After spending the whole day out with friends — first in Tai Po, then at Kadoorie Farm, and finally at the village of Fong Ma Po where both the Sea Goddess Temple and the famous Wishing Trees are — 陳之一 Chan Chi-yat lives up to his reputation as a 掃帚星 or magnet for bad luck when he returns to Sha Tin later that night . . .
踏上扶手電梯，啱啱進入廣場中堂嗰時，陳之一就聽到舊時英文成日講嘅「大自然嘅呼喚」，即係 the call of nature，於是就嗱嗱聲箭步直奔往 agnes b. 隔籬嘅公廁。入咗厠所裏邊，襲擊耳朵嘅係特登播放嘅爵士音樂，同具體衛生設備實在脫節得太犀利。男人心諗，嗰個旋律所代表嘅瀟灑、不可一世、虛榮心等等嘅情態半秒鐘就開始無情進攻，對佢嘅内心世界既從容又有把握咁，緩慢侵略過嚟，好似一線線絲綢一樣，將佢敏感嘅五官緊緊包紮住。幾分鐘之後，當佢行到公廁出面嘅走廊嗰陣，澳洲瘦削者依然被啱啱嘅噪音污染纏繞不放。咁橋，男人呢個時候忽然之間收到「繁益翻譯公司」老闆白先生嘅短訊，訊息上話有急事，本來聽朝開會需要嘅一篇陳之一翻譯嘅關鍵文件無啦啦唔見咗。男人確定一下，當時已經係夜晚九點九，但一生養有嘅盡責精神強逼陳之一，令佢專心一意咁想儘快返到屋企幫老細忙。
The weather turns heavenly, and it with come thoughts of Heaven as 阿綠 Ah Luk, 陳之一 Chan Chi-yat, 孚翠 Fu-cheui and 阿奇Ah Kei continue their visit to Kadoorie Farm with a walk along the Butterfly Path up to Convent Garden. There, they enjoy a champagne picnic lunch, prepared by Ah Kei’s good friend, 凡傑 Fan Kit, and talk of orchids, seances and the very uncertain future of Hong Kong.
If you too are married to running, you will love this video about 葛行輝 Stanley Got and his passion for tung kan paau or “running to work”. This notion, first popularized by the Japanese runner-writer 關家良一Ryōichi Sekiya, gets an extra twist in a Hong Kong setting when Got realizes he can run from Sha Tin to Kowloon where he works as the boss of a clothing store, taking in some diverse mountain wilderness along the way.
If you happened to be married to Cantonese rather than athletics, you will enjoy Got’s humorous, engaging manner and vivid turns of phrase, including 合二為一 hahp6 yìh4 wàih4 yāt1 = (?) to take several things and make them into one thing; 奇妙之旅 kèih4 miuh6 jī1 léuih5 = roughly, “a marvellous journey”; 千方百計 chīn1 fōng1 baak3 gai3 = in a thousand and one ways; and 樂在其中 lohk6 joih6 kèih4 jūng1 = overwhelmed with joy; overjoyed.
The marriage of image and music is another inspiring aspect of this video: at times they meld in a powerfully evocative way.
You can watch the video here(subtitles in Standard Written Chinese only). For my transcription, vocabulary notes and translation, please see below.
● 呼喚 fū1 wuhn6 = to call to (e.g. “Our country is calling us” [祖國在呼喚我們]) | ● 追求 jēui1 kàuh4 = to seek; to pursue | ● 信念 seun3 nihm6 = faith; belief; conviction
Voice-over: Do we run in response to the call of the body, for the sake of recovering a life we have missed, or in order to discover a new [sense of] self? On the wide running track, we have our different pursuits [追求] and we move towards different destinations, but the faith is the same . . .
Caption: 有種信念叫跑 | There is one kind of faith called “running”
● 環節 wàahn4 jit3 = link; segment | ● 育 yuhk6 = to educate; to cultivate; to nurture; the addition of 成 sìhng4 here perhaps indicates result, that is, to instruct someone so that they are able to do sth. successfully (one meaning of 成 is “to accomplish; to succeed”) | ● 攻略 gūng1 leuhk6 = ① to attack & seize ② a tactic | ● 名人賽 = (?) a master in a particular sport, cf. 美國名人賽， The Masters/ Masters Tournament | ● 真誠 jān1 sìhng4 = sincere; genuine; true
Voice-over: There will be three segments [環節] in each our programs: “You Run”, stories about running and how it can change your life; “He/She Runs”, tactics to educate a single male runner [about how to be able to run well]; and “I Run”, in which masters in the 5-kilometre run truly share [some of their secrets]. Three, Two, One: Go!
● 整裝待發 jíng2 jōng1 doih6 faat3 = be ready to set out; fully equipped & waiting to set out (意思是整理好行装，等待出发。出自陶菊隐《北洋军阀统治时期史话》) | ● 急不及待 gāp1 bāt1 kahp6 doih6 = to impatient to wait; extremely anxious | ● 奔馳 bān1 chìh4 = to run quickly; to speed | ● 追逐 jēui1 juhk6 = ① to pursue; to chase ② to seek; to quest | ● 撲面 pok3 mihn6 = cf. 迎面 yìhng4 mihn6 = head-on; in one’s face; perhaps here “oncoming” | ● 另類 lihng6 leuih6 = ① alternative (that is, “far out; way out”) ② nonconformist | ● 起步 hei2 bouh6 = ① to start to move ② to start to do sth. | ● 通勤跑 tūng1 kàhn4 páu2 = running to work (a Japanese term)
Voice-over: The starting point for any day begins with the rising of the sun. In order to go forth to meet [迎接] our busy lives, we pack our bags and head out [整裝待發], already dashing anxiously [towards?] the starting line, either to go to work or get to school. Running has become something normal [日常] to us. While everyone is racing against time [追逐時間], there are those who leave behind the oncoming crowds, choosing an altogether different [另類] means of getting underway [起步途徑]: running to work.
● 日語漢字 Yaht6 yúh5 hon3 jih6 = approx. a Japanese word [日語] written in Chinese characters [漢字] | ● 主管 jyú2 gún2 = ① be responsible for; be in charge of ② the person in charge | ● 店長 dim3 jéung2 = store supervisor; manager | ● 河畔 hòh4 buhn6 (the standard reading)/búhn5 (a variant reading) = river bank; riverside | ● 發掘 faat3 gwaht6 = to excavate; to unearth; to explore | ● 穿越 chyūn1 yuht6 = to pass though; to cut across |● 直達 jihk6 daaht6 = usu. through; non-stop
Note: He is called Got Hang Fai in English | 關家良一Ryōichi Sekiya is a Japanese ultramarathon and marathon runner from Sagamihara, Kanagawa.
Voice-over: Tung kan paau is a Japanese word written in Chinese characters, used in a book written by Ryōichi Sekiya, and means “running to work”. In charge of a clothing shop, Got Hang Fai goes by the nickname “Store Supervisor Stanley”. In 2009, he fell in love with running, and would go for a training run [練跑] along the [Shing Mun] River in Sha Tin every morning. In recent years, he became even more passionate about mountain running, and managed to figure out [發掘] a route [that enabled him] to run to work, passing through mountain forests all the way to Kowloon.
● 發覺 faat3 gok3 = to find; to detect; to discover | ● 沙田坳 Sāa1 Tìhn4 Aau3 = Sha Tin Pass | ● 獅子亭 Sī1 Jí2 Tìhng4 = Sha Tin Lions Pavilion | ● 落山 lohk6 sāan1 = (?) to go down a mountain | ● 應付 ying3 fuh6 = to deal with; to cope with; to handle
Got Hang Fai: Last year, I started to go out hiking with people and became a bit more familiar with some of the mountain routes. I found that, from Sha Tin [喺沙田], if I followed the mountain road that went out to Kowloon, it was very quick. Going all the way down the mountain from the Lions Pavilion at Sha Tin Pass, I’d get to Kowloon. This shortcut wasn’t very far [out of my way (?)]. As long as you knew how to handle going up the mountain, it was OK. A few months ago roughly, after I’d started to explore this route, I [began] running to work.
葛行輝：噉我而家呢，就係 *jai 跑步同埋返工呢，係合二為一 | 我反而呢，就多咗啲時間
● 合二為一 hahp6 yìh4 wàih4 yāt1 = (?) to combine; to take several things and make them into one thing
Got Hang Fai: Now, I have turned running and going to work into one and the same thing [合而為一]. But as it turns out, I have a bit more time [for other things].
● 奇妙之旅 kèih4 miuh6 jī1 léuih5 = roughly, “a marvellous journey” | ● 飽覽 báau2 láahm5 = to look intensively; to feast one’s eyes on | ● 鬧市 naauh6 síh5 = the bustling city
Got Hang Fai: On this route of mine, there are ordinary level roads [平路] as well as mountain roads. However, in terms of training [訓練方面], it’s not as unvarying [單一] as running on an ordinary level road [平路]. In our everyday lives, or at work, [our] environments don’t usually have such a lot of variation [大上大落]. You can treat this as a marvellous journey — in these ten kilometres, you pass through an urban centre [城市], go halfway up a mountain, feast your eyes on a complete view of Kowloon, then you go down the mountain and run back into the bustling city. I mean, in around an hour, you experience both the busy city [鬧市] and complete peace, and the process is really quite pleasant.
● 礙 ngoih6 = to hinder; to obstruct; to be in the way of
Got Hang Fai: For instance, when it rains, going out is not very convenient, but when it comes to running, the rain is not much of a bother [冇乜大礙]. On a fine day when you run, you get all wet with sweat [濕], and on a rainy day you get wet too, the only difference being that your shoes don’t get wet on a clear day, while on a rainy day they do — that’s all there is to it [咁解啫].
● 恆常 hàhng4 sèuhng4 = ? cf. 恆 = ① permanent; lasting ② perseverance & 常 = constant; invariable | ● 修練 sāu1 lihn6 = ? (cf. 修煉 sāu1 lihn6 = (of Taoists) to practise asceticism) | ● 克服 hāk1 fuhk6 = to surmount; to overcome; to conquer| ● 惰性 doh6 sing3 = inertia | ● 好逸惡勞 hou3 yaht6 wu3 lòuh4 = love ease & hate work
Got Hang Fai: You can say that running is in fact a type of sporting activity, [but] if you persevere with running [係恆常跑] actually I think it’s a spiritual practice [修練], because you have to overcome your own set of inertias [自己一啲嘅惰性], as well as some negative moods. Human beings love ease and hate work, [so] you have to set a few different goals in the process to keep me running and so that I won’t stop.
● 山巒 sāan1 lyùhn4 = a chain of mountains | ● 歷程 lihk6 chìhng4 = a course; a career | ● 寫照 sé2 jiu3 = portrait; portraiture | ● 極限 gihk6 haahn6 = the limit; the maximum | ● 無形間 mòuh4 yìhng4 gāan1 = (?) imperceptibly; virtually | ● 屏障 pìhng4 jeung3 = protective screen (perhaps “barrier” in this context)
Voice-over: [In] the undulations of a chain of mountains, there are highs and lows, an exact portrait of the long-distance-running career of the store supervisor. In the contest — one with many challenges [挑戰多過] — to go beyond his own limits, imperceptibly a barrier was built [between him and his running].
● 路跑 louh6 páu2 = roughly, “road running” (as opposed to mountain running) | ● 渴望 hot3 mohng6 = to thirst for; to long for; to yean for | ● 鳴槍 mìhng4 chēung1 = to fire a shot (here, used to signal the start of a running race) | ● 衝線 chung1 sin3 = to breast the tape (that is, at the finishing line) | ● 厭惡 yim3 wu3 = to detest; to abhor; to abominate
Got Hang Fai: I [unclear] ran road races. [After] several years I felt that the more I ran, the less I had an impetus [動力]. At that time when I was taking part in races, gradually I came to feel that there was pressure [on me]. When I first started, it wasn’t like that. When I first began running, I longed to hear the sound of the starter pistol, and at that instant when the shot was fired, I was really extremely hopeful about what [my] time would be like after breasting the tape at the finishing-line. This went on until on one occasion [直到有一次], during that time before the race began [嗰陣時], as I waited for the starting gun to be fired, a thought popped into my head about having to run another 42 kilometres, and I felt a tinge of loathing for racing. From that year onwards, I didn’t run in races [anymore].
● 認定 yihng6 dihng6 = to firmly believe; to maintain; hold | ● 終身伴侶 jūng1 sān1 buhn6 léuih5 = a lifelong companion (referring to one’s husband or wife) | ● 千方百計 chīn1 fōng1 baak3 gai3 = in a thousand and one ways; by every possible means; by hook or by crook | ● 維繫 wàih4 haih6 = to hold together; to maintain | ● 跑全馬 páau2 chyùhn4 máah5 = (?) to run a full marathon cf. 全程馬拉松 | ● 到手 dou3 sau2 = in one’s hands; in one’s possession | ● 動力 duhng6 lihk6 = motive/driving force; impetus | ● 包裝 bāau1 jōng1 = a pack; a package | ● 樂在其中 lohk6 joih6 kèih4 jūng1 = overwhelmed with joy; overjoyed | ● 合而為一 hahp6 yìh4 wàih4 yāt1 = (?) combine into one
Got Hang Fai: Look, my feeling is that running is like getting married to someone. If you genuinely believe that running will be your lifelong companion, then you must maintain your relationship to it by every possible means. When I first started running, in that first one or two years, it was like the honey-moon period when you first start going out with someone — [I] was so happy. In addition, my objective was very clear: I wanted to run a full marathon. Afterwards, it as if you have got married — you have got your hands on what you wanted [到咗手]. But without you even realizing it, you discover that you don’t really have enough impetus to maintain the fire [團火] that you seemed to have all along before for running.
Voice-over: A morning class [一場早課] [helps] the store manager to get himself into the right frame of mind for work [整理好工作狀態] and although he has changed out of his running gear, he nevertheless carries his passion for running into the work space, infecting the people he works with.
● 紮紮跳 jaat3 jaat3 tiu3= the act of jumping around | ● 師奶 sī1 nāai5*1 = middle-aged woman; married woman; housewife | ● 體能 tái2 nàhng4 = physical strength | ● 半推半就 bun3 tēui1 bun3 jauh6 = yield but with a show of reluctance
Now I do all kinds of sports. The boss taught me all of them. When I was a student, I used to be very active [紮紮跳], but after I got married, basically I didn’t move. I didn’t move. (Got Hang Fai: For 20 years she didn’t move.) [Right,] I didn’t move for 20 years, not an inch. But right now I’m doing physical strength . . . (self corrects) I’m learning about physical strength, running [跑吓班], even doing some hiking, signing up for a running group [跑吓班]. And all thanks to the boss. That is . . . he . . . he . . . he sort of half pushed me and half helped me [半推半就] (Got Han Fai: No I didn’t! You did it by yourself.) Half . . . no, that’s not it . . . I . . . that is . . . that is . . . no, but . . . (Got Hang Fai: I just said a few things to [encourage] you, but it could have happened if you hadn’t been willing.)
Joanna：On my way to walk, I saw the boss. I said: “Why are you carrying your running shoes to work, slung over your shoulders like that [孭]?” He said: I finish my run before I come to work. And so I said: “If I’m so fat, would I be able to lose weight?” And he said: “You could try walking first, otherwise it would be a nuisance if you hurt a leg.”
Got Hang Fai: Previously, she didn’t have the courage to do any hill-climbing, afraid that she’d have a fall [落山]. Actually, her physical strength was inadequate. And yet she was always talking about her friends and how they went out hill-climbing. She was always going on about it, so I knew that she really wanted to give it a try. I knew about an elementary class in mountaineering [where she could learn] some hill-climbing techniques. If you grasp the techniques for climbing and going down hills, then your confidence will increase. That is, you can step outside [the limitations of] your own circle, and broaden your world. Now if you are willing to take the first step, then your world will be a bigger one. Isn’t that right?
● 攀山越 pāan1 sāan1 yuht6 líhng5 = cf. 翻山越嶺 = to cross over mountain after mountain | ● 强健體魄 kèuhng4 gihn6 tái2 paak3 = ? cf. 體魄强健 = be physically strong; have a strong constitution | ● 山賽 sāan1 choi3 = lit. “mountain contest; mountain competition” | ● 資格 jī1 gaak3 = qualifications | ● 放眼世界 fong3 ngáahn5 sai3 gaai3 = to have the whole world in view
Voice-over: Often, you have to scale mountain after mountain to reach some beautiful scenery and to be able to appreciate it in person. This store supervisor constantly trains his physical strength, to the point where he was qualified to participate in marathons held overseas or mountain competitions [山賽]. He made use of sporting events to get a whole view of the world.
● 退落職場 teui3 lohk6 jīk1 chèuhng4 = to withdraw from the work arena | ● 有氣有力 yáuh5 hei3 yáuh5 lihk6 = (?) strong cf. 有氣無力 = weak | ● 操山 chōu1 sāan1 = (?) to walk mountain trails | ● 慢跑 maahn6 páau2 = jogging; to jog | ● 觀光 gūn1 gwōng1 = to go sightseeing; visit; tour | ● 環遊世界 wàahn4 yàuh4 sai3 gaai3 = to travel the world
Got Hang Fai: Look, I am now 57 and what’s coming . . . when I’ve turned 60. I have to think about withdrawing from the work arena and about my life when I’ve retired. The first [priority] is that I stay healthy. You can only keep active if you’ve strong. So now at the moment, I’m thinking that trail walking [操山] is a good option. I can go back to doing some of the things I’d really like to do. For example, I’d like to be a back-packer, I mean, [combining] jogging with sight-seeing. It’d be a lot of fun. After I’ve turned sixty, I could really go and travel round the world in this way.
“A fat girl singer. I think this is revolutionary in itself!” says 林二汶 Lam Eman in this short video challenging both gender and body stereotypes. Although she was bullied at school for the way she looked, and was called all kinds of terrible names (she shares some of these in her presentation), ultimately, she had the last laugh, becoming successful in the duo at17 in the early 2000s, and then continuing as a celebrated solo artist. If you’re interested, I’ve also added a rough translation of one of her songs, 《我變成我》, with music by 盧凱彤 Ellen Loo and lyrics by the inimitable 周耀輝 Chow Yiu Fai. Give it a listen: any song that uses the words 哲學 jit3 hohk6 (philosophy) and 美學 meih5 hohk6 (aesthetics; the study of beauty) in it must be considered out of the ordinary . . .
You can watch the video here (it has subtitles in both English and Standard Written Chinese).
● 發育 faat3 yuhk6 = growth; development | ● 發肉 faat3 yuhk6 = lit. “to put on flesh/meat” | ● 奶王包 náaih5 wòhng4 bāau1 = usu. “steamed creamy custard bun” | ● 世紀巨乳 sai3 géi2 geuih6 yúh5 = (the most) enormous breasts of the century | ● 水塘 séui2 tòhng4 = usu. “a pool; a pond” | ● 死肥婆 séi2 fèih4 pòh4 = an insult for an overweight woman | ● 具畫面 cf. 具 geuih6 = to possess + 畫面 waah6 mín62 = scene | ● 出街 cheut1 gaai1 = to go out (to town, shopping, etc.) | ● 去街 heui3 gaai1 = 出街 | ● 建立gihn6 laahp6 = to build; to establish; to set up | ● 自信心 jih6 seun3 sām1 = self-confidence | ● 革命性 gaak3 mihng6 sing3 = revolutionary | ● 嗮士 sāai31 sí62 = size | ● 形狀 yìhng4 johng6 = form; appearance; shape | ● 標準靚女 bīu1 jéun2 leng3 léui25 = a standard pretty girl
Caption: Lam Eman | Singer, columnist
Dear Lam Eman,
You were in middle school now, and everyone was going through a growth spurt [發育 faat yuk]. You put on weight [發肉 faat yuk], much more than other people did. You were called a lot of names: “creamy custard bun breasts”, “boobs of the century”, “wobbling titties” and “rotten fatty” — very picturesque names, these. Do you still remember that boy? He was the first boy to ask you to go out with him. On that day, he asked: “Hey, why don’t you go out with me?” Before I had time to give him an answer, and was only just turning around, he added said at once: “In your dreams!”
The fact I was plump as a little girl, and also had an elder brother who was very clever, affected my ability to establish any self-confidence when I was younger. A fat girl singer. I think this is revolutionary in itself! I’ve actually managed to sing for ten years, when everyone else is desperately trying to be a size zero. But I know that there are many large girls out there, as well as girls with body shapes that don’t fit the typical “pretty girl” standard.
I AM ME 我係林二汶 | 你選擇令到呢啲經驗去教你成為一個更加好嘅人 | 你唔叫佢哋做傷痕 | 你叫佢哋做徽章 | 呢一生，呢啲就係你嘅徽章
● 啓發 kái2 faat3 = to arouse; to inspire; to enlighten | ● 入行 yahp6 hòhng4 = to enter the profession | ● 驕傲 gīu1 ngouh6 = ① arrogant; conceited ② be proud; take pride in | ● 傷痕sēung1 hàhn4 = a scar; a bruise | ● 徽章 fāi1 jēung1 = usu. “a badge”
I’m sure that they have gained some inspiration. The fact that I got into the music industry is very significant.
But you never thought that all those very difficult days, days that you must not forget, could make you into the kind of person that people respect. You must be proud of yourself, because you never ever gave up. Never for one minute.
I AM ME. I am Lam Eman. You chose to let these experiences teach you how to become a better person. You don’t call them “scars”. You call them “medals”. These are the medals you will wear throughout your life.
Here are the lyrics for 《我變成我》. You can find the MV here . . .
錯的對 對的錯 | Down-wrong rights, and down-right wrongs 為了太多太多歪理願意學 | Because of too much illogic, I was willing to learn 然後學到識説謊 | Later, I learned just enough to tell lies 我的殼 我的角 | My thorns, my horns 為了太多太多經濟及數學 | Too much economics & too much mathematics 然後學到想正常過 | Taught me to want to lead a normal life
幾多工作 | The more work I do 幾多操控著我 | The more it takes control of me 難道沒法不説謊 | Is there really no way not to tell lies? 一刻閃過 | In a lightning flash 想學掂行掂過 | I wanted to learn how to walk right on by 寧願讓我不正常過 | Preferring to let myself live a non-normal life
歡呼 存在過 | Hooray! I’ve managed to exist 記住沉默容易容易沉默過 | Just remember: keeping quiet makes it easy to go along quietly 從未這麽感覺我 | I’ve never felt myself this way before 一身 存在過 | Without help, by myself I’ve existed 記住麻木容易容易麻木過 Just remember: keeping numb makes it easy to go along numbly 從未像這刻敏銳過 | I’ve never been so sensitive as I feel right now
過一秒 老一秒 | Another second, another second older 問我那些那些一秒便脫落 | Each second asks me about my these & those, then falls away 靈魂熱到想脫光 | My soul is so hot it wants to shed light (or “strip itself bare”) 我的世 我的界 | All my uni- and all my -verse 被我那些那些統統改變過 | Have been transformed utterly by all my these & those 時候遇到想變成我 | What time brings I want to turn it into me
歡呼 存在過 | Hooray! I’ve managed to exist 記住沉默容易容易沉默過 | Remember: silence is easy, it’s easy to get by being silent 從未這麽感覺我 | I have never felt myself this way before 一身 存在過 | Without help, by myself I’ve existed 記住麻木容易容易麻木過 | Remember: numbness is easy, it’s easy to get by being numb 從未像這刻敏銳過 | I’ve never been so sensitive as I feel right now
歡呼 誰是我 | Hooray — so this who is me 記住明白然後承認誰是我 | Remember: when I’ve understood then I’ll acknowledge who I am 從未這麽感覺我 | I have never felt myself this way before 一刻 存在過 | For an instant I’ve existed 記住凝望時代時代凝望我 | Remember: as you look at the times, the times look back at you 從未像這刻敏銳過 | I’ve never been so sensitive as I feel right now
喜歡哲學 | I’m fond of philosophy 喜歡思索更多 | I’m fond of more and more thoughts 來吧！在這刻變成我 Come on! I want to become me in this moment
喜歡美學 | I’m fond of aesthetics 喜歡風格更多 | I’m fond of more and more styles 來吧！在這刻變成我 | Come on! I want to become me in this moment
時候遇到想變成我 | What time brings I want to turn it into me
After taking a walk to Sha Tin Station that turns into an eerie 白日夢 or “white daydream”, 陳之一 Chan Chi-yat meets his friends at the Lam Kei dim sum restaurant in 大埔 Tai Po. There, they enjoy a well-deserved yum cha meal together with a long discussion of fathers, sons and daughters that seems to touch a real chord or a raw nerve in each of them . . .
黃宇軒 Sampson Wong and 曾梓洋 Eric Tsang made their first “When in Doubt” walking video back in October 2020 and since then have gone from strength to strength. In their work, they combine urban geography with beautiful (don’t take your eyes off what’s happening in the background) images accompanied by a powerful piano soundtrack — at times the fusion is breathtakingly powerful and expresses with verve something of Hong Kong’s elusive city spirit. Recently, they have been experimenting with an added element, conversation, and this led me to transcribe the following video which shows Sampson and his friend Sammy walking through Kai Tak in search of the Kai Tak River. Throughout their journey, Sampson muses on the theme of 重組自然 or “reworking nature”. After finding the Kai Tak River, he comments:
我哋而家呢，見到嘅啟德河、新蒲崗嘅呢一段呢，其實都經歷過個咁樣嘅過程。原本呢，居民呢，未必咁留意到佢嘅存在。喺過去十幾年呢，各方嘅努力之下呢，重新將佢變為咗新蒲崗呢一帶呢，特別靚嘅一個城市景觀。經過美化啦、活化啦，同埋潔淨之後呢，大家都越嚟越鍾意呢條河。 The section of the Kai Tak River which we now see in San Po Kong did in fact undergo this same kind of process. Once upon a time, the residents of the area didn’t necessarily take much notice of its existence. Over the past ten or more years, thanks to the efforts of various parties, it has been transformed into a particularly beautiful part of the urban landscape in San Po Kong. After being beautified, brought back to life and cleaned up, this river is now liked by an ever-increasing number of people.
I still remember the first time I saw a “When in Doubt” video. It featured 石硤尾 Shek Kip Mei and when, after slowly winding his way through the Nam Shan Estate, Sampson reaches Tai Hung Sai Street, my heart nearly skipped a beat as he mooched along past the 彩龍大酒樓 Lucky Dragon restaurant, whose takeaway outlet round the back I visited frequently for lunch back in 2013. There’s something exhilarating about reconnecting with a place in this way, especially when you haven’t seen it for a long time. I felt the same in the video on 屯門Tuen Mun, when special guest Chong Suen strolls past the river channel in the vicinity of Tuen Tsz Wai. How many times have I done the same thing!
You can enjoy the Kai Tak video here. Follow the link to their channel and you can discover more of these walks for yourself. Even in places you might not be familiar with, you will still discover moments of the Hong Kong mystique, when music, image and the rhythm of movement come together in synergy — or perhaps even a sensuous “syn-energy”. You can also read up on the creation of the series in a Zolima Citymag article by Christopher Dewolf entitled “Sampson Wants You to Take a Walk“.
● 嘗試 sèuhng4 si3 = to try | ● 元素 yùhn4 sou3 = an element | ● 混凝土 wahn6 yìhng4 tóu2 = concrete (building material) | ● 事物 sih6 maht6 = a thing | ● 重組 chùhng4 jóu2 = to restructure; to reorganize
I’m Sampson, from “When in Doubt, Take a Walk”. In most of the walking videos on our channel there is usually one person walking around here and there. Nobody speaks. But this time we would like to try something new.
Caption: When in Doubt, Take a Walk
I arranged to go out for a walk with Sammy with the intention of going from Kai Tak to San Po Kong.
We are always saying that in a city nothing is unnatural, because even the most artificial things made by humans make use of natural elements. For example, the concrete used in construction comes in fact from natural things. So for this reason, from the perspective of urban research, we tend to say that the city is reworking nature, changing elements from the natural world into arrangements that we like, into the things we see in our city.
● 河流 hòh4 làuh4 = a river | ● 大興土木 daaih6 hīng1 tóu2 muhk6 = go in for large-scale construction | ● 圍板 wàih4 báan2 = (?) temporary fencing (used for construction sites) | ● 圍 wàih4 = to enclose
Usually, we may perhaps think that Kai Tak is a high-density area, with a lot of people and a lot of buildings, but when we were out walking and if we looked carefully, there were in fact trees everywhere, planted in different ways. Other elements that everyone always talks about as appearing in cities are bodies of water and rivers. In Hong Kong, we talk more about the sea. When I went to Kai Tak, what I really wanted to find was the northern section of the Kai Tak River, which was somewhere here. But because just recently there is a lot of construction work going on in Kai Tak, the view of the river is generally blocked by temporary fencing. On this occasion, I took Sammy to look through the little holes in the fencing . . .
● 窿仔 lūng1 jái2 = a small hole | ● 第時 daih6 sìh4 = in the future, another day | ● 觀察 gūn1 chaat3 = to observe; to watch; to survey | ● 引導 yáhn5 douh6 = to guide; to lead
. . . and we found that we could see the Kai Tak River. One day, it will become the most important scenic spot in this area. At this point in time, many people may not be aware of this section of the Kai Tak River on the northern side of Kai Tak. When we looked through the holes in the fencing on that day, we found that many like-minded people were taking a look with us. They too discovered that here they could see the Kai Tak River. Sometimes, observing a city is like this. When you start looking at things, this can lead others to look, too. Others can be led to look at things in the city that were once invisible, just because you started to look at them.
● 形體 yìhng4 tái2 = 1. shape (of a person’s body) 2. form & structure| ● 資源 jī1 yùhn4 = resources | ● 覆蓋 fūk1 goi3 = to cover | ● 著名 jyu3 mìhng4 = famous; celebrated; well-known | ● 景觀 gíng2 gūn1 = a landscape | ● 美化 méih5 faa3 = to beautify | ● 活化 wuht6 faa3 = (?) to vivify; to inject life into (a place)
Water exists in the city in all kinds of different forms and is one of the objectives of our observation. From Kai Tak to San Po Kong, we can get to the southern section of the Kai Tak River in San Po Kong. This river really has a lot to teach us. This is because more than ten years ago cities all over the world began to think that rivers ought to be a treasured resource and should no longer be covered over. For instance, there is the very famous example of the Cheonggyecheon River in South Korea, a river which originally no one like and which people wanted to cover over. Now, it has been opened up again to become a landscape everyone has seen. The section of the Kai Tak River which we now see in San Po Kong did in fact undergo this same kind of process. Once upon a time, the residents of the area didn’t necessarily take much notice of its existence. Over the past ten or more years, thanks to the efforts of various parties, it has been transformed into a particularly beautiful part of the urban landscape in San Po Kong. After being beautified, brought back to life and cleaned up, this river is now liked by an ever-increasing number of people. In the old days, the river linked the local community . . .
● 連結 lìhn4 git3 = to connect | ● 打水 dáa2 séui2 = to fetch water| ● 話唔定 waah6 mh4 dihng6 = perhaps; maybe | ● 聚集 jeuih6 jaahp6 = to gather; to assemble | ● 街坊 gāai1 fōng1 = neighbourhood | ● 相遇 sēung1 yuh6 = to meet each other | ● 榆木 yùh4 syuh6 = elm | ● 盛開 sihng6 hōi1 = in full bloom
. . . in very functional ways. A long time ago, people would wash their clothes in it and fetch water, but an urban river in today’s world may perhaps, as a scenic landscape, have another function of bringing together the local people.
On this walk with Sammy, it was the season for the elm trees to flower and we encountered several very beautiful elm trees. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed them. On this walk, we came across a lot of plants, animals and birds. In addition, by observing water, we passed along the Kai Tak River.
Finally, we arrived at the Choi Hung Road Sports Centre.
● 噴水池 pan3 séui2 chìh4 = a fountain | ● 觀賞 gūn1 séung2 = to enjoy; to admire (a view) | ● 旅程 léuih5 chìhng4 = a journey | ● 切入點 chit3 yahp6 dím2 = (?) entry point | ● 急劇 gāp1 kehk6 = drastic | ● 周圍 jāu1 wàih4 = around; round; about
. . . and in the vicinity of the park, we came across a fountain that I really like. When I was introducing this place to Sammy, I also mentioned that, apart from the fountain, which was one element that was admired in this area, there were many excellent public spaces, which many people used for relaxation. After dark, we went on walking a bit longer, bringing an end to this journey of ours. If you have never been to Kai Tak or San Po Kong, I recommend that you follow the route we took. You can use “City and Nature” as your entry point. In addition, you can also pay attention to the public spaces and parks in this area. You can observe Kai Tak, this area in the midst of drastic change. You can also take a look at the old district of San Po Kong. In addition to having a good look around in accordance with out topic “City and Nature”, you can also find some scenery that you think is interesting. I hope you will come to this area for a walk, then afterwards tell us what you liked.
● It is the 1 July 2019, and the big glass door of the Legco building is being battered by protestors repeatedly ramming it with an old metal trolley. As the glass begins to crack, our main characters — 阿綠 Ah Luk, the New Zealander 阿奇 Ah Ki, Ah Luk’s daughter 孚翠 Fu-cheui and the hapless Australian陳之一 Chan Chi-yat — all react to what they see in the direct broadcast of the events, projecting their personal concerns onto this pivotal moment in Hong Kong’s history.
This essay by Hong Kong writer 洪麗芳 Charis Hung Lai-fong celebrates a wonderful and forward-thinking independent bookshop run by Stephanie Chung in Sai Kung. It is called 神話書店 in Chinese, or Mythology Books, but its official English name is Dionysus Books. You can find it at G/F, 17 Sai Kung Tai Street [西貢大街17號地下]. You can visit their Instagram site here.
This essay was first published in the fourteenth issue of Cantonese-language magazine, 《迴響》 Resonate, in August 2021. You can visit their website here, and their Facebook page here for more information about writing in Cantonese.
You can find more writing by Charis Hung on Medium.
When I’d made the long-drawn out journey (this is no joke — I live in the remote north-western New Territories and the round trip takes me more than four hours) to Mythology Books in Sai Kung, I found myself standing in front of a rather unobtrusive door-way no bigger than a large window-frame which I could have easily missed and walked on past. I was momentarily assailed by a feeling of uneasiness: don’t tell I was going to leave here with nothing but disappointment? After I’d plucked up the courage to slide open the door, the Chinese expression 別有洞天 (bit yau dung tin, meaning “a hidden but beautiful spot”) written in large characters flashed through my mind. As it turned out, it was actually really roomy inside, and the décor was very stylish. The store taught me two things: that you cannot judge a book by its cover and that you can’t appraise a bookstore from its external appearance!
A “Mythology” Suited to Hong Kong
According to Stephanie, the owner of the store, it was the English name for her shop — Dionysus Books — that she thought of first (Dionysus is the God of Wine in Greek mythology). It was only later that she decided on the Chinese name San Wa (san wa means “mythology” in Cantonese). When, out of curiosity, I asked her if she was a keen on mythology, she told me that she felt that the God of Wine was very applicable to Hong Kong in its current state. This God of Wine was of mixed parentage — half human, half divine — which made it a spirit at the same time both orthodox and sacrilegious. Sometime, he would bring happiness to humanity, while at other times, misery. Nevertheless, under the influence of the God of Wine, people could break free from reality and enter a frenzied realm in which they could finally overcome their fears. On the subject of myths, Stephanie believes that they are a timely reminder: “Owing to the advances in science and technology, we tend to forget that we can’t necessarily explain everything. But does that mean that something is non-existent, just because it lies beyond our understanding? My sense is that science and technology have reached the point where they have become overly dominant.” It is for this reason that Mythology Books has opted not to have a Facebook page. Instead, it uses MeWe in order to resist a state of affairs in which one person alone has all the say. Myths can remind us of just how insignificant we are, and so make us humbler. Stephanie also mentioned another aspect of myths: they can be exploited by governments as tools for the building of nationalisms, taking historical myths and turning them into elements to justify their rule over the people as well as the establishment of collective values. “It’s just like a certain country we know, always going on about how many thousands of years of history it has . . .” It is Stephanie’s hope that the existence of Mythology Books will serve both as encouragement and as an awakening.
From Hong Kong Girl to Bookstore Boss
Stephanie does not have a background in the cultural circles. Nor does she have any connection with the publishing industry. Before she opened her bookstore, she had never previously had anything to do with this line of work. So why did she finally decide to go down the path of the book trade? It was all because of her deep sense of the power of books. At a leisurely pace, she began telling me her own story. “Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved to read, but when it came to choosing which subjects to study at high school, I abandoned what I was interested in and choose Business out of practical considerations. During my time at university, I devoted even less time general reading. After graduation, I worked 9 to 5 for several years at a desk job, but felt very unhappy the whole time. There was such a lot of pressure. As a result, when it came to holidays, I would go on a spending-spree as a way of getting my own back, dressing up and buying things by the truckload — your typical Hong Kong girl. One day, I suddenly had this urge to start reading again, and so began re-reading a book I had once enjoyed so much, Dream of the Red Chamber. I realized that Jia Baoyu’s not wanting to sit the exams for the sake of wealth and glory was a rebellion against the establishment, and so I really got a lot out of the story. I read one book after another, and every day when I went to work all I really wanted to do was get back to my reading. Finally, I made up my mind to quit my job and have a go at doing something I really wanted to do.” After undergoing the “baptism” of 2019, Stephanie saw with even greater clarity just how important books can be. In her view, books can help people to think, containing an unlimited number of solutions and so can provide us with outlooks as well as guidance.
“When we read a history book, we can remove ourselves a little bit, and not get so completely wrapped up in what happens to be going on at that particular moment. Our moods are no longer so grey and disheartened, and our horizons can broaden out.” Having been thus enlightened by books, Stephanie finally became the boss of a bookstore in 2021, a store which offers — based on the above-mentioned reasons — mainly books in the areas of history, literature and the social sciences.
When, out of curiosity, I asked her if she was a keen on mythology, she told me that she felt that the God of Wine was very applicable to Hong Kong in its current state. This God of Wine was of mixed parentage — half human, half divine — which made it a spirit at the same time both orthodox and sacrilegious. Sometime, he would bring happiness to humanity, while at other times, misery. Nevertheless, under the influence of the God of Wine, people could break free from reality and enter a frenzied realm in which they could finally overcome their fears.
A Bookstore Imbued to the Full with Environmental Thinking
The book-shelves and décor items found in Mythology Books are things that they have brought from home or that other people have given to them, making it quite unconventional in comparison to many other places where the furnishings are all brand-new. Stephanie told me that she once helped a Sai Kung district councillor run for election and so got to know many friends who shared her views and aspirations. In addition, when she opened the shop, quite a number of local people in the neighbourhood came and gave her a hand. The clock and the sewing machine (it now serves as a reading desk) in the corner to the right of the main entrance are over a hundred years old. And before it became a bookshop, this was a general store run by the grandmother of Stephanie’s husband on his father’s side. The store’s old sign-board still hangs on the wall — 金利源 Kam Lee Yuen (meaning “Source of Fortune and Advantage”) — giving a real sense of carrying on a family tradition. A certain amount of seating has been set aside in the shop for readers to take a rest and browse, making it extremely cosy. Stephanie comments that things don’t have to be new for them to be good, it being so very easy to find second-hand furniture in Hong Kong. Looking after the environment is actually not as hard as you might imagine it to be.
The Diversity of Independent Bookstores
Stephanie shared with me something of her experiences involving making the bookstore available to various local organizations as a venue for events every now and then. It is her hope that — given its lack of available venues — Mythology Books can provide a space in which people with similar values can come together and coalesce. Such people may also have links with other small business operating in Sai Kung, so they can give one another mutual support, possibly leading to further co-operation. Laughing, Stephanie said to me: “Actually, before 2019, we weren’t at all like this. For many Sai Kung people back then, Sai Kung was just the place where you slept, and we were not really very interested about what was going on in the district. From Monday to Friday, we would all go off to work, while on our days off we would either head out very early in the morning and return late at night, or we would spend the whole time tucked up at home just to avoid all the visitors from elsewhere. But nowadays, people have really integrated into their district and, almost without realizing it, now have another very close connection in their lives.” This is probably true for many people in Hong Kong. It is hoped that in future, bookstores will go on organizing reading groups and, if this remains possible, they could also arrange film screenings or invite writers to come and give a talk, with bookshops functioning as a collective space. As Stephanie mentioned, one advantage independent bookstores have over traditional ones is that their operations can be more diverse, not just selling books but also engaging in a range of other activities, bringing out more — and more precious — voices and creating different kinds of influences.
The Book Trade Will Not Decline
Stephanie remarked that when she first decided to open a bookstore, a lot of people weren’t too keen on the idea — only her husband supported her. She herself, however, was quite optimistic: “I wasn’t too worried. I always thought that as the situation grew worse in Hong Kong, more people would want to read. It really is the case that more young people are going to bookshops, hoping to find answers in a book.” Stephanie went on to add that, although there is plenty of information on the internet, it tends to be too fragmentary, giving books a reason to exist, a reason now even more important than ever. I asked her about whether she had any concerns regarding a political investigation (as I was writing this piece, the police had just arrested five people from the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists for publishing the “Sheep Village” series of illustrated children’s books). Stephanie replied that she couldn’t think that far ahead, and that the books in her shop would remain on the shelves — they hadn’t been banned, so why would there be any problem? “I don’t want to carry out my own self-investigation,” she said, and throughout our conversation you could sense her passionate conviction, not the fiery kind but a sort of ardour that still believes that it is possible to change some things in the world. At the same time — just like many other bookstore owners I have interviewed in the past — Stephanie believes that working in the book trade is something permeated with love rather than competitiveness. “We all give publicity to one another, and we all help each other out. Quite a number of bookstore owners were willing to give me a lot of practical advice — me, a complete beginner. Even the distributors were more than willing to spend time with me, answering my questions.”
許寶強 Hui Po-keung, a professor at Lingnan University, was arrested earlier this month on the charge of “collusion with foreign forces”, a nebulous accusation the Chinese Communist Party regularly uses to bully anyone with the courage to act as a human being and not a tool. Actually, he was part of group that ran “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund”, a fund that helped arrested protesters pay for their legal and medical bills.
In this video from 2013, he addresses a different kind of bullying, this time associated with 恐同 or homophobia, and talks briefly about “emotional education” as a way of tackling the predicament. Generously, he suggests:
佢哋嘅焦慮同恐懼好多時係同我哋呢個社會係仲未完美有關嘅 That is, that the fears and anxieties at the root of bullying behaviour can be put down to the fact that society is still not perfect.
There are no great grammatical conundrums in Hui’s presentation, but watch out for the various structures he makes use of, including 或多或少 = to a greater or lesser extent and 唔單止 = not only. At 2:18 he employs 之所以, which means something like “the reason why”. And so 你哋之所以受排斥或者係欺凌 becomes in English “the reason why you are excluded or bullied”.
He also makes use of 到dóu3*2, a verb particle used to indicate “accomplishment or successful completion of an action” (Matthews & Yip: Cantonese, Chapter 11). So, at 0:51, you’ll hear 直接處理到 = “directly tackle” (with the implication of success in the endeavour), followed soon after by 放低到呢一種恐懼同埋焦慮嘅情緒, which means something like “to let go of this mood of fear and anxiety”.
Finally, at 2:46, you’ll hear 使到, an unusual (perhaps more literary) way of expression causation.
You can also add to your vocabulary with the following items: 女性主義者 néuih5 sing3 jyú2 yih6 jé2 = a feminist; 粗魯 chōu1 lóuh5 = rough; rude; boorish; 變體 bian3 taai3 = abnormal; anomalous; 受害者 sauh6 hoih6 jé2 = a victim; 欺凌 hēi1 lìhng4 = to bully & humiliate; and 改善 gói2 sihn6 = to improve; to ameliorate.
Please scroll down for my transcription, English translation and notes. You can view the video here (subtitles in both Standard Written Chinese and English). 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.
● 女性主義者 néuih5 sing3 jyú2 yih6 jé2 = a feminist | ● 傾向 kīng1 heung3 = a tendency; an inclination; a deviation | ● 粗魯 chōu1 lóuh5 = rough; rude; boorish | ● 大意 daaih6 yi3 = careless; negligent; inattentive | ● 細心 sai3 sām1 = careful; attentive | ● 溫柔 wān1 yàuh4 = gentle & soft | ● 變體 bin3 taai3 = abnormal; anomalous | ● 常態 sèuhng4 taai3 = normality; normal behaviour or conditions | ● 引入 yáhn5 yahp6 = ① to lead into; to draw into ② to introduce from elsewhere | ● 教師 gaau3 sī1 = a teacher | ● 恐懼 húng2 geuih6 = ① frightened ② fear; dread
Caption: Hui Po-keung | University Professor
Both feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir and Sigmund Freud — that important psychological researcher — were of the opinion that the inclination towards homosexuality was something that everyone had, to a greater or lesser extent. A man might well be . . . of course, sometimes he would be very rough or very careless, but at the same time you couldn’t rule out [排] that sometimes he could be very attentive, gentle, tender. For this reason, then it is not an abnormal phenomenon. It could even be [our] normal state.
Caption: Homosexuality is Normal
If we want to handle this issue effectively, we will at the same time have to bring in a kind of emotional education. An effective emotional education — this kind of education of the emotions, should be able to handle [this issue] directly. It might even be able to help students and teachers in schools to let go of [放低] their fears and anxieties.
● 受害者 sauh6 hoih6 jé2 = a victim | ● 欺凌 hēi1 lìhng4 = to bully & humiliate | ● 守節 sáu2 jit3 = (of a woman under feudalism) to preserve chastity after the death of her husband | ● 習俗 jaahp6 juhk6 = a custom; a convention | ● 昏迷 fān1 màih4 = a stupor; a coma | ● 反思 fáan2 sī1 = ① to recollect; to think back; to rethink profoundly ② self-examination; introspection; profound consideration
Actually, the victims [of homophobia] are not only the students who are bullied. At the same time, bullies and those who exclude others [排斥者] are themselves victims of this culture of terror or this terrified mood.
Caption: Education Both Bullies & the Bullied with Emotion
For instance, a hundred years ago when [the writer] Mr Lu Xun talked about his wish to respond to [feudal ideas about] chastity for widows — a traditional custom in China. He felt that this chastity for widows actually caused nothing but pointless suffering, as well as both violence and stupor. A hundred years on, with Hong Kong in the state that it is today, shouldn’t we be seriously thinking about [反思] whether [the way we view] homophobia is a mood [情緒] that produces suffering? If this indeed is the case, how should we positively go about handling and solving it?
Caption: 反恐同 | 思教育 | 反思
I AM ME 我係許寳強 | 我想同曾受或者係正受校園欺凌或者係排斥嘅同學講 | 你哋之所以受，呃，排斥或者係欺凌其實唔係由於你自身嘅問題，或者你自己唔好 | [更多可能]係反映排斥或者欺凌者佢哋嘅焦慮或者係恐懼 | 而佢哋嘅焦慮同恐懼好多時係同我哋呢個社會係仲未完美有關嘅 | 噉因此無論你係同志或者係非同志嘅朋友 | 我哋應該一齊去改善呢個社會狀況 | 使到欺凌同排斥唔再喺校園存在
● 曾受 chàhng4 sauh6 = roughly, “ever received/undergone” (Note: 曾 indicates “something ever having happened in the indefinite past” cf. 未 meih6 “something NEVER/NOT YET having happened in the indefinite past” | ● 正受 jing3 sauh6 = roughly, “currently in the process of receiving/undergoing” | ● 自身 jih6 sān1 = self; oneself | ● 改善 gói2 sihn6 = to improve; to ameliorate
These are the topics I am currently concerned about.
I AM ME I am Hui Po-keung. To any student who has been the subject — or is currently the subject — bullying or exclusion at school — I would like to say: the reason why you are being excluded or bullied is actually not because of anything to do with you personally [唔係由於你自身嘅問題] or because you are not any good. It more probably reflects the anxieties and fears of those doing the excluding or bullying. And most of the time, their anxieties and fears are connected to this society of ours still not being perfect. For this reason, regardless of whether you are gay or not, we should all work together to improve conditions in this society, so that bullying and exclusion in schools is stopped [唔再 … 存在].