Learning Cantonese: Wong Chun-hei and Yeung Hok-tak, Partners-in-Art

It is not necessarily grammar or vocabulary that can make Cantonese difficult: it’s naturalness. Understandably, language tends to be idealized in textbooks and dictionaries: we are given a picture of what it should be, not what it is, just to make it learn-able. In a wonderful book on self-study I picked up in a bookshop in Sheung Shui, the writer (白取春彥Haruhiko Shiratori) memorably pointed out that people who study a language often aspire to being able to chat casually with the locals about everyday topics. This however is the Mount Everest of language learning, the almost unattainable goal. Why? Mainly because real people use language in a natural way, without regard for correct syntax, exact meanings, completeness, logic, or standard pronunciation.

This video about two painters who go out to paint from nature and, by sheer coincidence, wind up depicting the same scene illustrates this point. 黃進曦 Stephen Wong Chun-hei (an individual who often appears on this site) is his usual, lucid self. His partner-in-art 楊學德 Yeung Hok-tak, however, is a very different proposition. This is partly to do with his way of expressing himself, which tends to be choppy. He also uses quite a lot of fillers, including 咁樣, 呃, 其實, 啫係. Finally, apart from a general slurry quality, he also modifies the pronunciation of certain words, such as 嗰個 go2 go3, which becomes an indeterminate *go. In ordinary speech, you will discover other instances of such modification. For instance, 其實 becomes *kei’a; 嗰陣時 becomes *gon si; 就係 becomes *jai; 即係 becomes *je; while 咁樣 turns into *gam’eung. Another example that recently struck me in a different video was *yeje; eventually, after comparing a number of instances, I worked out that the modified phrase had to be 又或者!

One minor but interesting grammar point here involves the formation of questions with the positive and negative forms of the verb. You commonly encounter this in the cases of 有冇 = have/have not and 係咪 is/is not (咪 maih6 is a contraction of 唔係). Modal verbs made up of two characters do something special: when 可以 = “can” is combined with its negative form 唔可以, we get 可唔可以. Similarly, 應該 = “ought” turns into 應唔應該. Compound adjectives can also be handled in this way. When English words are borrowed, they receive the same treatment, often in surprising ways. So, at 1:44, Wong Chun-hei asks 係 O唔OK呢? = “is it OK?”. Similarly in a recent video from 士多貓貓 StoreMeow, the speaker at 1:52 uses 都唔知自己呢,rea- 唔rea-dy呢 in an indirect question to mean “we didn’t know if we were ready or not”.

Probably my favourite item of Cantonese vocabulary in this presentation is the noun 宅叔 jaahk6 sūk1, which means something like “a middle-aged man who stays at home most of the time”. It is derived from 宅男 jaahk6 nàahm4, which also carries connotations of unsociability and, according to Sheik Cantonese, “watching TV and playing video games all the time” as well as not caring about personal hygiene. The female version is naturally 宅女 jaahk6 néui5*2. According to Sheik, there is a related term, 隱蔽青年 yán2 bai3 chīng1 nìhn4 = “introvert; introverted youth”. Yeung Hok-tak also makes use of this, but changes it to suit his age: 隱蔽中年, “an introverted middle-aged man”.

There are also plenty of other very noteworthy vocabulary items, including: 玩味 wuhn6 meih6 = to ponder; to ruminate; 曳 yáih5 = naughty; mischievous; 着重 jeuhk6 juhng6 = to stress; to emphasize; 構圖 kau3 tòuh4 = composition (of a picture); 類似 leuih6 chíh5 = similar; analogous; 直頭 jihk6 tàuh4 = directly, simply, completely, truly; straight head; 偏向 pīn1 heung3 = to be partial to; 刺激 chi3 gīk1 = a stimulus; 溝 kāu1 = to mix; and 驚喜 gīng1 héi2 = to be pleasantly surprised.

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

Caption: 黃進曦 x 楊學德聯展 | 寫生樂與思

Caption: 「一景兩畫」雙視野

黃進曦:睇我嘅作品係會有嗰種遊走嘅感覺嘅 | 呃,空間嘅一個 . . . 一種 . . . 一種玩味性嘅 . . . 有興趣嘅 | 呃,阿 . . . 阿德可能佢對於一啲情景 | 或者一啲經歷過一啲人物 | 喺 . . . 喺佢身邊經過佢會產生好多故事性 | 喺裏邊去安放翻喺嗰個空間裏邊 | 噉呢個先至係,呃,有趣嘅位 | 啫,啫,頭先講「畫意」嗰樣嘢我覺得係 . . . 就係基於我哋唔係想純碎描寫嗰個對象 | 而係透過嗰個空間或者嗰個對象去講緊一啲另外嘅嘢

楊學德:我比進曦更「曳」呀,哈哈 | 但係我好寫意地去 . . . 去記錄啲嘢嘅,啊 | 見到樖樹好特別呀, 見到嗰個景有某一點係我覺得係好 . . . 好有趣嘅 | 我 . . . 我會着重嗰啲細位度囉

● 聯展 lyùhn4 jín2 = to jointly hold an exhibition | ● 寫生 sé2 sā[a]ng1 (?) = to paint from life | ● 遊走 yàuh4 jáu2 = roughly, “to wander” | ● 玩味性 wuhn6 meih6 sing3 = cf. 玩味 = to ponder; to ruminate | ● 安放 [ng]ōn1 fong3 = to lay; to place; to put in a certain place | ● 畫意 wáa2 yi3 = (?) “pictorial meaning; painterly meaning” | ● 曳 yáih5 = naughty; mischievous | ● 寫意 sé2 yi3 = ① enjoyable cf. 愜意 hip3 yi3 = be pleased; be satisfied ② freehand brushwork (in traditional Chinese painting) | ● 着重 jeuhk6 juhng6 = to stress; to emphasize

Caption: Wong Chun-hei + Yeung Hok-tak: A Joint Exhibition | Painting from Life: Its Joys and Insights [思]

Caption: A Double Perspective on “One Scene, Two Paintings”

Wong Chun-hei: [If you] look at my paintings, you will get that sense of a wandering and a pondering [玩味性] of space. [As for] Ah Tak (Yeung Hok-tak), a scene or some people he has encountered [經歷過], people around him that he has had some dealings with, may produce many different story-elements [故事性] in them [that is, “the scenes and the people”], [which he then] puts into his spaces. This is where the interest lies [有趣嘅位]. That thing I mentioned a moment ago [頭先], “pictorial meaning”, is I think not something based purely on our depiction [描寫] of the object — it is a way of talking about [certain] other things, by means of the space or the object.

Yeung Hok-tak: I am “naughtier” [曳] than Chun-hei! I take great pleasure in recording things. [If I] see a tree with some peculiarity, or something in the view that I think is very interesting, I will emphasize that particular detail [細位度].

【1:00】當然我都會返去都亦都會 . . . 我做過個過程就係,又係去消化重新組合 | 再去經營幅 . . . 成幅大畫嗰個 . . . 嗰個 . . . 嗰個構圖嘅

黃進曦:我返屋企諗我哋嘅展覽做乜 | 突然間諗起兩幅畫 | 當年,呃,法國印象派 | Monet 同埋 Renoir 佢 . . . 佢哋兩個人一齊出去寫生,畫一個湖景嘅 | 其實個構圖好類似呀 | 但係呢,你會睇得出 Monet 嗰張係個景係重啲嘅 | Renoir 嗰張呢,就係個人物係出啲嘅 | 兩個畫家一齊出去 | 畫出嚟嘅嘢係可以有呢一種趣味性嘅分別 | 如果將呢樣嘢擺喺我同阿德身上面 | 係 O 唔 OK呢?| 就出嚟就傾喇 . . . 就係,傾吓有冇邊啲地方係大家一齊想去嘅

Caption: 宅叔自然初體驗

楊學德:「隱蔽中 . . . 中年」忽然間,啫係,呢個重見天日嗰啲呢

● 消化 sīu1 faa3 = to digest | ● 經營 = usu. “to manage; to run; to engage in | ● 構圖 kau3 tòuh4= composition (of a picture) | ● 印象派 yan3 jeuhng6 paai3 = Impressionism; the Impressionist School (of artists) | ● 類似 leuih6 chíh5 = similar; analogous | ● 趣味性 cheui3 meih6 sing3 = (?) interest; delight | ● 宅叔 jaahk6 sūk1 = (?) an introverted, middle-aged man who stays at home most of the time cf. 宅男、宅女 | ● 隱蔽 yán2 baih3 = usu. concealed; covert; under cover; undercover cf. 隱蔽青年 = introverted youth | ● 重見天日 chùhng4 gin3 tīn1 yaht6 = once more see the light of day

Yeung Hok-tak: Of course, back at home I will always . . . The process that I have followed [做過] is to go and digest [the material], re-organize it, then to re-work [經營] the composition of that entire big painting.

Wong Chun-hei: When I got back home, I thought about what to do for our exhibition. Suddenly, I thought of two paintings. Once [當年], the French Impressionists Monet and Renoir went out together to paint from life, doing a lake scene. Actually, they are similar in terms of composition, but you will see [會睇得出] that in Monet’s picture, there’s more emphasis on the scene, [while] in Renoir’s picture, it’s the people who stand out [出] more. Two painters went out together [to paint], [yet] what they painted could have this interesting difference. Would it be OK to apply this same thing to me and Ah Tak? So [we] went out and had a talk about [就出嚟就傾喇] . . . about which places [邊啲地方] we could both go to together.

【2:00】我唔出街㗎嘛,其實 ,啊 . . . 噉忽然間,嘩,直頭 | hardcore | 到要走去行山喎,咁 | 係好有 . . . 好有新鮮感 | 因為我畫嘢呢,嗰個習慣,或者習性呢,就係匿埋做嘢咁樣嘅 | 我其實比較少去參考啲 . . . 呃,reference 呀 | 啫係,我係偏向幻想嗰邊多啲嘅 | 但係呢種咁嘅形式 | 覺得自己好似有啲乾塘咁嘅感覺 | 諗嘢嗰個思維都係 . . . 都係嗰啲嘢 | 而噉佢 . . . 佢都,啫係,都提議話:「其實,你會唔會,啫係,考慮吓,呃,出去外邊睇吓嘢咁| 啫,有啲外來嘅新嘅刺激呢 | 可能會幫到你咁」 | 噉我 . . . 我就 . . . 啊,都覺得都可能係咁 | 啫係,無論去嗰個地方 | 呃,嗰個行嗰個嘅過程呀,或者見到嘅事物呀 | 或者會遇到嘅問題咁

● 直頭 jihk6 tàuh4 = directly, simply, completely, truly; straight head | ● 新鮮感 sān1 sīn1 gám2 = a (feeling of) freshness | ● 習性 jaahp6 sing3 = habits & characteristics | ● 匿埋 nēi1 màaih4 = to hide | ● 偏向 pīn1 heung3 = to be partial to | ● 幻想 waahn6 séung2 = usu. “an illusion; a fantasy; a reverie” | ● 乾塘 gōn1 tòhng4 = literally “dried-up pond”, perhaps used figuratively to mean “a drying up of the imagination or the source of one’s inspiration” | ● 提議 tàih4 yíh5 = to propose; to suggest | ● 刺激 chi3 gīk1 = a stimulus

I’m not the type that goes out much, actually. Then all of a sudden — wow, things went completely hardcore [嘩,直頭 hardcore] and there I was out there hiking! It was a very fresh sensation [for me], because when I paint something, I do it — out of habit or because it’s my habitual nature [習性] — hidden away at home. I rarely go out to consult references. I more inclined to make things up out of my own imagination [幻想]. But this mode of doing things [呢種咁嘅形式], well I had the feeling that I had dried up. My way of thinking about things [just led to] more of the same. Now he [Wong Chun-hei] made a suggestion [to me]: “Actually, would you consider going out of doors to have a look at things? Some new stimuli from an external source [外來嘅] would possibly help you.” And so I thought . . . I thought that it might well be so. I mean, no matter where [I] went, the process of walking, or the things that [I] saw, or the problems that [I] ran into . . .

【3:00】都 . . . 都對我嚟講係新嘅 | 經過咁樣呢次咁嘅嘗試 | 令我,呃,好徹底地改變咗某啲習性咁樣囉 | 啫係,覺得:「咦,原來用咁嘅色去溝咁嘅色 | 其實真係會有種『污糟』嘅感覺」| 但係之前一度都唔為意 | 覺得咁樣有種刺激感或者有一種力量感㗎嘛

Caption: 沒有重複的風景

黃進曦:所以啱啱「大風坳」嗰張畫擺出嚟嘅時候 | 其實我覺得咪好驚喜囉 | 啫 . . . 啫係,因為行完兩次大潭水塘 | 唔知道對方畫乜嘅 | 啫,我 . . . 我哋去 . . . 去寫生嘅時候其實冇望對方 | 攞咗咩景 | 啱啱 Art Basel 嗰陣時大家做完件出品擺出嚟嘅時候就 | 原來攞嘅景係一樣 | 無論色調唔同啦 | 畫面經營嘅重點又唔同 | 呃,啱啱嗰次就其實都幾做到我想要嘅嗰樣嘢嘅,其實 | 每一次其實阿德佢 . . .

● 徹底 chit3 dái2 = thorough; thoroughgoing; complete | ● 溝 kāu1 = to mix | ● 污糟 wū1 jōu1 = dirty | ● 一度 yāt 1 douh6 = once; for a time; at one point; on one occasion | ● 為意 waih? yi3 = 在意: 留意; 放在心上。 主張: 主意,見解;也指持有某種見解 | ● 重複 chùhng4 fūk1 = to repeat; to duplicate | ● 坳 aau3 = a depression in a mountain range; level land in a mountain; 大風坳 = Quarry Pass | ● 驚喜 gīng1 héi2 = to be pleasantly surprised | ● 大潭水塘 daaih6 tàahm4 séui2 tòhng4 = the Tai Tam Reservoirs | ● 色調 sīk1 diuh6 = a tone; a hue

. . . would all be new to me. Having gone through such a first try [嘗試] this time has made me completely change some of my habitual way of doing things [習性]. Like, [I] thought: “Oh, if you mix such and such a colour with that colour, you really get an impression of “dirtiness” [有種『污糟』嘅感覺]. But before that, for a time, I wasn’t aware of this [一度都唔為意]. It is this kind of thing that has a buzz for me [刺激感], a sense of power.

Caption: The Unrepeated Landscape

Wong Chun-hei: And so, when that picture “Quarry Pass” was put on display [擺出嚟], I was actually pleasantly surprised, because on [our] two walks to the Tai Tam Reservoirs, we didn’t know what the other one was painting. That is, when we went out to paint from life, we didn’t actually look to see [what] the other [was doing], which view we had taken. As it happened, it was at Art Basel, when [our] exhibition paintings were put up for display, that [we realized we had taken] the same scene. [But] our colours were different, and the points of emphasis [重點] in our handling of the scene were different. As it turned out, this is actually the thing I wanted. On each occasion, that reaction Ah Tak had in fact . . .

【4:00】. . . 可能面對好多新鮮嘅嘢嗰種反應呢 | 係某程度提醒翻我一啲嘢嘅 | 我自己會 . . . 會去諗 | 就係點樣可以 | 喺每一次 . . . 假設都係去同一個地方 | 但係其實你搵嘅一啲唔同嘅嘢,或者你都係用一個最新鮮嘅一個眼光嚟到去觀察呢 | 噉呢個我覺得呢一個係作為一個創作嘅,或者畫畫嘅人其實應該具備嘅一種 . . . 一種質素嚟嘅

● 假設 gáa2 chit3 = to suppose; to assume; to presume | ● 眼光 ngáahn5 gwōng1 = sight; foresight; insight; vision | ● 具備 geuih6 beih6 = to possess; to have; to be provided with

. . . faced as he probably was with many novel elements, was to some degree a reminder to me of certain things. Myself, I would think about how I could, on each different occasion . . . Supposing you go to the same place, you will in fact find some differences or you will observe [the place] with the freshest of gazes [最新鮮嘅一個眼光]. This I think is a quality that any person who creates or paints pictures ought to have, in fact.

Interview by Ko Cheung
Video by Desmond Chan
Photos courtesy of Artist

Learning Cantonese: Capturing the Sky

This is a very short video again featuring the Hong Kong landscape painter 黃進曦 Stephen Wong Chun Hei. The moral is simple yet profound, and is summed up in the final sentence: 或者喺你觀察到其他人去畫天空呢一啲作品之後|可能令到你產生咗一種 | 「原來唔係咁單一」嘅觀察嘅方法嘅,咁一樣嘅 (you can find my rough English translation below).

The Cantonese titles of the video differ in interesting ways.  The words 自在風景 literally mean “free and easy landscape”, but are rendered in English as “the breath of landscape”, while 凝聚天空, which makes use of the verb 凝聚 yìhng4 jeuih6 = “(of vapour) to condense”, becomes “capture the sky”. In other words, we are dealing here with different versions rather than direct translations.

For a Cantonese learner, the joy of this video is Wong’s one use of 埲 buhng6, a classifier (or “measure word”) specifically for walls. I don’t come across it very often; generally 幅 fūk1 seems to be preferred. Actually, within the span of his 1-minute presentation, you’ll hear Wong use both, one more reason to fall in love with Cantonese all over again!

There is also a very nifty item of vocabulary: 順住時序 seuhn6 jyuh6 sìh4 jeuih6 = in chronological order. Combined with the verb 排列 pàaih4 liht6, you get one way of saying “to arrange in chronological order”.

Please scroll down for my transcription, English translation and notes. You can view the video here (subtitles in English and Standard Written Chinese). 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.


Caption: 自在風景 | The Breath of Landscape

Caption: 凝聚天空 | Capture the Sky

黃進曦:其實我由5月份開始呢 | 其實就去唔同地區啦 | 二十間中小學就去做一 workshop 嘅|主要呢,就係同佢哋去畫當日個天空 呀|其實呢一埲牆呢,主要就係嗰二十間中學嘅作品|噉我排列個方法呢,就其實係順住時序嘅 | 另外呢一幅牆呢 | 其實就係藝術館呢一個位呢 | 現場我再一啲唔同嘅朋友過一齊 | 去畫天空嘅一個作品嘅 | 透過呢個workshop 之後 | 或者喺你觀察到其他人去畫天空嘅呢一啲作品之後|可能令到你產生咗一種 | 「原來唔係咁單一」嘅觀察嘅方法嘅,咁一樣

● 中小學 jūng1 síu2 hohk6 = primary and secondary schools | ● 埲 buhng6 = a classifier for walls | ● 排列 pàaih4 liht6 = to arrange; to put in order | ● 順住時序 seuhn6 jyuh6 sìh4 jeuih6 = in chronological order cf.  時序 = sequential timing | ● 觀察 gūn1 chaat3 = to observe; to watch | ● 單一 dāan1 yāt1 = single; unitary; perhaps even “homogenous”

Stephen Wong Chun Hei: In actual fact, beginning in May, I went to various different districts, doing workshops in twenty primary and secondary schools. What we did mainly was to paint the sky on that [particular] day. The paintings on this wall here are mostly those by students at these twenty schools. My way of arranging them was according to chronological order. On this other wall over here, here in this part of the [Hong Kong] Museum of Art, I got a number of my friends together here together, each one of them painting a picture of the sky on this spot. By means of these workshops, and after looking at the skies painted by other people, perhaps it might make you think to yourself [產生咗一種] “Well, there’s no single way of doing it” when it comes to how one looks [at the world].

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.


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.