Cafe (Tai Hang Tung Estate大坑東邨)

Earth from the Moon

Ice in the tall glass cloaked with cola jostles bubbles of fizz, and I feel this heat tell only the hard wood under my tail-bone. The TV is mute: it addresses the room graphically, in fluent Chinese characters, beneath perfectly made-up faces lip-reading “facts” and “news”. The kitchen, for its few orders, roars industrially out of the wok, while — in the centre of his Imaginary Lounge Room — a man chats through a smart hair-cut deeper into the mirror of his private booth.

“When I Walk up the Footbridge” by Woo Sai Nga, translated by Audrey Heijns

Woo Moon & Footbridge Image

Please scroll down for the Chinese version!

“When I Walk up the Footbridge”

Sometimes I am inclined to
acceptance that vehicles driving along the road naturally
tend to get stuck in one direction
and refuelling is never a solution
susceptibility in extreme weather can only accelerate expansion or shrinkage
roads that are cracked open
people smashed to pieces
the world is supposed to be like this, full of defects
and we are fragile throughout

At other times, for example
in the face of headwinds, when my fringe is ruffled
it is easy to believe that
what I once accepted has already aged, and will eventually
be like the cracks in the road,
the people who repair the road,
will have to be us


〈當我走上天橋〉/ 胡世雅




● Woo Sai Nga, born in Hong Kong, is a member of Fannou Poetry Society. She graduated from the Chinese Department, Baptist University of Hong Kong in 2017 and is now teaching at a secondary school. She publishes poems in literary magazines in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and has won the Youth Literary Award (青年文學獎) and the Award for Creative Writing in Chinese (中文文學創作獎) in Hong Kong.

● Audrey Heijns, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

Cantonese through News Stories: Simon Cheng Man-kit Held in Detention

Geng Shuang Mainland foreign Ministry_22 AUG 2019

If you were unsure why the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance has provoked such outrage in Hong Kong, the recent case of 鄭文傑 Simon Cheng Man-kit is a perfect instance of what is at stake. Cheng, trade and investment officer at the British consulate in Hong Kong, disappeared on the evening of the 8 August on his way back to Hong Kong from Shenzhen. Finally, on 22 August, 耿爽Gáng2 Sóng2 (Mandarin: Geng Shuang) informed the world that Cheng had been placed under “disciplinary detention” [行政拘留] by Shenzhen police for fifteen days and warned the British not to go on “fanning flames and lighting fires”, a reference to the 2019 Summer of Protest. To date, no one has been informed of Cheng’s whereabouts.

On 22 August, the Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times reported that Cheng was being held for a violation of article 66:

The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed Wednesday that Cheng was under administrative detention in Shenzhen. On Thursday, police in Shenzhen’s Luohu district told Global Times that he was detained for violating article 66 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Penalties for Administration of Public Security. The article includes solicitation of prostitutes. 


12 new words:

外交部 ngoih6 gāau1 bouh6 = Ministry of Foreign Affairs (PRC)
證實 jing3 saht6 = to confirm, to verify
行政拘留 hàhng4 jing3 kēui1 làuh4 = disciplinary detention
治安管理處罰法 jih6 ōn1 gwún2 léih5 chyu3 faht6 faat3 = public security administration punishment law
處罰 chyú2 faht6 = to punish; to penalize
僱員 gu3 yùhn4 = employee
香港公民 Hēung1 Góng2 gūng1 màhn4 = Hong Kong citizen
敦促 dēun1 chūk1 = to urge; to press
發表錯誤言論 faat3 bíu2 cho3 ngh6 yìhn4 leuhn6 = to air/express incorrection opinions/views
指手畫脚 jí2 sáu2 waahk6 geuk3 = to make indiscreet remarks or criticisms
煽風點火 sin3 fūng1 dím2 fó2 = to inflame and agitate people; to stir up trouble; to incite discord
失去聯絡 sāt1 heui3 lyùhn4 lok3 = to lose contact with sb.



The mainland Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that a Hong Kong employee of the British consulate in Hong Kong is being held in “disciplinary detention” by Shenzhen police.

(Main story)

  • 耿爽 Gáng2 Sóng2, spokesperson for the mainland Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Mandarin)

The person you are referring to has been punished by Shenzhen police with disciplinary detention for 15 days for breaking the public security administration punishment law of the People’s Republic of China.

This employee is a Hong Kong citizen

He is not a British citizen.

Which is to say, he is Chinese.

For this reason, this is in all respects [完全] China’s own internal matter.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the British has expressed incorrect opinions on the matter of the Hong Kong question, and urged Britain to refrain [唔好再 mh4 hóu joi3] from “making indiscreet remarks or criticisms” and from “inflaming and agitating people”.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office had earlier said that there was a high degree of concern for the detention of this male employee of the British consulate, detained by Shenzhen police on his way back to Hong Kong.

Close friends lost all contact with that male employee on 8 August while he was travelling on the Express Rail Link from Shenzhen to Hong Kong.


Related reports:

+ Hong Kong Free Press (in English)

+ BBC (in Chinese)

Thinking through Sand Fields (Sha Tin 沙田)

DSCN0567_Tuen Mun Playground RESIZED_4 APR 2016

To stand in a black and white skirt stock-still against peak-hour’s
turbulent backdrop ―
oblivious of gold shoe-buckles,
of the weight of a bag
slung across the collar-bone dip in one dropped shoulder ―
and to wonder down the whole length of the station platform
further than you can possibly go
because no one else in the world will assist you with this train.
Sometimes ― hectic out of nowhere ―
thought is that hyper-animated insect buzzing at the top of its noise
inside your unfathomable head,
as if insight desperately despite you
demanded prompt payment from attention
even here in public broad daylight,
opposite carriage-loads of cattle-car commuters,
hell-bent too in their worldly mental chatter
on the next ― quite outwardly ― new idea.


Jennifer Creery_Occupation of Sha Tin New Town Plaza_Monday 5 AUG 2019



攝影:Jennifer Creery

“Kwan Yin” by Ainslie Meares (1969)

Tai Tseng Wai Koon Yam

香港横洲大井圍天后古廟 Tin Hau Temple in Tai Tseng Wai, Wang Chau, Hong Kong

Ainslie Meares (1910-1986) was a well-known Australian psychologist with a particular interest in the use of meditation to relieve pain. Among his many books, there is an unusual work with the title Strange Places, Simple Truths, a collection of short prose pieces about his travels to various parts of the world in search of knowledge about alternative approaches to pain. Although Hong Kong is not one of his destinations, the book ends with a short text about the author’s very personal connection with the place.

Ainslie Meares (1910年至1986年)係一名知名嘅澳洲心理學家,對於以靜修達致舒緩痛楚嘅方法特別感到興趣。喺佢眾多著作當中,有一本頗為獨特,名為《陌生國度,簡單真相》,係一本小品集,講述佢遊歴世界各地,尋找處理痛楚嘅另類方法。雖然香港並唔係其中嘅目的地,但係該書最後一篇寫到作者同香港擁有十分獨特嘅聯繫。


Since I first started to write about these experiences, I have wanted to say something about Kwan Yin. But somehow it has seemed too difficult. I think I have fallen in love with her, and that of course makes it hard.

It must have been on my first visit to Hong Kong. In a curio shop I found a beautiful stone figure. This was some time ago, and then I did not even know the name of the lady who has come to steal my fancy so completely. She was standing at ease, about two feet high, clad in the flowing drapes of the classical Chinese, and with that mystique of expression which communicates the indefinable. I knew I had to have her. I bargained and bought her. And since then she has stood on the bookshelves in my study.

When one falls for a girl, a single picture is never enough. On my next visit to Hong Kong I spent the whole of my time in search of another. Do not be mistaken. Do not think of the hundreds of factory made figures of Kwan Yin with which the shops abound. No. My lady is not like those. The fact remains that each time I have been to Hong Kong I have come home with a stone figure of my lady. It has become a family joke.

One of the strange things about her is that she was originally a man. He was a Bodisatva, one who has attained Buddhahood, a kind of saint; and his saintliness was concerned with the depth of his compassion. Bodisatvas are always rather sexless. Perhaps all that is spiritual within them leads to something beyond sex. Then with the spread of Buddhism from India to China, Kwan Yin became worshipped as a female deity. It may be that compassion is an attribute of woman rather than of man. People think of her as the taking-away-fear Buddha. To Europeans she is known as the Goddess of Mercy. I know nothing of China, but I have seen her worshipped widely by Mahayana Buddhists in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

Ainslie Meares c.1974_8 MAY 2019

Ainslie Meares, Melbourne, 1974 (?)

I have found my stone image brings with it a sense of beauty and repose. But more than this, there is such a sense of mystique that it seems to have captivated me. So I continue my search for another. I have searched around the dust of old shops in narrow streets where such things are sometimes found. I have sought her from lush curio shops of the great hotels, where the Rolls-Royce and the rickshaw wait outside. One very hot day there was an old rickshaw man squatting on the foot-board of his rickshaw as is their custom while waiting for a passenger. He was very old. He was half asleep, half in a stupor. He was a worn-out man; his body almost gone, his mind insensitive to the noise and bustle that was all about him. I had just bought half a dozen mandarins to take to my hotel room. I quietly put one by his side, but he awoke from his stupor, and his eyes looked at me. Then arms stretched out from all directions, and I had to be off. Then, by strange coincidence, twice in the next few days I saw an old rickshaw-man wave to me. It was he again, not asking for more, but still bowing his thanks. And he seemed stronger. Strength that could not have come from my miserable mandarin.

In my search I have passed women in the briefest mini skirts I have ever seen, women in the traditional garb of the Chinese, women in rags, women like Chinese film stars with neat dresses and trim figures. And women with chubby babies strapped to their backs, and women with emaciated children begging for a few cents. I have been to shops where they would discuss nothing until I was seated on a china stool, and had had a cup of green tea. In others they cared little if I came or went, and in some their anxiety to sell me something spoke of their need of basic necessities. A thousand times I have asked ‘Kwan Yin, Kwan Yin’. But they could not understand my pronunciation. ‘Goddess of Mercy’. But they could speak no English. So I have rummaged  around their shops. I have examined hundreds of stone figures of Kwan Yin, but none has had the strange quality of the first one which I so happily stumbled on.
喺我尋覓嘅過程中,我經過身穿短到冇得再短嘅迷你裙嘅女人。我亦都見過穿著傳統服裝嘅女人,衣衫襤褸嘅女人,穿著稱身衣裳、身材苗條像中國明星般嘅女人。另外我又曾經見到孭住肥嘟嘟啤啤仔嘅女人,同埋抱住瘦蜢蜢細路仔嚟乞錢嘅女人。而且,我去過好多間舖頭:有啲要等我坐低瓷櫈仔上飲完一杯綠茶先至問我想買乜嘢;有啲服務員對我都漠然不關,愛理不理;而有啲,好似要賺錢養家過活,所以急於賣嘢俾我。我到而家已經喺舖頭講過「觀音,觀音」過千次,但係佢哋無法聽明我嘅發音。用「Goddess of Mercy」亦都唔得,因為佢哋唔識英文。攪到收尾我喺佢哋舖頭裏面揾嚟揾去,曾經仔細咁觀察過好多好多嘅石制觀音雕像,但係都揾唔返好似第一次偶爾揾到嗰座咁、擁有特有嘅氣質——遇到第一座嘅運氣未曾重複。

I have sought her through all the turmoil that makes Hong Kong one of the most fascinating cities of the world. Through the bustle of it all; but no jostling, no pushing, that is not the way of the Chinese. Through the smell of narrow streets, where the stench of it would be enough to stop my breathing. Passed beggars who made worse their deformities, and those who sat in the gutter quietly awaiting death to take them. Passed old men who looked as if they knew what it was all about; passed women whose gaunt eyes told that they had learned to accept what it was. Stepping over gutters of filth and children. Passed police whose impassive calm and efficiency makes them some of the finest in the world. Groups of jabbering tourists on their world cruise bent on buying junk from the Kowloon factories. Children playing in the streets whose widest horizon is the gutter of the next alley. And through all this nobody interferes. And it goes on late into the night. Women and girls come who would lead me to another love, but my desire is elsewhere.
香港嘅凌亂令佢成為世界上最為吸引嘅城市之一,而我正正喺係呢種凌亂之中去尋找觀音。雖然人多混亂, 但係當中冇人擠湧,冇人撞你――推撞唔係香港華人嘅風土習慣。我又經過氣味難聞嘅狹窄巷仔,要忍著唔透氣。我又行過急於討吃嘅乞兒,其中有啲故意將身上殘缺畸形嘅部分整得更加嚇人,又見過另一種乞兒,佢哋粒聲唔出坐喺坑渠旁邊,好似等待死亡嘅來臨。另外,我又經過洞悉世故嘅老伯,經過眼神空洞且呆滯嘅婦女,見到呢啲眼神就知道佢哋已經接受現狀,聽天由命。我亦大步跨過污糟邋遢嘅坑渠及其週圍嘅細路仔。又經過冷靜無情嘅警員,佢哋嘅高效水平令佢哋成為世界優秀之列。又經過一班班嘰里咕嚕嘅外國遊客,佢哋坐郵輪嚟香港,一心想買到九龍工廠粗制濫造嘅產品。又經過喺度玩緊嘅細蚊仔,佢哋嘅生活範圍唔可以離開呢度至下一條橫街窄巷嘅坑渠位置。冇任何人會企圖改變呢啲狀況,種種嘅凌亂會一直繼續到夜闌人靜。呢個時候,女人同埋少女們會出現喺我面前,佢哋想將我帶進另一種愛情,不過我所渴望嘅係喺別處。

And now I have several stone figures of my lady-love. They are all different, each reflecting the craftsman’s own idea of the nebulous quality which finds expression in the concept of Kwan Yin. But as in life, none has the same mystique as the one which first so captivated my fancy.

Hong Kong Tin Hau Temples: Hau Kok 口角天后古廟

Evette KWOK_Tin Hau Temple_Tuen Mun_5 MAY 2019

When you get off the train at the terminus at Tuen Mun and descend into the streets, you plunge at once into a canyon of sombre, towering buildings that seem industrial in nature rather than architectural. Through the centre of town, another degraded river — the so-called Tuen Mun River Channel — crawls rather than runs on its way past the Public Cargo Working Area and down to the sea, slightly murky in appearance and bounded in its expanse by the usual snug straitjacket of concrete. For all that, Tuen Mun had no power to shut out the Spring, and it had come to the city with a riot of bird-call in the sliver of park squeezed between Tin Hau Road and the water, and with a fragrant outpouring from purple bauhinia flowers and from those red floral giants sprouting on the leafless, grey-barked, ramrod-straight kapok trees.

The Hau Kok Tin Hau Temple is, according to the signpost, an 11-minute walk away, and I get there in good time, despite the obstacles put in my path by some new construction or renovation project. The word kok in Cantonese suggest a horn of land projecting into water, but perhaps reclamation has obliterated this geographical reality — a casual flick though the Hong Kong street directory will show you that there are many man-made straight lines in the Hong Kong coastline. Given the proximity to the sea, one would expect the worship of the goddess of the sailors to be vital to the locals, and this turns out to be the case: her temple sits against a hill in a large paved public square of considerable proportions, at the entrance to which is a magnificent though modernized ceremonial pai lau gateway. The interesting thing about this is that the matching couplets engraved onto it contain references both to Hau Kok and Tuen Mun, reinforcing the idea that such temples can play an essential role in sustaining not just a local community but in communing with a specific locale. “The region responds to the attention to the attention it receives from the various members of the community”, writes Thomas Berry, and I can only hope that it is so, because like so many other places in Hong Kong, clusters of high-rise apartment buildings are encroaching with grim determination on all sides.

The temple certainly seems to be an important focus for the community: it shows many signs of being well-used. Although hardly thronging with visitors on this special day of the Ching Ming Festival, the large censer in front of the temple is belching incense, as is the incinerator for paper-offerings located off to the left-hand side, next to a squat shrine — this one painted yellow rather than the typical red —  dedicated to 社稷大王之神位 , the two great kings of the land and of grain. The main gates of this temple are painted vermilion, and the door gods have been rendered in a tasteful, antique style. Above the lintel, there are the usual paintings of auspicious animals and natural scenes. As an added bonus, reflecting perhaps the idiosyncratic bent of artist, we also have depictions of two of China’s greatest poets. On the left, Su Tung-p’o is shown “playing” with ink-stones (a less literal and more scholarly translation for the verb waan might be “makes a display of his connoisseurship”), while on the right we see “Li Po Getting Drunk on Wine” but still steady on his feet. To a foreigner, both seem frivolous if not immoral scenes, hardly edifying for the pious temple-goer intent on worship, but they suggest that the pleasures of this life are not incompatible with the upholding of the sacred, and serve as a gentle reminder that from early times, Chinese poetry has been associated with shamanism and journeys into the numinous spirit-world.

Continue reading “Hong Kong Tin Hau Temples: Hau Kok 口角天后古廟”