Tin Hau Temple (Fanling 粉嶺)

Lung Yeuk Tau Tin Hau Temple

香港龍躍頭天后宮 Lung Yeuk Tau Tin Hau Temple, Hong Kong

Incense lit in honour of the Earth God
rings round me. Here I sit —
smoked — on a crude stone bench,
catching my breath, as awareness spins
through simple cycles
of scent-rest-scent-rest-rock.
In the sky-painted forecourt,
a humble tap drips deep in the hush,
and a fern, deeper,
squarely on one wall,
grows in recognition of the part
chance and disorderly vegetable life
play in this world.
Two pygmy demons, wild
dogs’ eyes goggling,
brandish serrated swords
as protectors of the Sea Goddess —
a stern empress — serene, unworldly
in her sombre cave. Electric
red-flame candles
and a neat building of oranges
glow from the altar
through gloom, but still
this faceless atmosphere puzzles prayer:
I have nothing of my own
worth adding. What can I do
but align the straying needle
of my noise patiently
to the temple’s faint magnetism
and hope it strikes root in dark’s —
deeper — indirection?

《文化途徑之外嘅「小文化」》/ Off the Beaten Heritage Trail in Fanling

2017-12-04 Fanleng Yellow Flowers 1 RESIZED

香港粉嶺崇謙堂嘅「野花王國」Field of yellow flowers, Shung Him Tong, Fanleng.

Simon Patton 著

因為每次嚟香港都住沙田一間酒店,所以香港朋友已經出於攪笑,鐘意用「沙田友」呢嘅名稱稱呼我。不過,我心裏有嘅秘密,好少同其他人講:其實,我同時亦都可以算係「粉嶺友」。
Whenever I go to Hong Kong, I stay in the same hotel in Sha Tin, and so friends of mine there take pleasure in jokingly referring to me as a Saa Tin yau or “Sha Tin friend”, a term used in Cantonese for residents of that town. However, I have a hidden secret that I rarely tell anyone: actually, I could also be considered to be a bit of a “Fanling friend” as well.

你或者會即刻問到粉嶺究竟有乜吸引人嘅地方?當然,唔少外國遊客第一次去粉嶺正係因為嗰度設立嘅龍躍頭文化俓。其實,呢條文化俓經過嘅地方真係有意思,包括崇謙堂教堂,幾個圍村(麻笏圍,老圍,新圍),天后廟,鄧氏公祠等等名勝古跡。老實講,我自己初次去「發現」粉嶺亦都係因為呢個緣故。不過,而家去粉嶺另外仲有一種更加吸引我嘅因素:聯和墟熟食中心。
Your immediate response to this might be: What’s so interesting about Fanling? Many visitors to Hong Kong are naturally drawn to Fanling for the first time because of the Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail that has been established there. The sites of historical interest along the trail are in actual fact quite interesting, places such as the old Christian church of Shung Him Tong (sung him in Cantonese means “worshiping humility”), several walled villages (Ma Wat Wai, Lo Wai, San Wai, among others), a Tin Hau temple, as well as the big ancestral hall built for the Tang clan. To be perfectly truthful, my own original “discovery” of Fanling was because of this trail. Now, however, there is something even more enticing that keeps me coming back to Fanling: the Cooked Food Centre at Luen Wo Hui Market.

澳洲係一個講求方便嘅國家,超市因此早就打敗咗原有嘅街市。香港雖然亦都深受「方便主意」嘅消極影響,但係到目前為止,仍然可以揾到唔少熙熙攘攘嘅街市,而且其中大多數都設有熟食中心。
Australia is a country which makes a big song and dance about convenience, and the markets here were soundly defeated by supermarkets long ago. Although Hong Kong has also been adversely influenced by this “convenience-ism”, quite a number of bustling wet markets can still be found to this day, most of them with their own cooked food centres.

喺聯和墟嘅門口搭扶手電梯去熟食中心,第一間見到嘅舖頭就叫「添仔蝦餃」,特別鐘意食蝦餃嘅我就自然而然揀喺嗰度食早餐、食晏。除咗蝦餃之外,我仲好鐘意食「添仔蝦餃」嘅腸粉同埋粥,真係好好味,食嘢時亦可以順便欣賞周圍環境中嘅人間戲劇!
When you ride the escalator at the entrance to the Luen Wo Hui Market up to the Cooked Food Centre, the first shop you see is called “Tim’s Prawn Dumplings”, and for someone like me who is especially fond of eating haa gaau, it is perfectly natural that I should choose to go there for breakfast or lunch. Apart from the dumplings, I am also rather partial to the cheung fan and juk (congee) served at Tim’s Prawn Dumplings ― the food is really tasty, and while eating I can also enjoy the spectacle of the human comedy being played out all around me.

tin zai haa gaau

粉嶺聯和墟熟食中心「添仔蝦餃」Tim’s Prawn Dumplings, Luen Wo Hui Market Cooked Food Centre in Fanling, Hong Kong

記得有一次喺「添仔蝦餃」食蝦餃嘅時候,我同另外一位顧客搭檯,當我嘗試同佢講幾句唔鹹唔淡嘅廣東話時,佢就開始用一口流利嘅英文同我傾計。其實,佢係喺沙頭角長大嘅,但係好多年前決定離開香港,去英國定居。就係佢第一次介紹「喼汁」俾我知,從此之後,我每次喺「添仔蝦餃」嗰度食蝦餃都一定會加上少少喼汁,個人覺得咁樣食效果真係好好,同時我會諗起教識我「喼汁」呢個單詞嘅沙頭角人。其實,我學習廣東話嘅過程中有好多類似嘅例子,通常第一次學到一個嘅新單詞同一個具體嘅人物、一個具體嘅地點、一個具體嘅場所,都有密不可分嘅關係,令到香港好多地方已經變成活生生嘅獨特辭典喇!
I remember one time when I was enjoying some prawn dumplings at Tim’s, I shared a table with another customer. When I tried out a few phrases of my half-baked Cantonese on him, he replied in fluent English and we got talking. He told me that he had grown up in Sha Tau Kok but had left Hong Kong many years ago to settle in England. He was the man who gave me my first introduction to gip jap vinegar, and since that meeting, religiously I add a dash of it to my prawn dumplings whenever I eat at Tim’s. I think the flavours combine rather well and, at the same time, I recall the man from Sha Tau Kok who taught me this word. In actual fact, in the course of my study of Cantonese, there have been many examples of this sort of thing: it is often the case that my learning of a new piece of language is closely bound up with a specific person, a specific place, and/or a specific occasion, with the result that many parts of Hong Kong have become a kind of living dictionary for me!

喺「添仔蝦餃」食完蝦餃之後,我就會漫步行向粉嶺東邊嘅麻笏河,即係文化俓開始嘅地方。如果有心機,我就鐘意去睇吓俓上嘅土地公社壇,麻笏圍大門口上面嘅門楣石匾(石匾係用一種特別搶眼嘅紅色岩石造成),加上嗰間天后廟——入邊嘅「千里眼」同「順風耳」兩神嘅雕像做得零舍精緻,栩栩如生。
After I’ve had my dumplings at Tim’s, I head off at a leisurely pace eastwards in the direction of the Ma Wat River, the location of the starting point of the heritage trail. If I am in the mood, I like to go and take a look at the Earth God shrine, the inscribed lintel stone at Ma Wat Wai Walled Village (this inscribed stone over the entrance-gate is made from a particularly eye-catching red stone), as well as the Tin Hau Temple there ― the statues of the two spirits Chin Lei Ngan (who has eyes to see a thousand Chinese miles) and Shun Fung Yi (who has ears to hear a pin drop in Heaven) inside the temple are wonderfully worked and extremely lifelike.

有時當呢幾樣嘢都冇法引起我嘅興趣,我就會喺文化途徑之外揾其他樂趣。第一,經過崇謙堂時,喺石盧附近,右邊有一條路仔可以一直行到一個基督教墳場,呢帶嘅氣氛非常安靜。第二,喺行往麻笏圍嗰段路時,左邊要經過一片荒地,呢度早就變成野花嘅王國,除咗我特別鐘意嘅薑花之外,開花季節平常亦會有好多好多不知名嘅大黃花!黃花盛放嘅花國真係會令到經常神經緊張嘅我瞬時獲得紓緩。
But sometimes, when I do not feel like seeing such things, I go in search of other pleasures off the beaten heritage track. First of all, after passing the Shung Him Tong Church, and not far from the derelict mansion known as Shek Lou, there’s a small road off to your right that goes all the way to a Christian cemetery, an area that I find very peaceful. Secondly, as you walk that section of the road that takes you to the walled village of Ma Wat, there is a deserted stretch of wilderness to your left, which has transformed into a kind of kingdom of the wild flowers. Apart from the ginger flowers which I am particularly fond of, enormous numbers of large yellow flowers the name of which I don’t know can be found here when things are in bloom. When I visit this kingdom of blooming yellow flowers, I get a moment of relief from the anxious self I normally am.

第三,行到俓尾時,即係龍躍頭嘅新圍嗰度,我有時會一直往前面繼續行,過咗梧桐河就向左邊轉彎,沿住河旁鋪有嘅馬路一路行到上水,一面白日發夢,一面欣賞行路本身嘅姿勢。到達上水,如果覺得肚餓,我都可以順便去一趟石湖墟,叫一碗雲吞麵慰勞自己。
Thirdly, at the end of the trail, at the walled village of San Wai in Lung Yeuk Tau, I sometimes press on straight ahead, cross the Indus River (the Cantonese name Ng Tung actually refers to the Chinese parasol tree), and turn left, following the road along the river all the way to Sheung Shui, day-dreaming and appreciating the movements of my own body in motion. If I happen to be feeling a bit peckish by the time I reach Sheung Shui, I make my way to Shek Wu Hui for a bowl of wonton noodles as a reward for all my efforts.