Learning Cantonese: Wai Wai, Artist of the Neighbourhood

The artist 慧惠 Wai Wai lived in a flat near the 果欄 “Fruit Lan” or Wholesale Fruit Market in 油麻地 Yau Ma Tei while she was growing up, and this experience seems to set her on her present course as a passionate community-oriented artist. By transforming 鐵閘 tit3 jaahp6 or “iron roll-down shop shutters” into works of art, she hopes to bring colour into the neighbourhood and to record for posterity the fine details of life in older districts in Hong Kong, places so vulnerable to eventual redevelopment.

There is nothing monstrously difficult in this presentation, and I think you will appreciate the clarity with which the Now reporter 周駿易 Chow Chun-yee speaks, but there are a few points worthy of attention. The first concerns the verb 俾 béi2. This commonly means “to give”, but it also doubles up as a colloquial version of 讓 yeuhng6 = “to let; to enable”. And so at 4:30 in 俾一啲苦苦經營嘅店主 | 一個堅持做落去嘅理由 = “to give the shopkeepers who worked so hard managing their stores a reason to keep on going”, 俾 béi2 means “to give”. However, in a phrase like 起碼俾人知道個歷史故事係點樣 at 1:10, the meaning is “at least to let people know what the history (of the shop) was”. Other examples of this second meaning appear in 問佢有冇興趣 | 俾畫家喺佢嘅鐵閘上面創造 (0:50) and 擺喺呢個鐵閘面前俾啲街坊認識一下 (1:58). Obviously, the presence of a second verb after 俾 béi2 is a good indicator that that this second meaning is in play.

There are also numerous instances of two very interesting aspect markers, 嗮 saai3 and 翻 fāan1. 嗮 offers a very neat way of expressing ideas such as “wholly” or “fully”. Listen out for:

2:28: 拉嗮閘嘅時候畫
3:58: 插畫都畫嗮、倒瀉嗮喺度
4: 15: 好俾心機去將自己觀察到嘅 | 鍾意嘅都放嗮入面

As for 翻 fāan1, it is always fascinating to come across new examples of how this works in Cantonese. Yes, sometimes the meaning is a simple “back” or “again”, but sometimes more subtle nuances are at work. In 用個新嘅角度去睇翻自己嘅鋪頭 (4:50), for example, the aspect marker seems to suggest “again, in a new way”. Note that in the case of 剩翻 at 2:45, this is virtually a fixed expression meaning “to be left (over); to remain”, although 剩低 is also heard.

The video is rich in vocabulary, including the four-character expression 碩果僅存 sehk6 gwó2 gán2 chyùhn4 = “a rare survival”, last encountered in the RTHK video with 劉彥芹 Anthony Lau Yin-Kun on Hong Kong newts (以前嗰啲樹林差唔多斬嗮嘅時候呢 | 佢都可以碩果僅存呀). There’s also an instance each of the very Cantonese verbs 鎅 (or 𠝹) gaai3 = “to cut” and 甩色 lāt sīk = to fade (of colour). Other treasures include: 内街 noih6 gāai1 = (?) back streets; 交棒 gāau1 páahng5 = (?) to pass on the baton; to hand sth. on to (a successor); 後輩 hauh6 bui3 = ① the younger generation ② posterity; 間尺 gaan3 chék3*2= a ruler ; 筆直 bāt1 jihk6 = perfectly straight; straight as a ramrod; 草圖 chóu2 tòuh4 = a (rough) sketch; a draft; 漏夜 lauh6 yeh6 = the dead of night; 俾心機 béi2 sām1 gēi1 = to devote oneself to doing; to put energy into doing; 立體空間 lahp6 tái2 hūng1 gāan1 = (?) a three-dimensional space . . . I better stop here. It’s making me giddy!

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

WordPress for some reason has added a bit of colour to the Chinese text in this post. I’m not sure why this is and, so far, I have been able to fix the problem, but let it be a tribute to 慧惠 Wai Wai, a great believer in colour!


Caption: 舊區新潮 | An Old District, A New Current

旁白:由嘈雜鬧市轉入内街 | 行入砵蘭街 | 再去到上海街 | 會發現另一種嘅城市風景 | 即使係日頭,呢一度都唔算好熱鬧 | 街道上經營嘅,有唔少 | 係碩果僅存嘅傳統小店 | 好似呢一間玻璃店 | 就有四十年嘅歷史 | 已經交棒去到第二代 | 多年手藝不變 | 除日常嘅營運之外 | 接班人亦都希望 | 對老店嘅保育做多一工作 | 喺幾年前,有人嚟到鋪頭 | 問有冇興趣 | 畫家喺佢嘅鐵閘上面創造 | 佢覺得好新奇,於是就即刻應承咗

● 内街 noih6 gāai1 = (?) back streets | ● 砵蘭街 būt3*1 làahn4 gāai1 = Portland Street | ● 日頭 yaht6 táu4*2 = daytime | ● 碩果僅存 sehk6 gwó2 gán2 chyùhn4 = a rare survival | ● 交棒 gāau1 páahng5 = (?) to pass on the baton; to hand sth. on to (a successor) | ● 營運 yìhng4 wahn6 = to operate | ● 接班人jip3 bāan1 yàhn4 = a successor | ● 應承 yīng1 sìhng4 = to agree to do sth.; to promise; to consent

Voice-over: Turn into the back streets from the noisy commotion of the bustling city, walk into Portland Street and then go on to Shanghai Street and you will discover a different kind of urban landscape. Even though it is daytime, it’s not particularly busy here. What operates on [these] streets are some rare survivals — quite a number of traditional-style small shops. A glazer’s shop like this has been in business for 40 years [有四十年嘅歷史] and the baton has already been handed on to the next generation. In all those years, the craft has not altered. Apart from [continuing] its everyday operations, the people who have taken it over hope to do a bit of work to preserve the store. Several years ago, someone came into the shop and asked if they were interested in having an artist create a painting on their roll-down iron shutter [鐵閘]. His curiosity piqued, he agreed [to the idea] at once.

Caption: 陳永建:同利玻璃負責人 | Chan Wing-kin, Person in Charge of Tong Lee Glass

陳永建:始終我呢啲【1:00】,呃,畫嘅畫 // 都係 // 比較舊式啲嘅鋪頭 | 其實就我諗 | 都會越嚟越少喇 | 畫幅畫 // 紀念一下 | 我哋做嘅嘢咁樣 | 將來起碼都同我哋後輩講我哋做過啲乜嘢咁樣 | 都起碼俾人知道個歷史故事係點樣呀

● 後輩 hauh6 bui3 = ① the younger generation ② posterity

Chan Wing-kin: All along these places that had paintings done were all  relatively older-style shops. In fact, I thought, [shops like this] will become fewer and fewer. Getting a picture painted is a way of commemorating what we do. In the days to come, it will at least speak to the younger generation about the work we did, and at the very least tell people some stories from history.

旁白:鐵閘畫係由畫家慧惠所創作 | 所呈現嘅,係玻璃店 | 兩個老師傅日常嘅工作情況

● 呈現 chìhng4 yihn6 = to present (a certain appearance); to emerge

Voice-over: [The] iron-shutter painting was created by the painter Wai Wai. What it shows is the everyday work [工作情況] of Tong Lee Glass’ two old master-workers.

慧惠:例如一日 [佢係] 喺度鎅玻璃 | 就好似 // 鐵閘見到嘅一幕咁樣 [啦] | 佢哋用一枝火水筆咁再加埋一把間尺 | 用啲最基本簡單嘅工具 | 就可以將一塊睇落去好似,呃,好 . . . 比較硬嘅玻璃 | 咁樣一拉一條,咁一拍 | 咁樣就可以將玻璃好筆直咁樣 | 一分為二 | 我覺得個過程好神奇呀 | 噉所以就希望將呢一個工序 | 擺喺呢個鐵閘面前俾啲街坊【2:00】認識一下

● 幕 mohk6 = an act; a scene | ● 火水筆 fó2 séui2 bāt1 = (?) a tool used to cut glass lit. 火水 = kerosene/paraffin + 筆 = pen | ● 間尺 gaan3 chék3*2= a ruler | ● 筆直 bāt1 jihk6 = perfectly straight; straight as a ramrod | ● 一分為二 yāt1 fān1 wàih4 yih6 = to divide one (thing) into two (pieces) | ● 神奇 sàhn4 kèih4 = magical; mystical; miraculous | ● 工序 guūng1 jeuih6 = a working procedure; a process

Wai Wai: For instance, one day he was cutting glass like the scene [幕] [depicted] on the iron shutter. Using a glass-cutting tool [火水筆] and a ruler — the most rudimentary of tools — they can break a piece of glass in two, perfectly straight, with the drawing of a line and a quick tap [咁一拍], glass that seems really quite hard. To me, the process is really magical. For this reason, [I] hoped that putting this part of [their] work on the iron shutter to let the locals learn something [俾啲街坊認識一下] [about what goes on in the shop].

旁白:老師傅嘅手藝固然值得欣賞 | 而喺藝術家嘅眼中 | 佢哋每一個工序都會成爲咗 | 創作社區藝術嘅靈感 | 不過要將一道陳舊嘅灰色鐵閘 |變成藝術品 | 過程起碼要一個星期 | 畫家要首先構思好草圖 | 獲得商鋪嘅負責人同意之後 | 先至可以漏夜趕工

● 手藝 sáu2 ngaih6 = craftmanship; workmanship | ● 固然 gu3 yìhn4 = of course; admittedly | ● 陳舊 chàhn4 gauh6 = outmoded; obsolete; old-fashioned; out-of-date | ● 構思 kau3 sī1 = to work out the composition of a painting | ● 草圖 chóu2 tòuh4 = a (rough) sketch; a draft | ● 漏夜 lauh6 yeh6 = the dead of night | ● 趕工 gón2 gūng1 = (?) to hurry to finish the work

Voice-over: Of course, the work-skills of old master-workers’ are worthy of admiration and, in the eyes of the artist, every part of their working procedure can become inspiration for the creation of community art [社區藝術]. However, the process of turning a grey, old-fashioned shutter screen into a work of art takes at least a week. First of all, the artist has to work out a sketch of the design [草圖] and, only when the person in charge of the shop has agreed, can she set to work in the dead of night to hurry to finish the work.

慧惠:我哋就要趁鋪頭閂門嘅時候拉閘嘅時候畫 | 噉先唔會阻住 // 生意嘅 | 噉第一晚我就首先用個投影機啦 | 呃,投射落去個鐵閘度 [呢],將個稿 | 噉完成咗線稿之後 | 第二晚就做啲基本嘅嘢 | 噴 [個] 底色呀,呃,上啲基本嘅色呀 | 噉再之後剩翻嘅兩晚就畫啲細節呀 | 寫翻少少嘅文字 | 描述關於個鐵閘呀,咁樣就完成喇

● 投影機 tàuh4 yíng2 gēi1 = (?) projector | ● 投射 tàuh4 sèh4 = to project; to cast | ● 稿 góu2 = a draft; a sketch | ● 線稿 sin3 góu2 = (?) a line drawing; an outline cf. 線 = a line + 稿 = a sketch | ● 噴 pan3 = to spray | ● 底色 dái2 sīk1 = an undercoat | ● 上(色)séuhng5 sīk1 = (?) to add/apply colour

Wai Wai: We paint when the store is closed and when the shutter screen has been pulled right down [拉嗮閘]. It’s only by doing it this way that we [avoid] [UNCLEAR] disrupting business. The first night, we use a projector to project a draft image onto the shutter screen. When the line drawing is finished, on the second we do certain basic things [啲基本嘅嘢], spraying on the undercoat UNCLEAR and applying the basic colours. On the remaining nights after that, we paint in the details, and add in the written words describing something about the screen. After that, it’s completed.

旁白:同一般嘅畫作唔同 | 鐵閘畫要經歷風吹雨打 | 唔經常洗閘【3:00】會封塵 | 洗得多又會甩色 | 所以需要定期修葺 | 先至可以無間斷咁發揮到 | 社區藝術品嘅功能

● 畫作 waahk6 jok3 = painting | ● 經歷 gīng1 lihk6 = to go through; to undergo; to experience | ● 風吹雨打 fūng1 chēui1 yúh5 dáa2 = roughly, “weathered by the wind and the rain” | ● 封塵 fūng1 chàhn4 = (?) to be covered in dust cf. 封 = to seal up + 塵 = dust | ● 甩色 lāt sīk = to fade (of colour) | ● 修葺 sāu1 chāp1 = to repair; to renovate | ● 無間斷 mòuh4 gaan3 dyuhn6 = roughly, “without interruption” | ● 發揮 faat3 fāi1 = to bring into play; to give play to

Voice-over: Unlike ordinary painting, shutter screen painting is subject to the effects of wind and rain [風吹雨打]. Unless it is constantly cleaned, the painting will become covered over in dust. But excessive washing makes the colours fade. For this reason, maintenance [修葺] is necessary at regular intervals. Only then can it exercise its function as community art without any interruption.

慧惠:呢啲老區好多時 | 一間小店,一鐵閘 | 日頭就好,好有生氣啦 | 噉夜晚,噉拉嗮閘起嚟 | 如果有一幅嘅鐵閘畫喺度 | 咁真係會令到成個區呢,色彩都會繽紛咗喇 | 同埋可能有一啲街坊喺夜晚先會喺街道行嘅 | 噉都可以透過個鐵閘嘅畫 | 會了解到個鋪頭做一啲 [工作]

● 生氣 sāang1 hei3 = life; vitality | ● 色彩 sīk1 chói2 = colour; hue | ● 繽紛 bān1 fān1 = in riotous . . .; a profusion of

Wai Wai: Much of the time, these shop owners [老區] have one shop with one shutter screen. During the day, [the shop] is busting with activity. At night, when the shutter is pulled out to its full extent [啦嗮閘起嚟], if it has a painting on it, then it can make the whole district full of colour. In addition, there are probably some local people who only come out into the streets at night. Thanks to [透過] the screen shutter paintings, they can get an idea about what kind of work the shops do.

旁白:自細喺油尖旺長大嘅慧惠 | 大學畢業 [之後] 冇耐 | 就成爲咗全職嘅插畫家 | 佢嘅作品有好多都同呢一個舊區有關 | 甚至出版過一本畫集 | 以油麻地度做主題 | 記錄區内一點一滴嘅變化

● 油尖旺 Yàuh4 Jīm1 Wohng6 = Yau Tsim Mong, a convenient way of referring to the area embracing Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsui & Mong Kok | ● 全職 chyùhn4 jīk1 = full-time | ● 插畫家 chaap3 wáa2 gāa1 = an illustrator | ● 畫集 wáa2 jaahp6 = a collection of paintings (presented in book-form)

Voice-over: Wai Wai, who grew up in the area embracing Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsui & Mong Kok, became a full-time illustrator not long after. Many of her works have a connection with this old area. She has even published a folio of paintings dealing with Yau Ma Tei, a record of some of the changes [that have taken place] within it.

慧惠:呢本《給油麻地的情書》呢 | 做有關街坊同小店嘅訪問呀 | 插畫都畫嗮、[倒瀉] 嗮喺度喇 【4:00】| 畫嘅時候,冇諗過 | 有一啲地方已經過兩年幾 | 已經冇咗 | 有好多嘢都好似留唔住位呀 | // 要放喺本書入面 | 噉所以都好慶幸自己 | 嗰陣時*gonsi 好俾心機去將自己觀察到嘅 | 鍾意嘅都放嗮入面呀

● 慶幸 hing3 hahng6 = to rejoice; to congratulate oneself | ● 俾心機 béi2 sām1 gēi1 = to devote oneself to doing; to put energy into doing

Wai Wai: [In] this book Love-letter to Yau Ma Tei, I went and talked to locals and the small shops [in the area], then put it all into the illustrations, I poured it (?) all into them. While I was doing the illustrations, it never occurred to me that some of the places [I painted] would disappear within a couple of years or so. There are so many things, it seems, that you just can’t hold on to (?) so you have to put them into a book. For this reason, I rejoice in the fact that at that time I devoted so much energy into putting all the things I had observed and all the things I liked into [the book].

旁白:佢話,用插畫嘅方式 | 嚟到記錄小店嘅經營風貌 | 讀者可以認識到一啲 | 可能會失傳嘅手藝之餘 | 亦都俾一啲苦苦經營嘅店主 | 一個堅持做落去嘅理由 | 最終都希望可以做到社區保育

● 經營 gīng1 yìhng4 = to manage; to run | ● 風貌 fūng1 maauh6 = style & features | ● 失傳 sāt1 chyùhn4 = not be handed down from past generations; be lost | ● 店主 dim3 jyú2 = a shopkeeper | ● 理由 léih5 yàuh4 = a reason; a ground; an argument | ● 保育 bóu2 yuhk6 = to preserve

Voice-over: She said that by using illustrations to record the management style and features of small shops readers would get to learn a little about lost handicrafts. In addition, the shopkeepers who worked so hard to manage their stores would be given a reason to keep on going. Ultimately, [she] also hopes to work for the preservation of the district.

慧惠:多數對老店佢哋就好多時係被人影相多 | 噉用畫畫做一個媒介呢 | [可以] 由一個佢哋每日都面對住嘅立體空間 | 變 [一種] 嘅平面嘅畫嘅時候呢 | 佢哋就好似用個新嘅角度去睇翻自己嘅鋪頭 | 噉然後當佢哋睇翻自己鋪頭嘅時候 | 有時佢哋嘅俾我嘅反應 | 就係「哦,原來我間鋪頭咁靚【5:00】| 因爲我都唔知

● 媒介 mùih4 gaai3 = an intermediary; a medium | ● 立體空間 lahp6 tái2 hūng1 gāan1 = (?) a three-dimensional space | ● 平面 pìhng4 mín6*2 = a plane; a flat surface

Wai Wai: Mostly, the old shops are photographed most of the time. Using the medium of painting, when the three-dimensional space [the shopkeepers] deal with on a daily basis becomes a painted flat surface [一個平面嘅畫], it’s as if they are seeing their own shop from a new angle. Then, when they seen their own store [in this way], sometimes they give me a reaction, saying “Oh, [as it turns out] my shop is so beautiful. I never realized that”.

旁白:透過藝術推動社區保育 | 做法得到好多人嘅認同 | 佢亦都嘗試將創作 | 帶入唔同嘅場景 | 例如喺餐廳度畫粉筆畫 | 仲有呢一幅 | 喺上海街商場嘅大型壁畫

● 推動 tēui1 duhng6 = to push forward; to promote | ● 場景 chèuhng4 gíng2 = a scene; a sight | ● 粉筆畫 fán2 bāt1 wáa2 = roughly, “a chalk picture” | ● 壁畫 bīk1 wáa = a mural; a fresco

Voice-over: Using art to promote the preservation of a district is a way of doing things that many people approve of. She has also attempted to bring creativity into different spaces [場景], an example being a chalk drawing made in a cha chan teng restaurant. Then there is this large-scale mural, painted in the shopping centre on Shanghai Street.

慧惠:幅壁畫裏面呢,有一啲人仔喺度啦 | 有一啲係學生 | 有啲係,係街道流連緊嘅阿叔 | 噉有啲就係個做嘢嘅工作人員咁樣呀 | 就希望透過啲公衆喺個壁畫上面發掘嘅細節呢 | 就可以到當年佢哋啲人係點樣生活 | 噉從而懷緬也好呀 | 呃,分享翻自己嘅故事也好呀 | 噉都希望多啲互動

● 流連 làuh4 lihn6 = usu. “to linger”; perhaps in this context “to hang around” | ● 阿叔 aa3 sūk1 = roughly, “a man of one’s father’s age” | ● 發掘 faat3 gwaht6 = to excavate; to unearth; to explore | ● 懷緬 wàaih4 míhn5 = (?) to cherish the memory of; to recall with fondness (used for past events rather than people or places) | ● 互動wuh6 duhng6 = interactive

Wai Wai: In the mural, there are a few little figures [一啲人仔] — some are students, some are men hanging around in the street, and then some of them are workers. The hope is that, by means of details explored [發掘] in this public mural, one can find how people lived in those years, thereby fondly recalling past events in you like, or [as a prompt to] sharing you own stories. There hope too is for more interaction.

旁白:而家佢已經搬離油尖旺區 | 轉到去屯門居住 | 雖然要重新適應生活圈子 | 但係佢亦都不忘 | 繼續將藝術元素注入社區 | 經常會就地取材咁,利用風景寫生【6:00】 | 又會同學校合作開辦興趣班 | 親自帶學生參與鐵閘畫嘅創作等等 | 佢相信藝術嘅靈感係源自於生活 | 必須鼓勵新一代關心社區嘅細節

● 搬離 būn1 lèih4 = roughly, “to move away (from a place)” | ● 居住 gēui1 jyuh6 = to live; to reside; to dwell | ● 生活圈子 sāng wuht6 hyūn1 jí2 = roughly, “the circles in which one moves” (lit. “life circle”) | ● 藝術元素 ngaih6 seuht6 yùhn4 sou3 = an artistic element | ● 注入 jyu3 yahp6 = to pour into; to empty into | ● 就地 jauh6 deih6 = usu. “on the spot”; perhaps “from the place one happens to be in” | ● 取材 chéui2 chòih4 = to draw materials; to make use of materials (often used in a creative context) | ● 開辦 hōi1 baahn6 = to open; to set up; to start | ● 興趣班 hing3 cheui3 bāan1 = (?) interest class | ● 親自 chān1 jih6 = personally; in person; oneself

Voice-over: She has moved away from the Yau Tsim Mong district, and now lives in Tuen Mun. Although she has to adjust to a new living environment [生活圈子], she has not forgotten about infusing [注入] the district with artistic elements. She is always gathering material from her new home [就地], and sketching the [local] scenery. She also works with schools to organize interest classes, and personally works with students in the creation of shutter-screen paintings. She believes that the inspiration for art comes from life, and that the next generation must be encouraged to be concerned about the details of the place they live in [社區嘅細節].

慧惠:噉我都希望學生由去讀書嘅時候已經開始認識同埋了解 [呢],社區 | 或者喺邊度值得去記錄呀 | 當佢哋有呢一個觸覺,自小有呢一個觸覺嘅時候 | 咁我相信佢哋去到將來決定做邊一個行業 | 就算唔係關於藝術創作嘅行業呢 | 我相信佢哋會帶呢一種對社會嘅關心 | 社區嘅關心 | 去佢哋自己 [嗰個] 工作嘅範疇裏面 | 會令到成個香港都會有多啲愛

● 觸覺 jūk1 gok3 = tactile sensation; sense of touch | ● 行業 hòhng4 yihp6 = a trade; a profession; an industry | ● 範疇 faahn6 chàuh4 = a category; a domain

Wai Wai:I hope then when students are going to school, they are already beginning to get to know and to understand their local community [社區], or which parts of it are worth recording. When they acquire [有] this touch [觸覺], when they have this touch from an early age, then I believe that when in the future they come to choose a profession — even if it is one that has nothing to do with [唔關於] artistic creativity — they will, I believe, bring a concern for society and for their local community into the domain of their own [field of] work, and increase the amount of love in the whole of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong: Once in a Million Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

《新心界》: 第七章 「散塔露淇亞!」

● After his collapse during the Cantonese Speaking Contest, 陳之一 Chan Chi-yat is in a very bad state. 阿綠 Ah Luk decides to take him back to Sha Tin by taxi just to make sure that he returns safely. In his flat, she discovers how simple Chan’s lifestyle has become in recent times. What does it mean? She also hears Chan talking in his sleep. Does this crazy, fragmented speech reflect a deeply traumatised psyche, or does it suggest that Hong Kong itself is on the brink of some kind of breakdown?

Soundtrack: “Protection



入𨋢後,二人粒聲都唔出。𨋢本身就係一個密封嘅空間,因此佢哋可以暫時享受搭𨋢專有嘅安全感。但一瞬間就到達阿一所住嘅樓層,行到鐵閘前,男人好辛苦咁由口袋裏拎一抽鎖匙出嚟,遞到阿綠手上。步入屋内,男人便即刻去睡房瞓低,而綠色頭髮嘅女人就行入厨房,打算為二人沖茶。因為男人過年嗰陣認真進行大掃除,全間屋都執得整整齊齊,雜物甚少!;另外呢度又冇乜人氣,幾乎可以令人以為係「吉屋」;唔使講,厨房亦唔例外,除咗一枝家用紅醋之外,工作枱空無一物。當女人望住呢枝紅醋時,忽然醒起陳之一成日將自己形容為「半瓶醋」,於是忍唔住細聲笑咗出嚟(不過,阿綠無法知道,醋瓶入面所裝嘅唔係普通醋,而係由粉嶺「添仔蝦餃」度特登買返嘅喼汁!)。喺櫥櫃入面摷嚟摷去,女人終於揾到一罐綠茶茶葉同埋兩個杯仔。用電熱水壺煲水時,全屋只有開水初初滾起嘅聲音,單位顯得更加冷清 。

等待茶葉正泡開時,阿綠覺得應該去睇一睇男人,睇吓佢係咪已經瞓著覺。行近睡房嗰時,就聽到房内傳出輕微噱噱聲,其實單憑呢個就可以估到陳之一冇可能想飲茶。不過,為防出錯,好細心嘅阿綠輕輕地推開半開嘅門,望一望房内情況:房内相當幽暗,窗簾被緊緊拉上,不過阿綠仍然能夠辨認得出床上仰臥嘅陳之一。令到阿綠驚奇嘅係,除咗張床,睡房中並無其他傢俬!「嘩!呢個人真係深受古希臘斯巴達人嘅影響,生活方式實在太過簡樸啦 . . . 」然後,為咗唔想嘈醒阿一,佢就輕輕咁用腳尖行去客廳,拎起男人喜愛嘅一張木櫈,再拎住水杯放喺張床側邊。阿綠終於可以安頓落嚟,慢慢飲住茶,陪伴低聲打鼻鼾嘅「普通話漢奸」。

喺呢間黑沉沉又唔熟悉嘅睡房内,阿綠突然醒起陳之一演講期間選用「障礙物」呢一個詞語。女人心諗:要深入了解另一種文化其實好困難,佢仲記得之前喺佛羅倫薩讀書時,日常生活經常會遇到語言障礙。不過,對阿綠嚟講,呢類障礙」或多或少數都有得意嘅成份在内,甚至乎會為人生添加唔少樂趣、魅力、人情味。連生活中最微不足道嘅活動,譬如買麵包、喺咖啡室叫嘢飲、同生埗人問路、向別人解釋點解呢朵花靚過嗰朵等等 . . . 都超乎想象、竟然可以得到前所未有嘅詩意。好多時因為生活環境太過舒適,我哋好容易對周圍發生嘅一切變得麻木不仁;日子過得重重覆覆而變得模糊,注意力亦被分散得好犀利;尋日,今日同聽日基本上係一模一樣長年累月,最終生存空間已經冇辦法帶嚟半點新鮮感。母親將呢種恐怖嘅生存困局形容為「七色均黑嘅彩虹」,係人生中非常可怕嘅經歷。


「. . . 人為錯誤 . . . 選民登記冊 . . . 視如草芥 . . . 一國一點五制 . . . 粵音朗讀測證 . . . 犀牛角切件 . . . 劏房調查 . . . 處於半失業嘅狀況 . . . 重金屬甲基汞 . . . 電表房 . . . 釋除疑慮 . . . 冬季流感節 . . . 孚公道,為民生 . . . 首宗非洲豬瘟 . . . 喺私地建丁屋 . . . 放款引入海外醫生 . . . 」


「. . . 三個發起人 . . . 罪名成立 . . . 聽取求情 . . . 串謀 . . . 作出公衆妨擾 . . . 煽惑 . . . 判詞 . . . 公民抗命 . . . 寒蟬效應 . . . 監禁 . . . 彰顯法制精神 . . . 政治武器 . . . 社會撕裂 . . . 罪魁禍首 . . . 極大不理想 . . . 「港獨」邪説 . . . 邪説 . . . 邪説 . . . 」

跟住,一片沉默。然後,阿綠耳邊再傳嚟一連串新聞單詞。再一段徹底沉默。再然後,陳之一居然唱起歌嚟,只有短短嘅一部分: 「散塔露淇亞!散塔露淇亞!」阿綠當然好熟悉呢首意大利歌,甚至知道「散塔露淇亞」又係地名,又係一位女性聖人。另外,因為「露淇亞」本來具有「光明」嘅意思,令到發暗家嘅佢聯想到類如「神光」、「天澤」呢啲喺香港天后廟常見到嘅字眼。



蚊仔 mmm-mmm-mmm-mmm
貓仔點樣叫 . . . 」



Albert Wan, the Temperate Bookseller at Bleak House Books

I felt deeply saddened to hear that Bleak House Books will close down on 15 October. I hope everyone with an interest in Hong Kong and literature will rally at this difficult time. This Kongstories video on Albert Wan and Bleak House Books is a moving tribute . . .

Chinaman Creek

溫敬豪 Wān1 Ging3 Hòuh4 or Albert Wan is the founder of Bleak House Books. He truly is a Mr John Jarndyce of the book-world, housing not only a collection of second-hand books, many of them out of print, but providing a shelter for anyone curious in what old print might have to offer them. He says some heart-stirring things about his profession: “I started Bleak House Books,” he declares, “not to sell books but to serve the community” [我開清明堂其實唔係爲咗賣書 | 反而希望係 serve the community]. Such spirit in this world of money-driven entrepreneurs is a rare as it is refreshing.

You can enjoy this video even if you’re not interested in Cantonese: it has good English subtitles. However, if you are a committed learner, then items of vocabulary to make you own in this video include 殘舊 chàahn4 gauh6 = tattered; 斷版 tyuhn6 báan2 = (?) to be out…

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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: 7.21 尋源 Seeking the Sources of 21 July

Yuen Long, c. 1960

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

白衣人:(字幕) 不聽話就打

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caption: 7.21尋源 Seeking the Sources of 21 July

旁白:做厨師嘅蘇先生 . . .

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

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

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

Mr So, who works as a chef . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gladys Hou 香港突發事故報料區


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued . . .

Learning Cantonese: 舊情 ● 屯門 or A Past Love for Tuen Mun

If you’ve ever visited Tuen Mun in recent years, words like 荒蕪 fong1 mòuh4 (“to lie waste”) and 沙塵滾滾 sāa1 chàhn4 gwán2 gwán2 (“dust-swept”) hardly seem appropriate descriptions of the place, but not so long ago that was precisely what Tuen Mun was like. And there are times, I confess, when I would prefer it to have stayed that way . . .

In this 5-minute video put together by 明愛賽馬會屯門青少年綜合服務 Caritas Integrated Services for Young People, a long-time resident of Tuen Mun 劉姑娘 (roughly, Mrs Lau, or even perhaps Auntie Lau [?]) shares some of her memories of the small city with us. As a practical person, she embraces the convenience which the building of housing estates and other amenities has brought to the area. However, at the same time, she gently laments the erosion over time of a sense of 人情味yàhn4 chìhng4 meih6 or “human touch”. And while, on the whole, she talks about the urban environment, she does touch on culture in her comments on the 天后誕 Tīn1 Hauh6 daan3 or “Birthday of Tin Hau, Queen of Heaven”, a major celebration in the district centred on the Tin Hau Temple at 口角 Hau Kok.

If after watching the video you feel like dipping into a bit more of the old Tuen Mun, I recommend a visit to the 屯門風物志圖片庫 Tuen Mun Heritage Image Database. There is also a collection of “Tuen Mun Old Photos” available on a Facebook page here. If, on the other hand, you prefer a contemporary ambience, then I suggest you visit this short video walk through Tuen Mun featured in the “When in Doubt, Take a Walk” series put together by artist Sampson Wong and photographer Eric Tsang. It begins, I think, at the pedestrian overpass near 藍地 Lam Tei, takes in the concrete river bed at 屯子圍 Tuen Tsz Wai, approaches 兆康 Siu Hong MTR station and ends up at the iconic 屯門碼頭 Tuen Mun Pier. You can watch that here.

The most interesting thing grammatically about the video is the use of 响 héung2 instead of the more usual hái2 to indicate being in a location. You’ll hear it in the opening sentence, 我係一個已經响屯門住咗40年嘅街坊 = “I am a local [街坊] who has lived in Tuen Mun for 40 years”. Listen out for other instances, including 响佢屋企食午飯 = “to eat lunch at their place”, 响鄉事會路 = “(in) Heung Sze Wui Road” and 响嗰度 = “in that place”. Remember, too, that 喺 is sometimes pronounced héi2 by some speakers, the film director 周冠威 Kiwi Chow being a notable example.

There’s a lot of worthwhile vocabulary here too, including 天翻地覆 tīn1 fāan1 deih6 fūk1 = heaven & earth turning upside down; earth-shattering; 人情味yàhn4 chìhng4 meih6 = the human touch; to possess humane qualities; 糖水 tòhng4 séui2 = sweet Chinese dessert soup; 盛事 sìhng4 sih6 = a grand occasion; ● 心思思 sām1 sī1 sī1 = itch, longing; 地標 deih6 bīu1 = landmark; 嫁女餅 gaa3 néuih5 béng2 = dowry cake; and 陸續 luhk6 juhk6 = one after another.

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.


Caption: 舊情 ● 屯門 | An Old Love: Tuen Mun

Caption: 屯門居民 | 劉姑娘 | Tuen Mun Resident | Mrs Lau

我係一個已經屯門住 40 年街坊 | 見證住屯門天翻地覆嘅轉變 | 40 年前嘅屯門 | 好多都唔方便 | 乜嘢都 | 有嘅,我諗都係人情味囉

● 街坊 gāai1 fōng1 = neighbourhood; here, the sense seems to imply “a local person” | ● 見證 gin3 jing3 = to bear witness to | ● 天翻地覆 tīn1 fāan1 deih6 fūk1 = heaven & earth turning upside down; earth-shattering | ● 人情味yàhn4 chìhng4 meih6 = the human touch; to possess humane qualities

Note: The verb 見證 is one of those verbs that attracts the aspect marker住 jyuh6. Another example appeared in Alfred Chan’s video on dai pai dong: 見證住香港大牌檔文化嘅興衰 = “bearing witness to the rise and fall of Hong Kong’s dai pai dong culture”.

I am a local [街坊] who has lived in Tuen Mun for 40 years, and have witnessed Tuen Mun’s earth-shattering changes. In the Tuen Mun of 40 years ago, many things were inconvenient — there was nothing. The one thing there was, I think, was a humaneness.

左右隔籬係互相幫助啦 | 有陣時會煲糖水 [呢] | 就會好似請街坊樣,我 | 呢度個碗、個一碗咁 | 大家就咁樣分享嘅 | 好似係有咩事呀 | 或者出咗去九龍趕唔切返 | 我鄰居呢,就會幫我湊個小朋友放學 | 我 [個] 小朋友响佢屋企食午飯都得嘅 | 屯門作一個充滿歷史嘅小城市 | 天后誕就係 . . .

● 糖水 tòhng4 séui2 = sweet Chinese dessert soup — typical examples include 紅豆沙 (red bean soup), 杏仁糊 (almond paste soup), and 芝麻糊 (sesame paste soup) | ● 湊 chau3 = to look after; to raise (a child) | ● 天后誕 Tīn1 Hauh6 daan3 = birthday of Tin Hau, Queen of Heaven (celebrated on Day 23 of the third lunar month)

Neighbours all around [左右] helped one another out. Sometimes, [we] would make a sweet Chinese dessert soup and sort of treat the [whole] neighbourhood — here a bowl for you and there a bowl for you. Everyone would share in that way, as if it were some kind of special occasion [好似係有咩事呀]. Or, if I went to Kowloon and couldn’t make it back in time, my neighbours would look after my child for me outside of school hours. It was even OK for my child to eat lunch at their place. As a small city filled with history, the Birthday of Tin Hau . . .

【1:00】 . . . 當年屯門人嘅盛事嚟㗎 | 三月廿呀三嗰天后誕呢 | 到而家都有嘅 | 嗰日,响鄉事會路呢,係封閉嘅 | 呢個都係歷史性

● 盛事 sìhng4 sih6 = a grand occasion; a great event

. . . was a big occasion [盛事] for the people of Tun Men back in those days [當年]. The Birthday of Tin Hau on Day 23 of the third [lunar month] is still celebrated [有] to this day. Back then, Heung Sze Wui Road would be closed [to traffic]. This is all part of history [都係歷史性].

嗰個時代嘅屯門 | 唔可以唔提嘅就係交通問題啦 | // 巴士呢 | 嗰陣時冇屯門公路㗎 | 但係其實一個好荒蕪嘅地方嚟㗎 | 四周都沙塵滾滾㗎 | 响屯門大興邨我要返娘家 [嘅] | 起碼都要兩個鐘頭嘅車程 | 初初係覺得係唔方便 | 因爲 [要做] 「開荒牛」| 巴士路呀、一啲交通係真係好唔方便 | 以前呢,我初初搬 [入嚟] 屯門 | 每一個星期呢,成日心思思都係想出九龍逛街 | 就好似有一種回娘家嘅感覺 | 而家呢| 你叫我出逛呢 | 唔使啦,去邊度都一樣

● 沙塵滾滾 sāa1 chàhn4 gwán2 gwán2 = roughly, “sand & dust blowing around” | ● 車程 chē1 chìhng4 = transport journey (that is, the time a trip takes travelling by vehicle) | ● 開荒牛 hōi1 fōng1 ngàuh4 = a pioneer in a new field (lit., “an ox opens the wasteland”) | ● 心思思 sām1 sī1 sī1 = itch, longing | ● 逛街 kwaang3 gāai1 = to go window-shopping

Something I can’t refrain from mentioning [唔可以唔提] about the Tuen Mun of that era is the transport issue. Buses? There was no Tuen Mun Road at that time, and [Tuen Mun] was actually a very barren wilderness [好荒蕪嘅地方], with dust and sound blowing about everywhere. From the Tai Hing Estate in Tuen Mun, it took me at least two hours by bus [車程] to get to my parent’s place. At first, I thought how inconvenient it was because there were still no pioneers (to develop things). Bus routes and other [public] transport routes were really inconvenient. Before, when I first moved to Tuen Mun, every week I was always dying to get back to Kowloon to look at the shops. The feeling was the same as wanting to go back to my parents’ home. Now, if you asked me to go shopping with you [in Kowloon] there’s no need — everywhere you go it’s the same.

衆所周知 | 二十一世紀嘅屯門地標都係 V city 喇 【2:00】| 40 年前 | 嗰度係咩嚟㗎呢?| 原來佢嘅附近仲有好多出名嘅地方嘅 | 屯門而家西鐵站嗰個位置 | 就係以前嘅屯門嘅第一個屋邨,新發邨 | 嗰個位置就係轉變得大 [啦] | 以前係好荒蕪嘅。屯門係第一個公共屋邨呢,就係新發邨 | 但而家呢,嗰個地標呢,就係現今嘅屯門西鐵站 | V city

● 衆所周知 jung3 só2 jāu1 jī1 = as everyone knows; it is common knowledge that | ● 地標 deih6 bīu1 = landmark | ● 現今 yihn6 gām1 = nowadays; these days

As everyone knows, Tuen Mun’s [major] landmark of the 21st century is V city. What occupied that site 40 years ago? Originally, there were many outstanding places in the vicinity [of that site]. Where the Western Rail station is now, Tuen Mun’s first housing estate San Fat used to be. That location has gone through some major changes. Before, it was a barren wilderness. Tuen Mun’s first housing estate was a public one, San Fat. But now, that landmark is the present Tuen Mun Western Rail Station or V city.

而家嘅恆生銀行嘅地標呢 | 就係以前一間酒樓係,好出名| 嘉喜酒樓係兩曾式嘅 | 你去到屯門區一講嗰間酒樓名個個人都識嘅 | 地下呢,就係賣餅㗎 | 嗰陣時賣嗰啲嫁女餅 [呀]、賣嗰啲嘢㗎 | 或者人哋頂酒席 [呀], 响嗰度,呃,坐 [嘅] | 响度坐嘅地方 | 佢哋賣點心呢,噉啊冇車仔 [㗎] | 用個托盤,呃,有條咁嘅帶 *dáai3*2 孭住嚟賣㗎咋 | 係好古老,好古老嘅酒樓嚟㗎 【3:00】嗰個報紙檔呢,嗰個阿姐呀 | 佢嗰間酒樓開張賣報紙賣到而家㗎喇

● 嫁女餅 gaa3 néuih5 béng2 = dowry cake | ● 訂酒席 dehng6 jáu2 jihk6 = to book or reserve a banquet | ● 車仔 chē1 jái2 = (?) a (small) cart or trolley | ● 托盤 tok3 pún4*2= serving tray | ● 孭 mē1 = usu. to carry on the shoulders | ● 開張 hōi1 jēung1 = to open a business; to begin doing business

Another landmark, the [site of the] present Hang Seng Bank used to be a restaurant, and a very well-known one. The Ka Hei Restaurant (?) was a two-story place. If you paid a visit to the Tuen Mun district and you [mentioned] that restaurant to anyone, they would know it at once. In the basement, there was a cake shop. Back in those days, they sold dowry cakes and things like that. Or people could book a banquet there, there was seating where people could sit down. They sold dim sum, but they didn’t have trolleys. [Instead], they used trays with a strap on them that went around one shoulder to sell [the dim sum]. It went back a long way, that restaurant, a long way. That newspaper stand: the woman [who operates that] sold newspapers when the restaurant first started business and she’s still selling papers to this day.

噉究竟容納 | 屯門大部分人口嘅公共屋邨 | 發展嘅情況又係點嘅呢?| 青山醫院嗰 // 青山精神病院嗰度最先嘅 | 以前係一個好荒蕪嘅一條小路啦 | 入便係有人耕種嘅 | 噉之後呢,噉自從,呃,大興邨興建咗之後呢 | 又到友愛啦 | 安定啦 | 蝴蝶啦,同埋呢個 | 山景 [吖] | 同埋,呃,好多好多屋邨 | 兆康 [吖],嗰啲陸續陸續都起 [喇] | [噉有],呃,良景 [吖] | 新圍嗰啲 | 全部都係一個小山一個小山咁樣剷平 [咁樣嚟] 起屋邨 | 咁樣呢,[就] 到到呢,呃,人口到到某一個人數呀 | 佢先會有建立一間醫院嘅 | 噉就起咗一間屯門醫院

● 容納 yùhng4 naahp6/laahp6 = to hold; to have a capacity of; to accommodate | ● 耕種 gāang1 jung3 = to till; to cultivate | ● 陸續 luhk6 juhk6 = one after another; in succession | ● 剷平cháan2 pìhng4 = to level; perhaps also “to raze”

Note: The particle 呀 aa3 can be used when enumerating items, but here it sounds closer to a high-level tone, possibly written 吖 āa1 (?). However, I can’t find any support for this usage in my grammar books, so I may be wrong.

What was it like, the development of the public housing estates that house the bulk of Tuen Mun’s population? Where the Castle Peak Hospital, [UNCLEAR] the Castle Peak Psychiatric Hospital, there used to be a little neglected road [係一個好荒蕪嘅一條小路], and at the entrance to this road people grew vegetables [有人耕種]. Afterwards, from the time of the building of the Tai Hing Estate, [we had] the Yau Oi Estate, the On Ting Estate, Butterfly Estate, the Shan King Estate, many, many housing estates — Siu Hong — all those [estates] were built one after the other. [And then there is] the Leung King Estate and San Wai Court, all of them built with the levelling of one small mountain, then another small mountain. In that way, with the population reaching a certain size, they built a hospital, they built the Tuen Mun (Castle Peak) Hospital.

【4:00】而家領匯接受咗大部分嘅政府嘅屋邨 | 做咗街市 | 當然除咗有冷氣嘅感覺之外 | 我覺得係冇乜好處好講 | 以前嘅街市呢,係雖然係比較污糟啲、冇冷氣 | 噉但係呢,我哋要買啲乜嘢呢 | 或者街市裏邊邊一檔新鮮,邊一檔夠秤 | 呃,邊一檔嗰啲人士好相遇呢 | 我哋係好清楚嘅 | 以前嗰啲人情味係濃厚啲嘅

● 領匯 lìhng5 wuih6 = ? cf. 領 = to receive + 匯 = money | ● 夠秤 gau3 ching3 = to be of age (lit., “true to scale in weight”) cf. 唔夠秤 m4 gau3 cing3  = underweight  | ● 濃厚 nùhng4 háuh5 = strong; pronounced

Now, the majority of government housing estates have received funding [領匯] to set up [做咗] wet markets. Naturally, apart from air-conditioning, I don’t think there’s much one can say about them. Although the markets of the past were dirtier and did not have air-conditioning, when it came to doing the shopping, we knew exactly which stalls were the freshest [邊一檔新鮮], which ones gave correct weight, and at which ones it was easiest to get on with the staff. In those days, the human feeling was more pronounced.

鍾意,鍾意㗎 | 我好鍾意屯門區

I like it, I do! I am very fond of the Tuen Mun District.

Director: 金川翔 | 翔 chèuhng4 = to circle in the air
Producer: 張庭軒 | 軒 hīn1 = high; lofty
Photography: 金川翔、張庭軒、姚毅榛 | 榛 jēun1 = hazel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meetings with Hong Kong Buddhist Nuns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning Cantonese: 彭靖 Pang Jing, Full-time Nude Model

所有甫士都係模特兒自己決定嘅 | 所以其實係有一個尊重裏邊 | 擺甫士係一個被動嘅主動 | 雖然你畫我啦,但係甫士係我揀㗎嘛

彭靖 Pàahng4 Jihng6, an artist herself, currently works as a full-time nude model for those people passionate about life-drawing. This video from Apple allows us to get an inkling of the motivations and challenges that necessarily accompany this highly unusual human transaction, and Pang’s poise and candour add a strongly positive note to her presentation.

Interestingly, the original report began with a complementary section about male nude models, but their treatment could not have been more different: their faces were deliberated blurred out, their voices were distorted to avoid recognition, and they were referred to using pseudonyms rather than their real names. The way the activity of modelling is viewed by society in Hong Kong is starkly distinguished along gender lines, it would seem.

After the tragic demist of Apple, this video was removed from circulation, but back-ups can be found on YouTube, both a full version and the version given here, which deals only with Pang Jing. That is why you’ll find two sets of timings in the transcription.

The main language-highlight of the video is the adjective 𠮩𠹌 līu1 lāng1 = “odd; strange; rare”. The last time I came across it was in October 2019 in a TVB news report in which an older woman described the closure of MTR stations during the anti-extradition protests in the following terms: 而家都唔開,噉變咗𠮩𠹌 = “now they’re all closed and things have got strange”).

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.


Caption: 彭靖 | 全職裸體模特兒 | 身體是什麽 Pang Jing | Full-time Nude Model | What is a Body Anyway?

彭靖:身體係咩?其實好簡單。身體就係我體現呢個世界 . . . 一個載體囉

● 載體 joi3 tái2 = carrier; vector | ● 體現 tái2 yihm6 = to embody; to incarnate; to reflect; to give expression to

Pang Jing: What is a body anyway? Actually it’s very simple — the body is this carrier which [enables] me to embody [體現] this world.

Caption: 26歲 | 視藝畢業生做女模特 | 鍾意試新嘢 26 Years Old | Visual Arts Graduate and Female Model | Fond of Trying New Things

彭靖:好鍾意試新嘅 | 同埋好奇心好強 | 第一接觸其實好新奇囉 【4:00】| 就係有計時呀 | 然後有好短嘅一分鐘嘅姿勢畫到15分鐘 | 跟住之後畫畫吓就覺得好奇 | 就想試到底係咩感覺

● 試新 si3 sān1 = roughly, “trying new things” | ● 好奇心 hou3 kèih4 sām1 = curiosity | ● 新奇 sān1 kèih4 = strange; novel; new | ● 計時 gai3 sìh4 = reckon by time; calculate by time | ● 姿勢 jī1 sai3 = posture; gesture | ● 好奇 hou3 kèih4 = curious; inquisitive

Pang Jing: [I] really like trying new things plus [I] have a strong curiosity. The first time was really quite a novelty [好新奇]. There was a set amount of time [計時]. And then, after a short post lasting a minute, [we] painted for 15 minutes. Actually, after painting for a while I felt curious, and so wanted to give it a try, to find out what it actually felt like.

記者:要做裸體模特兒 | 所謂嘅門檻同標準嘅

Reporter: If [you] want to be a nude model, there are no “thresholds” or “standards”.

彭靖:以前做呢,係,係肉肉的種圓潤女生嘅 | 但係嗰陣我都對自己冇乜話要,譬如唔好食嘢 | 跟住 *gyu 好瘦返少少先去,冇呢

● 圓潤 yùhn4 yeuhn6 = mellow & full; perhaps “filled out”

Pang Jing: Earlier when I modelled, I was a fleshy, well-rounded [圓潤] kind of young woman. However, at the time I didn’t say to myself that, for instance, I mustn’t eat, getting myself thinner before I went [and modelled] — there was nothing like that.

彭靖:【1:00】因其實大家都有共識 | 係,呃,畫人體寫生嘅時候,就唔會影相、亦都唔會錄影、亦都唔會個電話出嘅 | 得一次,即係 *je,兩年半兩年 | 有人影相,我咪即刻喝住話 | 喂!做乜影相呀?」咁囉

● 共識 guhng6 sīk1 = a consensus; a common understanding | ● 寫生 sé2 sāang1 = to paint from life; to draw, paint or sketch from nature | ● 喝住 hot3 jyuh6 = (?) to shout loudly at sb. to make them stop doing sth.; to tell sb. off

Pang Jing: Because actually there is a common understanding between everyone, the understanding that when you’re sketching the human body, you can’t take pictures, record or take out your phone. The only time was around two, two and a half years ago. Someone was taking photos, so naturally I immediately told them to stop: “Hey, what do you think you are doing taking pictures?”


● 商量 sēung1 lèuhng4 = to consult; to discuss; to talk over

Reporter: Before the start, [the model] can discuss [the issue of] how long to hold a pose with the artists.

彭靖:所有甫士都係模特兒自己決定嘅 | 所以其實係【5:00】有一個尊重裏邊 | 擺甫士係一個被動嘅主動 | 雖然你畫我啦,但係甫士係我揀㗎嘛 | 而我做 model 嘅時候其實亦都有擺 . . . 畫家嘅經驗落去 | 就係有時候可能會特登做啲𠮩𠹌啲嘅動作呀,挑戰吓佢哋 | 有啲人好鍾意畫某個部分嘅 | 佢只不過係器官 | 你覺得淫唔淫褻呢,就好睇你個腦到底諗緊啲咩 | 啫,我可以人睇 | 唔代表我隨時隨地都可以俾人睇 | 亦都唔代表【2:00】我無所謂咁俾人睇囉

● 甫士 pōu3*1 6*2 = a pose | ● 特登 dahk6 dāng1 = deliberately; intentionally; on purpose | ● 𠮩𠹌 līu1 lāng1 = odd, strange, rare | ● 器官 hei3 gūn1 = a [bodily] organ | ● 淫褻 yàhm4 sit3 = obscene; an obscenity

Pang Jing: All poses are decided by the model. For this reason, there is a sense of respect at work here [喺裏邊]. Posing is an active passivity — although you are drawing me, I get to choose the poses. What’s more, when I am modelling, I am actually also putting my experience of being a painter into [what I do]. Sometimes I will deliberately do a movement that is a bit strange, just to challenge them a bit. Some people really like to sketch a particular part. They [佢] are all just organs — whether you think they are obscene or not depends on [就好睇] what exactly is going on in your mind [你個腦]. I mean, [Just because] I can let other people see [my body], doesn’t mean [唔代表] I am willing to do so any time, any place, and nor does it mean I am completely indifferent [無所謂咁] to letting people see [me].

Caption: 裸體、性 | Nudity and Sex

彭靖:nudity 可以同 sex 冇關囉 | 啫,唔 nude 都可以有 sex 同埋慾望嘅出現㗎嘛,有時候 | 性其實你有接觸嘛,你要有情感,無論身體上嘅交流 | 定係情感上嘅交流 | 都係同你裸露於人前係兩件事嚟㗎喎 | 其實我真係冇【6:00】任何包袱 | 亦都冇任何障礙需要跨過㗎

● 慾望 yuhk6 mohng6 = (n.) desire; wish; lust | ● 裸露 ló2 louh6 = uncovered; exposed | ● 包袱 bāau1 fuhk6 = usu. a load; a weight; a burden; perhaps “hang-up” in this context | ● 障礙 jeung3 ngoih6 = an obstacle | ● 跨過 kwāa1 gwo3 = to step across; to go beyond

Pang Jing: Nudity may be unrelated to sex. That is, sex and desire can appear when there is no nudity. With sex in fact there has to be contact, there are feelings. Regardless of whether it is a physical exchange or an emotional one, it is a different thing from being exposed [in front of] others. Actually, I really don’t have any hang-ups [包袱] and there are no obstacles that need to be got over.

彭靖:其實呢,係好開心嘅,因為 . . . 好多唔同風格啦 | 唔同 media 啦、唔同嘅地方啦、然後唔同我嘅神情啦 | 但係其實雖然好唔同,但都係我囉 | 當你 nude 嘅時候,嗰個狀態其實 | 無論身體上同情感上都好赤裸 | 你會好容易地流露你 . . . 嗰陣覺得係開心定係唔開心 | 然後有啲畫家係可以捕捉落嚟 【3:00】| 然後完咗之後問,阿靖最近係咪唔開心?| 然後能夠觀察到呢一啲好微細嘅嗰啲情緒嘅嗰啲畫家 | 就已經成爲朋友

● 神情 sàhn4 chìhng4 = an expression; a look | ● 赤裸 chek3 ló2 = (adj.) bare| ● 流露 làuh4 louh6 = to reveal; to betray; to show unintentionally | ● 捕捉 bouh6 jūk1 = to catch; to seize | ● 微細 mèih4 sai3 = very small; tiny

Pang Jing: As a matter of fact, [I] am very pleased, because . . . [there are] lots of different styles, different media, different settings [地方], and then [there are] my different expressions, but actually despite the significant differences [好唔同] they are all [still] me. When you are nude, [being] in this state where you a naked in both a physical and an emotional sense, it is easy to reveal, unintentionally, whether you are feeling happy or not in that moment. Later, the artists might be able to capture [what I am revealing], and after that when they have finished, [they might] ask, “Ah Jing, have you been feeling unhappy lately?” Then those artists who are able to observe those minute [changes] in those moods have become my friends.

Caption: 啱啱分手 | I Had Just Broken up

呃,從來都未試過發生嘅 | 幾跟住啲音樂又好觸景傷情咁樣 | 跟住我就坐坐下就兩行眼淚咁樣囉 | 我情感嘅流露其實係可以嘅 【7:00】| 跟住,嗰個 owner 就知道就問我需唔需要休息一下 | 佢哋好理解,亦都好明白 | 啫,好慶幸嘅係,遇到嘅畫家都係好人囉

● 分手 fān1 sáu2 = to art company; to say good-bye; to split up | ● 觸景 = ? cf.  觸景生情 jūk1 gíng2  sāang1 chìhng4 = the sight strikes a chord in one’s heart; recall old memories at the sight of familiar places | ● 慶幸 hing3 hahng6  = to rejoice

Pang Jing: It had never happened before. And then music can strike a chord [and bring up] painful feelings, and it made my sit there with two lines of tears streaming down my face. I think it’s OK to show your feelings. As a result, when the person in charge realized [what was happening], [she] asked me if I needed to take a break. They really understand; they have a good grasp of the situation [好明白]. [I] rejoice [at the fact that] the artists I have come across are all good people.

記者 Reporter:陳煥欣 | 煥 wuhn6 = shining; glowing
攝影 Photography:梁志恆、潘志恆
剪接 Editing :陳曉筠 | 筠 wàhn4 = bamboo skin; gwān1 used as a place name in Sichuan province