去揾一啲線索囉,揾一啲資料囉 | [主要] 方向就係因爲當時7.21之前係有一個叫做遊行仔咁樣 [啦],係呀 | 噉啊圍繞元朗繞 [轉一週] // | 其實個主題同 // 之後7.21襲擊都好相似 | 都係白色衫呀、可能攞啲,啫,藤條咁嘅嘢囉

● 藤條 tàhng4 tíu4*2= (a length of) cane | ● 認人手續 yihng6 yàhn4 sáu2 juhk6 = (?) an identity/identification parade | ● 衝淡 chūng1 daahm6/táahm5 = ① to dilute ② to water down; to weaken; to play down | ● 線索 sin3 sok3 = a clue; a thread | ● 圍繞 wàih4 yíu2 = round; around

. . . was attacked by a group of men in white wielding cane rods [藤條] some time after 9 p.m. on 21 July 2021 after work in Fung Yau Street North. A whole year went by before the police organized [two] identity parades, but on both occasions Mr So didn’t recognize any [of the participants].

Mr So: Why did a whole year go by [隔咗一年] before I was contacted about identifying suspects [認人]? A whole year! Any memories I had had begun to fade; it was unlikely that I’d recognize anyone. Off my own bat [我自己] I once tried to search for a few clues, a bit of material [UNCLEAR] the direction [of the search being] a mini-demonstration [遊行仔] that did a circuit of Yuen Long before [the] 21 July [Yuen Long Attacks]. The theme (?) of the demonstration was similar to that of the later 21 July Attacks. There were people wearing white and maybe some of them were carrying things like cane rods.

【3:00】根據鳳攸北街商戶提供嘅閉路電視片段 | 7.21當日下晝6點幾開始 | 有白衣人聚集同派口罩 | 直至8點幾,更開始有大批白衣人聚集 | 其中一支閉路電視影到 | 三分鐘内有大約二百名白衣人行過 | 差唔多8點嗰陣,仲有一個小型遊行 | 佢哋二、三十人住「保衛元朗 | 保衛家園」嘅標語同區旗遊行

蘇先生:發現咗另一個建制派人士呢 | 叫李璧而 [啦],係一個叫做「珍惜群組」嘅召集人 [啦]

旁白:蘇先生話,自己喺連登討論區 | 出貼討論呢個索,點知有網民留言 | 話有條片聽到李璧而

Gladys Hou 香港突發事故報料區

十萬火急!!!大家麻煩將消息傳出去,元朗雞地有大量黑社會全部白衫,佢哋會係(喺)雞地近西鐵站一帶伏擊遊行完返泥(嚟)嘅示威者,係真係會圍打!呢個消息係100%確定,麻煩大家廣傳叫住元朗嘅手足小心,遠離個(嗰)邊一帶!

Gladys Hou Zone for the Reporting [報料] of Unexpected Incidents in Hong Kong (Screenshot from the LIHKG website)

I’m terribly worried!!! Could I please trouble you all to pass on this news: in Kai Tei in Yuen Long, there are large numbers of triad members wearing white, near the Western Rail Station, waiting to ambush protestors returning from demonstrations. They really could beat people up! This news is 100% definite. I ask you to spread [the news] widely, and tell fellow protestors [手足] to be careful and steer well clear of the area.

● 標語 bīu1 yúh5 = slogan; poster + here perhaps “a placard; a sign” (usu.  標語牌) | ● 連登討論區 Lihn4 Dāng1 tóu2 lèuhn4 kēui1 = LIHKG discussion area; meeting area | ● 嗌咪 = cf. 嗌 aai3 = to shout; to yell + 咪 māi1 = microphone (cf. 咪高峰 māi1 gōu1 fūng1)

Notes: LIHKG is a multi-category forum website based in Hong Kong. The website has gained popularity since its launch in 2016, and is often referred to as the Hong Kong version of Reddit (Wikipedia).  雞地gāi1 deih6 or Kai Tei (meaning “chicken land”) in English is located is a place in the south-east part of Yuen Long. The name derives from the fact that there was once a poultry market there that sold chickens and ducks.

Voice-over: On the basis of [根據] CCTV footage provided by traders in Fung Yau Street North, on the day of the 21 July [Yuen Long Attacks], from around 6 p.m., men dressed in white began to assemble and hand out face masks. This went on till around 8 p.m., when large numbers of men dressed in white joined those already assembled. One of the CCTV cameras recorded [影到] the approach of around 200 men dressed in white in the space of 3 minutes [三分鐘内]. At around 8 p.m., there was also a small-scale demonstration, of around 20 to 30 people. They held up placards on which was written “Defend Yuen Long, Defend Our Homeland” and Hong Kong flags as they marched.

Mr So: I came across another pro-Beijing figure by the name of Sandy Li Pik Yee. She’s the convenor of something called the Cherish Group [珍惜群組].

Voice-over: Mr So said that he posted something about this clue on a discussion forum on LIHKG. To his surprise, a netizen said that there was a video of Sandy Lee shouting [slogans] into a microphone.

【4:00】李璧而:(字幕)元朗保衛軍、志願軍

旁白:而畫面見到呢一個男人 | 身上帶住「守護香港」嘅糾察牌 | 閉路電視亦見到呢個男人 | 曾經同一大班白衣人一齊出入

蘇先生:(字幕)這個人跟另一張相片中在九樓内 | 手持藤條影相的男子非常相似 | 「守護香港」糾察牌 | 我一看便記得之前一個「守護香港」集會 | 一班親政府人士在添馬公園舉辦集會 | 這些容易令人聯想,像所有東西都有關連(粵語)呢個人我原來同另一張相喺個酒樓度 | 唔知攞住藤條影相個係好似 | 「守護香港」個糾察牌 | ,我睇 . . . 記得就喺早排一個叫做「守護香港」嘅集會 [嘛] | 係一班,啫,親政府人士啦,舉行嘅集會,喺添馬公園 | 啫 // 呢啲 [咪] // 容易令人聯想到呢,[或者] 原來,啫,好似所有嘢都有關係嘅

旁白:喺7月20號守護香港大聯盟 | 攪嘅撐警集會上,石鏡泉咁講:| 屋企有藤條呀?(有 !). . .

● 糾察 gáu2 chaat3 = to maintain order at a public gathering | ● 早排 jóu2 pàaih4/páai4*2 = a while ago; a few days ago | ● 親政府人士 chān1 jing3 fú2 yàhn4 sih6 = pro-government people cf. 親 = in favour of; pro- | ● 聯想 lyùhn4 séung2 = to associate; to connect in the mind

Sandy Li Pik Yee: (Subtitles) Yuen Long’s Army of Defence, [its] Volunteer Army

Voice-over: In one moment in the footage [畫面], a man is visible wearing [身上帶住] a Safeguard Hong Kong marshall’s tag [糾察牌]. In the CCTV footage, this man was also seen coming and going with a large group of men in white.

Mr So: This man resembles a man in another photograph [taken in a] restaurant. I’m not sure [唔知] if he is the same man, the one holding a cane rod. [As for] the Safeguard Hong Kong marshall’s tag, I think [我睇] I remember a while ago there being a rally for Safeguard Hong Kong, a bunch of people who are in favour of the government, and they held this gathering in Tamar Park. These [UNCLEAR] can easily be linked up in one’s mind — it seems as if all these things are somehow connected.

Voice-over: Safeguard Hong Kong held a rally in support of police on 20 July. At this rally, Arthur Shek Kang Chuen made the following comments: “Do you have a cane rod at home? (Crowd: Yes!)

【5:00】(字幕)屋企有藤條呀?(有)| 找藤條出來!找長一點來打仔!| 屋企沒有藤條如何呀?| 我們去五金鋪,買直徑 20 毫米的水喉通 | 我們要來做什麽?教仔(粵語)石鏡泉:. . . 攞 [條] 出!揾長 // 打仔! | 屋企冇藤條點呀?| 我都去 // 間五金鋪,買條 20mm 嘅水喉通 | 我哋要 // ?[啫],教仔

旁白:石鏡泉之後撤回言論同致歉 | 表示不贊成任何暴力 | 並且事前對7.21 襲擊毫不知情 | 守護香港大聯盟回覆我哋話 | 喺7.21冇舉行任何活動 | 又話,「守護香港」字樣喺2019年嘅時候 | 「黑暴分子」都有使用 | 叫我哋問「黑暴分子」點解要策動當晚嘅暴亂

李璧而:(字幕)這牌我也有 | 在添馬公園做保安,是大型活動 (粵語)呢個牌我都有 [啦] |  呢 // 保安,// 喺添馬公園做個大型嘅活動吖嘛 | 噉呢,就係,呃 . . .

● 五金鋪 ngh5 gām1 póu3*2 = hardware store | ● 水喉通 séui2 hàuh4 tūng1 = usu. a length of metal water piping | ● 撤回 chit3 wùih4 = to retract | ● 致歉 ji3 hip3 = to apologize; to express regret | ● 毫不知情 hòuh4 bāt1 jī1 chìhng4 = completely unaware of (the facts of a case or the details of an incident) | ● 字樣 jih6 yéung6*2 = printed or written words | ● 策動 chaak3 duhng6 = to instigate; to engineer; to stir up | ● 暴亂bouh6 lyuhn6 = a riot; a rebellion; a revolt

Arthur Shek: Take out [your] cane rods, a nice long one, and beat the brats! Don’t happen to have a cane rod lying around at home? Then we’ll head off down to the hardware store and buy a length of 20mm water piping [水喉通]. What for? We want to teach those brats a lesson.

Voice-over: Arthur Shek later retracted his remarks and issued an apology, expressing [the view] that he did not condone violence of any kind, and saying that he had no prior knowledge of the 21 July Attacks. Safeguard Hong Kong responded to our questions, saying that they did not organize any activities on the day of the attacks, adding that the words “safeguard Hong Kong” were also used by “black violent elements” [黑暴分子] in 2019. They told us to go and ask those “black violent elements” why they instigated that evening’s riot [暴亂].

Sandy Li Pik Yee: I’ve got one of those tags. I worked as a marshall at the big event held at Tamar Park which was organized by . . .

【6:00】. . . (字幕)是何律師(何君堯)舉辦的 | (記者:是守護香港大聯盟舉辦的)| 是守護香港大聯盟 . . . 記錯了 | 這牌 . . . 我也有份做糾察 (粵語)何律師攪嘅嘛,噉 [因為] . . . |(記者:// 香港大聯盟攪嘅) | 啊,啊,守護香港大聯盟,係,[記錯咗, 記錯] | (係,係)| 咁樣呢,就,呃,呢個牌,我都有一份糾察 [喇]

旁白:我哋訪問到7.21白衣人襲擊前 | 喺行帶頭嘅李璧而 | 話,當日遊行係元朗一班街坊自發攪 | 同守護香港大聯盟 | 或者其他建制組織都冇關係

李璧而:(字母)這些糾察牌與當日無關,沒必要掛上 | 我不知道爲何他會掛上,我不知道 | 大家是鄰里,不能排除他 | 一起來幫忙控制秩序,不奇怪 | 7.21那晚我們一班人約在這裏 | 在這裏張貼橫額,物資放這裏 | 我看見他們預備了藤條(粵語)呢牌唔關 [嗰件事,我想話] (記者:哦)亦都冇必要掛喺度 | 噉我唔知點解佢會掛喺度呢,我唔知 [喇] // | 大家鄰里呢,當日嚟講唔係 // 佢就 | // 幫手控制個秩序,都唔奇嘅 | 7.21嗰晚呢,// 我哋呢,都成班呢,就約咗喺呢一度 | ,我哋呢,就貼橫額,喺度貼。嗱,啲物資呢,就擺 [到] 呢度嘅 | 噉 // 佢哋 // 見到佢哋呢,就係,呃,呃,預備咗啲藤條,我見到 . . .

● 自發 jih6 faa3 = spontaneous | ● 橫額 wàahng4 ngáak6*2 = horizontal hanging placard; banner; streamer | ● 鄰里 lèuhn4 léih5 = neighbour | ● 物資 maht6 jī1 = (?) goods

Sandy Li Pik Yee : . . . [Junius] Ho [Kwan-yiu], the lawyer organized. (Reporter: That event was organized by Safeguard Hong Kong.) Oh yes, Safeguard Hong Kong. My memory is playing tricks on me. Now as for this tag . . . I’ve also worked as a marshall.

Voice-over: We spoke with Sandy Li who marched at the head of the protest before the 21 July Attacks by the men in white. She said that the march held on that day was a spontaneous event organized by a residents’ group in Yuen Long and that it had no connection whatsoever with Safeguard Hong Kong or any other pro-Beijing organization.

Sandy Li Pik Yee : This tag has nothing to do with the march. There was no need to wear it here. I don’t know why he was wearing it. We are all local people. Perhaps he was helping out with the crowd control [控制秩序] — there’s nothing odd about that. On the night of 21 July, the whole lot of us gathered here, put up banners. We put them up here. Various other bits and pieces [物資] were put here. As for those [men], I saw them coming prepared with cane rods, and when I saw them . . .

【7:00】(字幕) . . . 我問,為甚麽會預備藤條?| (他們指)示威者有槌子之類的武器 | 他們被迫守衛家園 | 你們卻說他們是黑社會 | (示威者)不入元朗有怎會有此事?| 今次希望大家要明白 | 其實看看網上之前的資料 | 「得元朗得天下」. . . 嘩,真的嚇死人(粵語)我 // 點解你預備藤條嘅 | // 對方呢,話,呃,呃,嗰啲,嗰啲武器有鎚仔、有 // 吖嘛 | 佢哋被迫守衛家園 | 而你哋話佢哋,呃,咩?,呃,黑社會 | 你唔入嚟 [點] 會有嘅事呀? 係咪先?| 所以呢,今次我 [哋]希望大家要明白到呢 | 呃,其實睇翻網上呢,以前嘅網上嘅資料 | 「得元朗得天下」,嘩,真係呀嚇死人呀,真係

旁白:李璧而話,7.21前夕 | 網上流傳「得元朗得天下」嘅圖 | 佢哋知道有人要入元朗「光復」| 所以先至集合出嚟守衛元朗

李璧而:(字幕)之前(有圖)刻意放大這些字 | 令到我們都很擔心 | 因爲這張海報,他們這樣鼓吹 | 整條街都站滿白衣人 (粵語)[佢] 之前呢,[就] 刻意呢,就放大呢啲字呀 | 噉呢 // [講真呢],我都好擔心呀 | 因爲 [嗰] poster 啦,同埋佢哋咁樣吹法啦 | 呢度成條街全部白雪雪

● 預備 yuh6 beih6 = to prepare; to get ready | ● 鎚仔 chèuih4 jái2 = roughly, a little hammer | ● 係咪先 haih6 maih6 sin1 = don’t you agree with me? | ● 前夕 chìhn4 jihk6 = eve | ● 流傳 làuh4 chyùhn4 = to spread; to circulate | ● 光復 gwōng1 fuhk6 = to recover; to liberate (lost territory)

Sandy Li Pik Yee: I asked them, why have you come prepared with cane rods? They replied [that the protestors had] weapons [such as domestic hammers [UNCLEAR]. They were forced to protect their homeplace. You people, on the other hand, say they are — what was it, again? — triad gangsters. How could anything [like that] had happened if you hadn’t come [to Yuen Long], right? And so for this reason, this time I hope everyone will be clear about this. Actually, if [you] go back and look at the internet, at material on the web from before, [you’ll see an image saying] “Capture Yuen Long and You’ll Gain the Whole Empire”. This really gave [us] a terrible scare, really.

Voice-over: Sandy Li said that on the eve of 21 July, an image circulated over the net [bearing the words] “Capture Yuen Long and You’ll Gain the Whole Empire”. It was only after they learned that people wanted to come to Yuen Long to “liberate” it that they banded together to safeguard Yuen Long.

Sandy Li Pik Yee: Before, they deliberately enlarged these words. To tell you the truth I was really worried. Because of that poster, and the way they were talking things up [吹法], the streets here were just a whole mass of white [成條街全部白雪雪].

To be continued . . .

Learning Cantonese: 黃進曦 Stephen Wong Chun Hei’s “Watching the Waves”

噉其實喺我嘅諗法裏邊呢 | 就係其實因爲喺,呃,而家香港都係處於疫情裏邊呢 | 噉喺一種比較,呃,嚴峻嘅 | 一種社會嘅氣氛地下呢 | 其實我就係想大家都會可以好似 | 我安排嘅呢啲小嘅角色咁樣 | 喺一大浪嘅嗰種壓迫感底下 | 其實係應該可以好似一架船咁樣呢 | 喺一個大浪裏邊游走 | 係好靈巧咁樣呢,喺度穿梭喺一啲大浪嘅嗰種翻騰嘅形勢底下 . . . 」

Art, says the people behind the Under the Bridge Art Project, should be a force in “connecting the community and comforting people”. In a worked entitled “Watching Waves”, landscape painter 黃進曦 Stephen Wong Jeun Hei sets out to do precisely this, encouraging Hongkongers to steer a course through the treacherous contemporary situation with the help of dexterity and faith.

Whoever worked as the sound technician for this video knew exactly what she was doing: Wong’s eloquent flow of speech comes through with great clarity, making it a delight to listen to. And the atmospheric piano soundtrack chosen to accompany his words complements it beautifully, without ever once drowning them out.

The grammar of the voice-over is straightforward, but there are a few points worth noting. Firstly, Wong uses the sentence-final double particle 嚟㗎 lèih4 gaa3 on several occasions to suggest emphasize something is, perhaps with a hint of “and this is what something is in essence”. He uses it first to define who he is for viewers — 我係一個風景畫家嚟㗎 = “I am a landscape painter” — and later to characterize his artwork “Watching Waves” — 係一個大浪嘅一個風景嚟㗎 = “is a vista with huge waves in it”.

Secondly, transformation in Cantonese is often handled by means of 做 jouh6 to form a link between the verb and the outcome of the transformation. For instance, “the spray magically transforming into birds” is expressed as 幻化咗做一啲雀仔, where 幻化 is the verb and 一啲雀仔 refers to the result of the change. I’ve noticed too that the idea of translation form one language into another is often rendered as 譯做.

In the vocabulary department, there are some wonderful things, especially an appearance by the verbs 冚埋 kám2 màaih4 = “to cover” and 搲 wé2 = “to seize” (although it has a number of other meanings as well). Other items for any Cantonese learner’s vocabulary list are: 情景 chìhng4 gíng2 = scene; 兇險 hūng1 hím2 = in a very dangerous state; critical; 仔細 jí2 sai3 = careful; 浪花 lohng6 fāa1 = spray (literally, “wave flowers”); 嚴峻 yìhm4 jeun3 = stern; severe; rigorous; grim; and the four-character phrase 屹立不倒 ngaht6 lahp6 bāt1 dóu2 = roughly, “to stand firm; to stand tall & unwavering”.

Please scroll down if you want the transcription, notes and 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.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

我係黃進曦 | 我係一個風景畫家嚟㗎 | 今次呢,「橋裝龍匯」呢一個 project 呢 | 我係兩條橋墩柱上面呢 | 其實我設計一個大浪嘅情景 [啦] | 噉每條柱呢,都係一個大浪嘅一個風景嚟㗎 | 噉但係呢,呃,大家睇嘅時候呢 | 其實應該會 . . .

● 橋墩 kìuh4 dán2 = bridge pier; an earthen or stone structure under a bridge | ● 情景 chìhng4 gíng2 = scene; sight; circumstances

My name is Stephen Wong Chun Hei. I am a landscape painter. On this occasion, for the “Under The Bridge Art Project: Once Upon A Dragon Interchange” project, I have designed scenes [depicting] huge waves on two pillars [representing] bridge pylons. Each pylon features [係] a vista with huge waves in it. However, when people look at [the work], they really ought to be able . . .

【1:00】. . . 感受到個大浪嗰種壓迫感啦 | 又或者一種兇險嘅感覺啦 | 噉啊裏邊呢,呃,除咗嗰大浪之外呢 | 其實如果大家睇仔細少少呢 | 係應該會見呢,會有一船仔呀 | 會有一啲 | 呃,小島呀,上面有一樖吹歪咗嘅樹呀 | 甚至乎呢,你會見到喺個大浪嗰個頂嗰度呢 | 嗰啲浪花濺起嘅時候呢 | 又會幻化咗做一啲雀仔嘅 | 噉其實喺我嘅諗法裏邊呢 | 就係其實因爲 [喺],呃,而家香港都係處於疫情裏邊呢 | 噉喺一種比較,呃,嚴峻嘅 | 一種社會嘅氣氛地下呢 | 其實我就係 *jai 想大家都會可以好似 | 我安排嘅呢啲小嘅角色咁樣 | 喺一大浪嘅嗰種壓迫感底下 | 其實係應該可以好似一架船咁樣呢 | 喺一個大浪裏邊游走 | 係好靈巧咁樣呢,喺度穿梭喺一啲 . . .

● 壓迫 [ng]aat3 bīk1 = to oppress; to repress | ● 兇險 hūng1 hím2 = in a very dangerous state; critical | ● 仔細 jí2 sai3 = careful; attentive | ● 吹歪 chēui1 mé2 = cf. 吹 = to blow + 歪 = askew; crooked | ● 頂 déng2 = the top (part); here, “the crest (of a wave)” | ● 浪花 lohng6 fāa1 = spray | ● 濺起 jin3 (chín2?)  héi2 = to splash (up) Note: Someone has commented in a forum on the Sheik Cantonese website about the colloquial pronunciation of 濺: “On reflection, I suspect chín2 is a pronunciation specific to HK, created by analogy from 淺.” | ● 幻化 waahn6 faa3 = to change magically | ● 嚴峻 yìhm4 jeun3 = stern; severe; rigorous; grim | ● 游走 yàuh4 jáu2 = roughly, “to swim away from” | ● 靈巧 lìhng4 háau2 = dextrous; nimble; skilful; ingenious | ● 穿梭 chyūn1 sō1 = to shuttle back & forth

. . . to get a sense of the oppressiveness of that huge wave, or a feeling of being in a very dangerous state. In [these paintings], apart from the huge waves, if you look more carefully, you should be able to see some small boats [一啲船仔], some small islands with a tree on [each one], bent crooked by the wind, and you should even be able to see, on the crest of the wave, when they spray splashes up, the spray magically transforming into birds. Actually, in my conception [of these images], now Hong Kong is in a situation where there is an epidemic and in this rather severe atmosphere, I really wanted people to be able to [act] like the small roles [小嘅角色] I have arranged [in my work] — oppressed by that enormous wave, like a boat, [they] ought to be able to move out of the way of the wave, and with great ingenuity, shuttle in and out [穿梭] . . .

【2:00】. . . 大浪嘅嗰種翻騰嘅形勢底下 [喇] | 又或者呢,可以好似飛鳥咁樣呢 | 當個大浪埋你嘅時候 | 反而呢,係令到你更加有力量去跳躍起[喇] | 甚至乎呢,又好似喺一啲小島上面嘅嗰樖樹咁呢 | 嚟堅守住自己一啲嘅信念 | 噉你就可以搲緊,呃 | 一啲令到你可以企得穩嘅泥土 [啦] | 噉就可以屹立不倒喇 | 噉呢一啲呢,都係我自己覺得 | 喺疫情裏邊大家有一種,呃,可能好無助啦 | 又或者係覺得聽日都唔知 | 有冇辦法計算到嗰個大家嘅命運點一樣呢,可能係 | 如果大家都係好似我安排呢件作品裏邊 | 我頭先講嘅 | 有呢一種信念底下呢 | 其實應該係可以令大家 | 安心一啲去一齊面對呢一個疫情

● 翻騰 fāan1 tàhng4 = to seethe; to rise; to churn | ● 形勢 yìhng4 sai3 = situation; circumstances | ● 冚埋 kám2 màaih4 = roughly, to cover completely; to engulf” | ● 跳躍 tiu3 yeuhk6 = to jump; to leap; to bound | ● 堅守 = gīn1 sáu2 = to stick to; to hold fast to; to stand fast | ● 信念 seun3 nihm6 = faith; belief; conviction | ● 搲 wé2 = to seize | ● 泥土 nàih4/làih4 tóu2 = earth; soil | ● 屹立不倒 ngaht6 lahp6 bāt1 dóu2 = roughly, “to stand firm; to stand tall & unwavering” | ● 安心 = ōn1 sām1 = feel at ease; be relieved; to set one’s mind at rest

. . . of the seething aspect [嗰種翻騰嘅形勢] of the waves, or like flying birds you should — as the wave comes crashing down — gain a greater strength to jump out [from underneath], or even like the trees [growing] on those small islands, you should hold fast to your own beliefs. You should be able to grab hold of some earth that will enable you to stand firm, to stand tall. All these things, I get the feeling, are present at a time where there is an epidemic and everyone possibly feels a sense of helplessness or feels that they have no way of calculating just what their fate might be like tomorrow, perhaps [I’m not sure if I have understood the previous sentence correctly]. If everyone has faith in the way I have arranged it in this work, as I said just now, then this ought to be able to help us all to feel a bit more at ease [安心一啲] in facing this epidemic together.

Meetings with Hong Kong Buddhist Nuns

My only close encounter with a Hong Kong nun is something I have never forgotten. I saw her on two or three separate occasions at Tai Po Market MTR station in the late 1990s. She would stand in a corner of the concourse at peak hour, sounding at regular intervals a small metal bowl she held in the palm of one hand. It was a beautiful gesture: a timely reminder to slow down and pay a little more attention to where we were and what we were doing. I’d like to think that not a few of the people who rushed on past her at the time, later in a sudden flash of recollection and understanding, got to thinking about that almost invisible woman dressed in grey.

I was reminded of the nun by several recent encounters in the pages of my Hong Kong books. The first, dating from the early 1950s, is described by Martin Booth in Gweilo, and happened when he was only eight years old. The setting is Ngong Ping, on Lantau Island:

There came a soft shuffling sound from over my shoulder. I turned to find myself being observed by two Buddhist nuns. They wore grey, long-sleeved, ankle-length habits and their heads were shaven, so it was quite impossible to judge their ages. Around their necks hung simple necklaces of wooden beads. Not sure what to do, and heedful of Mr Borrie’s warning, I stood up and stepped back on the path. They watched me go, impassive looks upon their faces. I sensed that perhaps they were young and wanted to talk to me, this strange, small gweilo from the other world of which they occasionally heard talk but had not seen for many years, nor perhaps ever would again. (“Hiking to Buddha”)

The visit to Ngong Ping left a profound impression on Booth, and he returns to the episode in both his novel Hiroshima Joe (1985) and in a section of his Hong Kong notebook, The Dragon and the Pearl (1994), where he tries to reconcile his idyllic memories of his stay in the monastery — marked by austere accommodation and timeless ritual — with the changes time has brought, particularly the colossal Buddha statue, said to have cost some HK$60 million. However, in neither of these alternate accounts does he mention that pair of silent nuns.

G.S.P. Heywood came to Hong Kong in 1932 to work at the Royal Observatory. His book Rambles in Hong Kong (1938), is his very romantic love-letter to the countryside of the Territory. His encounter with nuns took place in Lam Tsuen, at the Ling Wan Nunnery near Kwun Yam Hill:

Some way to your left as you come down from the pass into the Pat Heung valley is a nunnery, standing in a wooded defile under the great rocky shoulder named Kwun Yam, the “Goddess of Mercy”. The white buildings, with their garden and lily-pond, were once hidden away amongst the trees, and had a wonderful air of quietness and serenity. One hot summer day, as I was passing by, the nuns courteously hailed me in, and provided me with water to wash in and tea to drink.

When I was refreshed they showed me round some of the buildings, of which they had good reason to be proud, for they were beautifully kept. I saw the temple, with its altar and images, and the reading room, and a belfry up in a tower, where an old nun sat with a great book open in front of her and every now and then chimed a deep-toned bell which hung from the roof above.

Many of the trees are now gone, and the belfry is only an empty shell; though some of the charm of the place has been lost, the nuns are still there, cheerful and kindly as ever.
(“Lam Tsun, Pat Heung, and Ping Shan”)

Here as in the Booth passage there is a quiet, nostalgic comparison being made between Heywood’s early visit to the nunnery sometime before the Japanese invasion in 1941 and a later one after the war, during which many of the sheltering trees had been cleared for firewood and the belfry had been damaged. Heywood himself had also suffered terribly during those difficult years as an internee in a Japanese prison camp, so those pre-war memories must have carried particularly poignant overtones for him.

An American, Christopher Rand first went to China in 1943 and later based himself in Hong Kong. By accounts, he was a great walker, and once wrote “I have theories about why one should do it — that it is good for the health, is conducive to thought, makes one able to observe things close at hand, etc. — and I think all these arguments are sound, but the main point is simply that I enjoy walking; I feel calm and happy while doing it.” His 1952 book Hong Kong: The Island Between focuses on the complex political issues concerning mainland China, but it ends with a light-hearted, lyrical sketch of Lantau Island where he spent a few months. He was actually staying in a place quite close to Ngong Ping when he had the following experience:

I never saw a wheeled conveyance on Lantao — not even a wheelbarrow. The fastest human you saw was a man or woman shuffling at the Chinese jogtrot, perhaps with a loaded shoulder-pole. Often you would see little figures like that far away on a hillside path. The paths were now level, now steep and flagstoned like dragons’ backs — gracefully curved, and at times appearing to hang out over thin air. Most people you met on the paths were good at walking downhill in the fast, bent-kneed fashion of mountaineers. Sometimes when going uphill you would overtake a little shaven-head nun or lay sister with two big bags of rice on her pole-ends. You could hear the hard breathing as you passed.

Sometimes it was so still you could hear water dripping hundreds of yards below. One of the nicest sounds was of nuns’ chatter combined with a splashing brook and wind in near-by trees. Most of the mountain’s convents were in a hillside area called Lok Wu, and when I walked on a slope that happened to face this, a mile or so away, I could often hear the nuns there talking intimately.
(“Lantao”)

These three encounters by a trio of writers quietly suggest that the Hong Kong Buddhist nun lives life at a slower speed than the rest of us, unobtrusive, and closer to the natural rhythms of the world, and consequently capable of an unexpected and powerful intimacy. Here, by way of a conclusion, is the tiny poem I wrote as a fragile tribute to my own encounter:

At Tai Po Market Station, the Buddhist nun
performs still-points with her gong
in the avalanche of peak hour
.

My Head Still Hangs in the Clouds (東平洲 Tung Ping Chau)

I stand at the back of the boat, letting the scene do most of the thinking
for me. The jagged coast
with its rugged panorama won’t let go, but the engines chant
only the chance of a wide-opening sea. Absentmindedly
I watch waves break on inaccessible shores —
over and over — so many waves —
and only the one, short, four-letter word, in English,
for them all. Particular trees rarely distinguish themselves.
What covers these Hong Kong hills is a lush self-centreless green
drawing equally from water, land, and sky
a sane amalgam, staunch in the name of growth
and complemented by rock’s gaunt bone,
rich in its way with echoes and undergalaxies of life,
but still forever-stranger to this animate animal whirl —
look, here it comes now: flat chat billow-bellowing out of Big Indigo
with my very own NEXT DEEP BREATH.

Learning Cantonese: Long Yuen’s Modern Pan

噉從中我哋都可以介紹翻,即係, 咦, 稻米係咩嚟啦 | 點解要種米啦 |  咦,原來中間有好多生態㗎喎 | 香港嘅歷史文化原來係咁㗎喎 | 噉希望多啲人去關注翻、留翻住我哋一啲嘅綠色嘅環境

Pan was a rural god in ancient Greek belief, and an embodiment of the spirit of Nature. I think he would be proud of his contemporary incarnation in Hong Kong, 劉善鵬 Làuh4 Sihn6 Pàahng6, an environmental manager who goes by the English name of Pan, an able and self-deprecating fellow who likes to refer to himself as 煎 Pan or “Frying Pan”!

In this video, part of RTHK’s fascinating “Hong Kong Ecologists” series, we get an overview of the work that The Conservancy Association is doing in a place near 上水 Sheung Shui called 塱原 Long Yuen, a stretch of freshwater wetlands that grows rice and other crops as well as providing a habitat to a large number of birds and frogs. Management of this region, soon to become an environmental park, obviously involves a delicate balancing between the needs of agriculture and ecology.

The most interesting grammatical feature of Pan’s speech is his frequent use of the aspect marker 翻 fāan1 which, as I mentioned in my last post, often appears in unexpected contexts. Although the basic meaning is “again”, it often implies that an action has resumed after an interruption. This meaning is suggested in 喺〇九年都喺塱原種翻稻米 = “In 2009, we also planted a rice crop in Long Yuen again”. Sometimes, it seems to imply “restoration”, a taking back of things to an earlier state, as in 噉希望去維持翻塱原你原本好多嘅啲水田嘅環境 = “in the hope that [we] can preserve the place and bring back a large number of these paddy-field environments to the way they used to be”. Pan also uses it with verbs such as 調查 = to survey, 反映 = to reflect, 介紹 = to introduce and 關注 = to show concern for, suggesting that it has various other nuances that serious learners might like to ponder!

As for the vocabulary, there’s a delightful instance of the verb 抰 yéung2, which Sheik Cantonese defines as ① to unwrap; to display; to uncover ② to shake off; to jerk; to flick. The last time I came across it was in a Buddhistdoor interview with Queenie Chu, who used 抰走 to refer to flicking an insect off her clothing rather than squashing it. Here in 會成籃擺落去抰走啲泥沙、昆蟲呀咁先攞去賣嘅, it indicates the removal of soil and insects from basket loads of plants before they are taken off to market to sell.

Other items include: 現存 yihn6 chyùhn4 = extant; in stock; 農作物 nùhng4 jok3 maht6 = crops; 產卵 cháan2 léun2 / léuhn5 = to lay eggs; to spawn; 數據 sou3 geui3 = data; 求偶 kàuh4 ngáuh5 = (?) to look for a mate; 西洋菜 sāi1 yèuhng4 choi3 = watercress; 逗留 dauh6 làuh4 = to stop (at a place); 石屎森林 sehk6 sí2 sām1 làhm4 = a concrete jungle; 體驗活動 tái2 yihm6 wuht6 duhng6 = roughly, “activities for learning through practical experience”; 陣間 jahn6 gaan1 = soon; in a moment; in a while; 講解 góng2 gáai2 = to explain; 下旬 haah6 chèuhn4 = the last ten-day period of a month; 收割 sāu1 got3 = to reap; to harvest; to gather in.

This video has now been archived on RTHK’s Podcast 1 website here.

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.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

記者:面積大約五十公頃塱原 | 位於香港新界北區 | 係香港現存最大片、最完整嘅 | 淡水農耕濕地 | 由四百幾塊農地連接組成 | 大嘅地方當然需要有管理員 | 自長春社嘅劉善鵬,就係其中一位管理員 | 除要不時同農夫溝通 | 都會進行一生態調查 | 又會透過唔同嘅活動 | 向公衆同埋小朋友介紹呢個地方

● 公頃 gūng1 kíng2 = a hectare | ● 現存 yihn6 chyùhn4 = extant; in stock | ● 完整 yùhn4 jíng2 = complete; integrated; intact | ● 農耕 nùhng4 gāang1/gāng1 = (?) to cultivate | ● 連接 lìhn4 jip3 = to join; to link | ● 長春社 Chèuhng4 Chēun1 Séh5 = The Conservancy Association | ● 不時 bāt1 sìh4 = frequently; often

Reporter: With an area of approximate 50 hectares, Long Yuen — which is located in North District of Hong Kong’s New Territories — is Hong Kong’s largest and most complete [最完整] fresh-water agricultural wetland [淡水農耕濕地]. It is made up of over 400 linked plots of farmland. Such a large place obviously [方當] requires administrative personnel. One of these is Lau Sin-pang, who is from [嚟自] the Conservancy Association. Apart from keeping in frequent communication with the farmers, he also conducts ecological surveys and, by means of different kinds of activities, introduce this place to the general public and to children.

Caption: 劉善鵬,長春社助理保育經理 | Lau Sin-pang, Assistant Environmental Manager with the Conservancy Association

劉善鵬:我叫煎 Pan 呀 | 塱原度做咗大概差唔多十年喇 | 我長春社同香港觀鳥會 | 〇五年開始就嚟到塱原同當地嘅農夫去合作 | 噉一齊去做一啲生境管理 | 噉包括係去維持一啲水田啦,噉同埋引入一啲新嘅水田農作物 | 例如慈菇、馬蹄 | 喺〇九年都喺塱原種【1:00】翻稻米 | 噉希望去維持翻塱原你原本好多嘅啲水田嘅環境 | 噉啲動物就可以喺度息 | 塱原其實主要有兩大類嘅保育對象啦 | 第一類就雀仔 | 仲一個大嘅家族希望去保護就係青蛙 | 噉原來青蛙佢哋會使用淡水濕地去產卵去繁殖嘅 | 噉雖然話佢係農田 | 噉但係上面去棲息嘅生物其實都幾多嘅 | 最新嘅雀仔數字都有三百一十六種 | 噉其實都超過,呃,香港總數嘅六十個 percent

● 香港觀鳥會 Hēung1 Góng2 Gūn1 Níuh5 Wúi6*2 = the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society | ● 生境 sāng1 gíng2 = habitat | ● 維持 wàih4 chìh4 = to keep; to maintain; to preserve | ● 水田 séui2 tìhn4 = paddy field | ● 引入 yáhn5 yahp6 = to lead into; to draw into | ● 農作物 nùhng4 jok3 maht6 = crops | ● 慈菇 chìh4 gū1 = arrowhead, katniss (Sagittaria sagittifolia) | ● 馬蹄 máah5 tái4*2/tàih4 = water chestnut | ● 稻米 douh6 máih5 = rice (crop) | ● 棲息 chāi1 sīk1 = to perch; to dwell | ● 保護對象 bóu2 wuh6 deui3 jeuhng6 = roughly, “the object of protection [efforts]” | ● 家族 gāa1 juhk6 = a clan; a family | ● 使用 sái2/sí2 yuhng6 = to make use; to use; to employ | ● 產卵 cháan2 léun2 / léuhn5 = to lay eggs; to spawn Note: According to Sheik Cantonese, léun2 is the standard reading for the character 卵, while léuhn5 is a variant | ● 繁殖 fàahn4 jihk6 = to breed; to reproduce

Lau Sin-pang: My name is Chin Pan (“Frying Pan”). I have been working in Long Yuen for roughly ten years. The organization I work for, the Conservancy Association, together with the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, has been working together in Long Yuen with the local farmers since 2005. Together we have been doing some environmental management. This includes preserving some of the paddy fields. It also involves introducing [引入] some new paddy-field crops such as arrowhead [慈菇] and water chestnut. In 2009, we also planted a rice crop in Long Yuen again, in the hope that [we] can preserve the place and bring back a large number of these paddy-field environments to the way they used to be. Creatures of various kinds [動物] could then inhabit this place. In fact, there are two main kinds of creatures that are the object of protection [efforts] here in Long Yuen. First of all, birds. The other big family [大嘅家族] that [we] hope to protect are the frogs. As it turns out [原來], frogs make use of fresh-water wetlands for breeding. Now although these fields are under cultivation, there are many creatures inhabiting [棲息] them. [According to] the latest bird figures, there are 316 [different] kinds. This is more than 60% of the sum total for Hong Kong.

記者:作為管理員,煎 Pan 佢哋當然要知道喺厘塊土地上面生活緊嘅 | 除咗人以外,仲有咩動物 | 佢哋嘅數量有冇多到?| 厘啲數據可以話係佢哋嘅成績表 | 今晚佢就進行緊青蛙生態調查

● 數據 sou3 geui3 = data | ● 成績表 sìhng4 jīk1 bíu2 = ① school/academic report; student report card; school record ② table of results/scores

Reporter: As a manager, Chin Pan and his team [煎 Pan 佢哋] naturally need to know what is living here on this patch of ground. Apart from human beings, what other creatures are there and have their quantities increased? You could say that such data is their table of results. This evening, he is doing and environmental survey of frogs.

劉善鵬:噉我哋都會去調查翻我哋嘅對象到底有冇使用我哋嘅管理嘅生境啦 | 呢塊田可能米田 | 我哋會到幾多個品種或者個數量係多定係少嘅 | 反映翻其實到底我哋嘅田係有冇【2:00】成效呢,對於個生態 | 青蛙有個特性 | 就係呢,佢哋夏天,尤其是落完大雨之後啦 | 雄性嘅青蛙係會求偶會叫嘅 | 噉我哋會憑聲音呢,去判斷嗰塊田嘅青蛙嘅多少啦 | 品種呢,因為唔同青蛙叫嗰,呃,聲音都唔同嘅個品種 | 幾有趣嘅,我哋,呃,發覺呢,呃,原來塱原一個農耕嘅環境呢 | 好多嘅微小嘅生境呢,都係一啲農耕嘅設施 | 例如洗菜池啦 | 噉啲農夫收割完啲通菜、西洋菜呢 | 會成籃擺落去抰走啲泥沙、昆蟲呀咁先去賣嘅 | 我哋發覺原來夏天呢 | 都好多青蛙會走落去繁殖,咁會好多蝌蚪嘅 | 你都幾意外地 | 原來都係製造咗一個生境呢啲嘅生物去使用囉

● 成效 sìhng4 haauh6 = an effect; a result | ● 雄性 hùhng4 sing3 = male | ● 求偶 kàuh4 ngáuh5 = (?) to look for a mate | ● 憑 pàhng4 = to go by; to base on; to take as a basis | ● 發覺 faat3 gok3 = to find; to detect; to discover | ● 微小 mèih4 síu2 = small; little | ● 洗菜池 sái2 choi3 chìh4 = roughly, “a pool for washing vegetables in” | ● 通菜 tūng1 choi3 = water spinach; Chinese spinach (also known as 蕹菜 ung3 choi3 and 翁菜 yūng1 choi3 | ● 西洋菜 sāi1 yèuhng4 choi3 = watercress | ● 抰走 yéung2 jáu2 = roughly, “to shake off”  | ● 泥沙 nàih4 sāa1 = silt; soil; earth | ● 蝌蚪 fō1 dáu2 = a tadpole

Jin Pan: We will conduct a survey [to find out] whether the objects [of our protection efforts] [對象] are making use of the habitats we are managing. This patch of land is probably a rice paddy. We will find out [揾到] whether the numbers of certain species have gone up or down. This reflects whether in fact our fields are effective [有冇成效], in terms of the environment. A characteristic of frogs is that, in Summer, especially after a heavy shower of rain, the males will call in order to find a mate. On the basis of the sound, we judge the number of frogs on that piece of land and what species there are, because different frogs have different calls. Quite interestingly, we have found that that Long Yuen is basically [原來] an agricultural environment [and] many of the micro-habitats [within it] turn out to be agricultural facilities [設施], for instance, washing pools for vegetables. After the farmers have harvested [their] water spinach or [their] cress, they tip whole basket-loads [of vegetables into the ponds] to get rid of the dirt before taking them off to sell. We have found that as it turns out in Summer lots and lots of frogs will go into these ponds to reproduce, and there are lots of tadpoles. This is quite surprising. As it transpires, a habitat has been made for these creatures to make use of.

劉善鵬:噉我哋會做聽聲去做一個,呃,記錄嘅 | 噉首先其實我哋第一樣我哋會熄燈啦 | 燈呢,對於青蛙都有影響嘅 | 噉我哋想靜止咗 | 等啲青蛙習慣咗個黑夜嘅環境 | 就開始做記錄 | 噉啊暫時一種澤蛙啦 | 噉我哋會再逗留【3:00】可能五分鐘 | 噉啊聽吓,有啲咩青蛙叫囉

● 熄燈 sīk1 dāng1 = to put out the light; to turn off the light | ● 靜止 jihng6 jí2 = static; motionless; at a standstill | ● 澤蛙 jaahk6 wāa1 = literally, “pond frog” | ● 逗留 dauh6 làuh4 = to stop (at a place)

Jin Pan: We make a record based on? what we hear. First off all, we turn off our torch [熄燈]. Lamp-light has a [real] influence on frogs. [Then] we want to [想] stand still to allow [等] the frogs to get used to the night environment.  Then we start to make a record. Just for the moment, [there is] a pond frog. We stay around for maybe for five minutes, listening out for what kinds of frog-calls there are.

記者:稻米由落種到收割都牽涉到大量人力 | 煎 Pan 佢哋喺唔同時段 | 會同小朋友同埋「石屎森林」中嘅大人 | 舉行唔同嘅體驗活動 | 等大家可以更加了解水田嘅特性 | 農田呢,可以俾到個空間呢好多雀仔、好多動物呢 | 可以喺度生活甚至生 BB 嘅 | 噉我哋陣間呢,會落田呢,就會做一個,呃,除草嘅工作

● 落種lohk6 júng2 = (?) to plant seeds | ● 牽涉 hīn1 sip3 = to involve; to concern; to drag in | ● 石屎森林 sehk6 sí2 sām1 làhm4 = a concrete jungle | ● 體驗活動 tái2 yihm6 wuht6 duhng6 = roughly, “activities for learning through practical experience” | ● 陣間 jahn6 gaan1 = soon; in a moment; in a while | ● 落田 lohk6 tìhn4 = (?) to go into the fields | ● 除草 chèuih4 chó2 = weeding

Reporter: From planting to harvest, rice involves a large amount of human effort. Jin Pan and his team [煎 Pan 佢哋] conduct different kinds of hands-on activities [體驗活動] at different times for small children as well as adults from “the concrete jungle”, enabling everyone [who participates] to better understand the special features of the paddy fields. (Jin Pan speaks) Land cultivated for farming [農田] can provide many [different] spaces for a large number of birds and animals. Here they can live and have babies. In a moment, we will go down into the fields to do some weeding work.

劉善鵬:咁大個泥俾我有得放 | 透過教育嘅活動啦,咁帶啲小朋友過嚟呢 | 噉講解呢,農田上面嘅一啲嘅功能啦,我叫 | 噉第一樣嘢就食物啦,咦,農田有食物喎 | 噉第二樣嘢,就,,原來今日玩得好開心 | 農田係一個開心、休嘅地方嚟嘅 【4:00】| 噉第三樣嘢,我哋就覺得就重要啲呢,就係 | 我哋會介紹一啲小動物俾佢聽啦,呃,雀仔啦、青蛙啦 | 噉 就等佢知道,咦,原來平時食物製造出嚟嘅過程呢咁  | 原來都提供到一個空間俾啲動物住

● 講解 góng2 gáai2 = to explain | ● 休閒 yāu1 hàahn4 = ① to lie fallow ② to be not working; to have leisure; to be idle

Jin Pan: I can take that, such a big [piece of] dirt. By means of educational activities, we bring the children [down] here. [I] provide some explanation about some of the functions of the fields. Firstly, [it’s about] food: there are things to eat in the fields! The second thing is that it’s great fun: the fields are a fun, leisurely place. Thirdly, and the thing we feel is more important, is that we can introduce [children] to some small creatures such as birds and frogs. This enables them to learn that in the normal process of producing food, spaces are also provided for the creatures to live in.

劉善鵬:而家十一月,係啦, 噉我哋秋收啦 | 噉我哋今日呢,用咗半朝時間呢,噉就收咗塊田啦咁樣 | 今年好呀,啲田。我哋收成都有少少豐收

● 秋收 chāu1 sāu1 = the Autumn harvest | ● 收成 sāu1 sìhng4 = a harvest; a crop | ● 豐收 fūng1 sāu1 = a bumper harvest

Jin Pan: Now, in November, that’s right, we [have] the Autumn harvest. Today we have spent half [our] morning harvesting a field. This year it has been very fine, this field. Our harvest has been a small bumper harvest.

Long caption: 塱原已於2019年12月下旬成為政府土地。由於塱原擁有生態價值,塱原濕地將會經過期約三年的改善工程后,成為自然生態公園。

● 下旬 haah6 chèuhn4 = the last ten-day period of a month| ● 為期 wàih4 kèih4 = (to be completed) by a definite date

At the end of December 2019, Long Yuen became government land. Due to the fact that Long Yuen possesses ecological value, The Long Yuen Wetlands will become a Nature and Ecology Park after undergoing improvement works lasting approximately three years.

劉善鵬:種米嗰個過程其實幾有趣呢 | 呃,要動用到好多人呀 | engage 到多啲嘅公衆參與啦 | 所以今日見到,咦,好多大朋友、小朋友啦,都過嚟 | 幫手收割 | 噉從中我哋都可以介紹翻,即係 *je, 咦, 稻米係咩嚟啦 | 點解要種米啦 |  咦,原來中間有好多生態㗎喎 | 香港嘅歷史文化原來係咁㗎喎 | 噉希望多啲人去關注翻、留翻住我哋一啲嘅綠色嘅環境

● 動用 duhng6 yuhng6 = to put to use; to employ; to draw on | ● 大朋友 daaih6 pàhng4 yáuh5 = adults (lit. “big friend”); I suspect that this is a humorous invention based on the word for “child”, 小朋友 (lit. “little friend”) | ● 收割 sāu1 got3 = to reap; to harvest; to gather in

Jin Pan: The process of growing rice is really quite interesting. You have to draw on a large number of people and “engage” many members of the public to take part. And so, [we] see so many “big friends” [that is, “adults”] as well as children come [out] today to help with the reaping. In the process [從中], we can give an introduction to what rice is, why it is planted — oh, so growing rice has a lot of ecological [aspects] to it! So that’s why Hong Kong’s history and culture is like that! We hope that more people will pay attention to our green environments and look out for them more.

Learning Cantonese: 蔣曉薇 Jeung Hiu-mei on Hongkongers — Leaving, Staying or Stranded?

「我諗,我哋都係等緊咁樣嘅時刻囉 | 等唔等到唔知嘅 | 但係我覺得人為嘅努力都好緊要 | 啫,人嗰種手牽手 | 去想一同去挽救生命嗰一種付出 | 覺得自己當下仍然可以挽救一啲生命嗰種意願 | 係無比重要 | 喺擱淺嘅時候,呢,呢一個信念係無比重要」

Hong Kong writer 蔣曉薇 Jeung Hiu-mei’s new novel 《秋鯨擱淺》has been attracting widespread attention in recent months. The title roughly translates as “the beaching of Autumn whales”, and this image of Hong Kong (as it used to be) as a stranded whale seems to have captured the imagination of a number of commentators. In this video from Ming Pao’s 《文化後浪》 (roughly, “Cultural Successors”) series, she discusses the issues that arise from the novel, the big question being: is there any possibility that some form of intervention could rescue the Hong Kong from its life-threatening predicament?

There are three grammatical points that are worthy of the Cantonese learner’s attention. Firstly, there is a good example of the final particle 囉 lō1. According to Yuen-lam Tsang’s helpful guide Basic Sentence-final Particles in Hong Kong Cantonese (Greenwood Press 2020), the main function of 囉 lō1 is to inform the listener that what is being said is obvious and natural. When it is paired with 咪 maih6, we get what Yip and Matthews call “an obvious conclusion” (Intermediate Cantonese). Thus, 噉我咪執筆去寫囉 means something like “and so I picked up my pen and wrote”.

The second point involves住 jyuh6, a widely used aspect marker that indicates that the effects of a particular (one-off) action persist over an extended period of time. Jeung uses it in 係一個傷口裏面滲透住一啲東西出嚟嘅 = “some things that came seeping out from a wound”; 你面對住變化嘅時候 = “when we face up to changes”; and the classic use of with the wearing of clothing, since once the clothing is put on in a single act, it remains in that state (until another act comes along to change it): 好似披戴住一啲你好喜歡嘅作家佢哋嘅身影 = “it is like wrapping the images of the writers you really like around your shoulders”.

Thirdly, another aspect marker 翻 fāan1 is used on several occasions. Its basic meaning involves repetition or reconnection, but you often come across instances that seem a little counterintuitive! For example, the phrase 我都想寫翻發生喺香港嘅故事 seems to suggest getting stories that happen in real life (back) into writing. There’s also 呢個作品只不過係我想呈現翻當下香港一個離開或者留低擱淺嘅狀態, in which the marker indicates that the writer wants to “re-present” a certain condition affecting Hong Kong in her novel. In both cases here, there is a sense of transfer or translation from one realm to another.

As usual, there is plenty of useful vocabulary to take away from this video: 滲透 sām1 tau3 = to permeate; to seep; 無助 mòuh4 joh6 = helpless; 氛圍 fān1 wàih4 = atmosphere; 命題 mihng6 tàih4 = a proposition; statement; thesis; 手牽手 sáu2 hīn1 sáu2 = hand in hand; 挽救 wáahn5 gau3 = to save; to remedy; to rescue; 出身 chēut1 sān1 = one’s previous experience or occupation; 影視 yíng2 sih6 = film & television; 呢一輩 nī1 yāt1 bui3 = this generation; and 根基 gān1 gēi1 = a foundation; a basis.

Please scroll down for my transcription (again, it’s a bit ragged in places), 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.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

文學傳承 灌溉我城土壤 作家蔣曉薇 | Literary Inheritance & Continuation Watering the Soil of Our City   Author Jeung Hiu-mei

我都想寫呢度街道 | 我都想寫翻發生香港嘅故事 | 我咪執筆去寫囉 | 就好似一個脈絡承傳 [呢]

● 灌溉 gun3 koi3 = usu. “to irrigate” | ● 脈絡傳承 mahk6 lok3 chyùhn4 sìhng4 = (?) to carry on in the same vein or tradition

I too would like to write about the streets here. I too would like to write the stories that have happened here in Hong Kong. So, I picked up my pen and wrote them, as if I were carrying on in the same tradition [好似一個脈絡傳承].

Caption: 用寫作留住香港 | To Stay in Hong Kong by Means of Writing

起初開始創作嘅時候 | 其實我覺得係,係一個傷口裏面滲透住一東西出嘅 | 噉我傷口係由於自己經歷啦 | 亦都有一部分源自於社會嘅變化啦 | 你面對住變化嘅時候 | 其實係好多焦慮呀、無助呀、無力感呀 | 噉但寫作 // 讓自己可以重新去正視 | 究竟自己嘅恐懼係嚟自啲乜呀?| 點解對於一啲變化咁焦慮呀?

● 滲透 sām1 tau3 = to permeate; to seep | ● 焦慮 jīu1 leuih6 = feel anxious; have worries & misgivings | ● 無助 mòuh4 joh6 = helpless | ● 無力感 mòuh4 lihk6 gám2 = helplessness; perhaps also “powerlessness” | ● 正視 jing3 sih6 = to face up to (a difficult situation; reality)

When I first began to create, it actually felt to me like a wound out of which things came seeping. The wound was due to what I had been through; it also partly originated from changes in society. When you confront the changes, then there are in fact many misgivings, helplessness, powerlessness. However, writing can give [you] the ability to face up to [such things] anew. What exactly what is the source of one’s terror? Why does one feel so anxious about certain [一啲] changes?

【1:00】對抗緊一個好大 // 嘅 . . . 氛圍嘅時候 | 其實可唔可以令到自己嘅内心强大一啲呢?| 噉喺寫作裏面係咁樣嘅操練 [呢]

● 氛圍 fān1 wàih4 = atmosphere, perhaps even “mood” | ● 操練 chōu1 lihn6 = to drill; to practice

Can [you] make you own inner self stronger when opposing a formidable [大] atmosphere? [What happens in] writing is a kind of training for this.

Caption: 香港人的留離與擱淺 Hongkongers: Leaving, Staying or Stranded

世界既有悲哀的時刻 | 也必然有美麗的時刻 | 這正是他們在鯨魚身上做了美好的事情 | 正是給擱淺的鯨魚一點希望 | 最初個命題呢,係關於留同離留離之間嗰種狀態 | 亦都係源於一個好,好大嘅掙扎 | 點解身邊多人走 | 再去問深一個問題 | 問自己,你自己係咪要走?| 如果唔係一件容易嘅事 | 你背負緊啲乜嘢而去選擇離開?

● 悲哀 bēi1 ōi1 = grieved; sorrowful | ● 命題 mihng6 tàih4 = a proposition; statement; thesis | ● 源於 yùhn4 yū1 = to originate from; to stem from | ● 掙扎 jāng1 jaat3 = to struggle | ● 背負 bui3 fuh6 = to bear; to carry on the back

(Jeung Hiu-mei reads a passage from her novel) “[In] this world, there are times of sorrow. There are also times of beauty. This was the fine thing they were in the process of doing on the bodies of the whales (?), giving the beached whales sone small hope.” The original proposition was to do with staying, leaving and the state in-between the two. It also had its origins in a very great struggle. Why had so many people close to [me] left? To probe even more deeply into this issue, I asked myself whether I wanted to leave. [Assuming] that it were no easy matter, what are the things one would have to bear if one chose to leave?

【2:00】噉我就去透過寫作去問呢個問題 | 我尊重每個人嘅答案 | ,呢個作品只不過係我想呈現翻 | 當下香港一個離開或者留低擱淺嘅狀態 | 擱淺嘅時刻就係無力走落去 [喇] | 唔知點樣走落去 [喇] | 我成日睇唔到路 [囉] | 譬如鯨擱淺嘅時候 | 佢好需要嘅就係水漲呢個時機 | 令到佢可以游返去海 | 亦都可以需要外在嘅力量 | 啫係,人嘅努力去讓佢落返海 | 啫,我諗,我哋都係等緊咁樣嘅時刻 [囉] | 等唔等到唔知嘅 | 但係我覺得人為嘅努力都好緊要 | 啫,人嗰種手牽手 | 去想一同去挽救生命嗰一種付出 | 覺得自己當下仍然可以挽救一啲生命嗰種意願 | 係無比重要 | 喺擱淺嘅時候,呢,呢一個信念係無比重要

● 尊重 jyūn1 juhng6 = to respect; to value; to esteem | ● 呈現 chìhng4 yìhn6 = to present (a certain appearance); to appear; to emerge | ● 當下 dōng1 haah6 = ① instantly; immediately; at once ② that very moment | ● 水漲 séui2 jeung3  = (of water) to rise; to go up | ● 時機 sìh4 gēi1 = an opportunity; an opportune moment | ● 外在 ngoih6 joih6 = external; extrinsic | ● 人為 yàhn4 wàih4 = artificial; human-made | ● 落返 lohk6 fāan1 = (?) to go back (into the sea) | ● 手牽手 sáu2 hīn1 sáu2 = hand in hand | ● 挽救 wáahn5 gau3 = to save; to remedy; to rescue | ● 付出 fuh6 chēut1 = to pay; to expend; in some contexts, it suggests “the effort you put into something” | ● 意願 yi3 yuhn6 = a wish; a desire; an aspiration | ● 無比 mòuh4 béi2 = incomparable; unparalleled; matchless | ● 信念 seun3 nihm6 = faith; belief; conviction

So, I went and asked myself this question in my writing. I respect each individual’s answer. This work is nothing more than my own wish to present that state of being stranded between leaving or staying in Hong Kong at this moment. At times of feeling stranded, [you] have no energy to go on [走落去], nor do [you] know how to go on. I can’t ever see a way forward. For instance, when a whale is beached, what it really needs is for the level of the water to rise [水漲呢個時機], so that it can return to the sea. It also needs some external force, I mean, I human-made effort to enable it to return to the sea. I mean, I think we’re all waiting for such a moment [when the sea-level rises], but who knows whether we can wait long enough for it to happen [等唔等到唔知嘅]. But my feeling is that the human-made effort is very important, that kind of output of energy [付出] where people go hand in hand to try together to save lives. That aspiration [according to which] one feels one can still save some lives at the present moment is of incomparable importance. At a time of being stranded, this belief is of incomparable importance.

Caption: 香港文學建構本土 | Hong Kong Literature Constructs One’s Native Place

【3:00】讀文學出身啦。噉我讀現代文學啦 | 一讀到香港文學呢 | 你就會發現佢寫嘅嘢就係你嘅生活 [囉] | 喺大量嘅閲讀裏面或者睇一啲影視嘅作品裏面呢 | 建立咗一種本土嘅身份 | 慢慢你就發現 | 當你閲讀咗咁多嘅時候 | 有 [一] 日你覺得我都好想去承傳呢個記憶 | 我呢一輩都有我嘅記憶吖嘛 | 我唔係,啫,停留喺,呃,董啓章 [啦]、韓麗珠呀、陳慧呀 | 佢哋嘅記憶嗰度咁呀 | 我呢一輩都有我嘅聲音 | 我有我對城市記憶,我有我嘅感受 | 我都想寫呢度嘅街道 | 我都想寫翻發生喺香港嘅故事 | 噉我咪執筆去寫囉 | 就好似一個脈絡承傳 [呢] | 斷咗唔得,我記憶或者我哋書寫斷咗 | 你要 [想去] 記錄呢個城市嘅聲音 . . .

● 出身 chēut1 sān1 = one’s previous experience or occupation | ● 影視 yíng2 sih6 = film & television | ● 本土bún2 tóu2 = one’s native land | ● 承傳 sìhng4 chyùhn4 = to inherit and pass on (Note: Subtitles have 傳承) | ● 呢一輩 nī1 yāt1 bui3 = this generation

I started out [出身] as a reader of literature. I read modern literature. Once you begin to read Hong Kong literature, you will find that the things that it writes about are [part of] your life [too]. In reading a large amount [of literature] or in watching some works for film and television, a local identity of a kind [一種本土嘅身份] is established, and gradually you come to discover — when you have read a lot — that one day you [yourself] get the desire to inherit this memory [that is, of Hong Kong] and to hand it on to others. This generation I belong to naturally has its own memories, too. I don’t stop there at the memories of Dung Cheung-kai or Hon Lai-chu or Chan Wai. My generation has its voices, too. I have my memories of the city, I have my experiences, and I too would like to write about the streets here. I too would like to write the stories that have happened here in Hong Kong. So, I picked up my pen and wrote them, as if I were carrying on in one and the same tradition [好似一個脈絡傳承]. It’s not right to break [this tradition] off. If we break off in our memories, our writings, then you have to [UNCLEAR] the voices of their memories of this city . . .

【4:00】| 去書寫呢度城市嘅故事 | 你要肩負嘅嘢係更加多 | 好似披戴住一啲你好喜歡嘅作家佢哋嘅身影 | 披戴住佢哋嘅社會責任 | 佢哋喺文學上面嘅承擔,佢哋喺文學上面嘅角色 | 好似呢個擔子都落咗喺你身上 | 你都有責任去寫,去發表 | 去傳承佢哋咁辛苦去建立嘅一個香港文學嘅根基

● 肩負 gīn1 fuh6 = to take on; to undertake; to shoulder; to bear | ● 披戴 pēi1 daai3 = (?) to wear draped over (or wrapped around) one’s shoulders | ● 身影 sān1 yíng2 = a person’s silhouette; form; figure | ● 承擔 sìhng4 dāam1 = to bear; to undertake; to assume | ● 擔子 daam3 jí2 = load; burden | ● 根基 gān1 gēi1 = a foundation; a basis

. . . and go and write the stories of this city. The things you have to shoulder are more numerous. It’s like wrapping the forms of your favourite writers around your shoulders, them as well as their [sense of] social responsibility, what they undertook in terms of literature, the literary roles they assumed. It’s as if this load has fallen to you [to shoulder]. You too have the responsibility to go and write, to express [yourself], to take over and pass on the foundation of a Hong Kong literature they took such pains to establish.