Learning Cantonese: 余頌恩 Grace Yu on Art as Life-force

「我覺得有生命力嘅音樂同藝術背後係有 message、有訊息嘅 | 有魄力嘅藝術家、音樂人佢哋生命都可以流露出一份有生命力嘅 message | 而呢個世界已經有太多冇生命力嘅生命㗎喇」


余頌恩 Grace Yu Chung-yan is a concert pianist and teacher at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. In her view, the reason why we need art is because it transmits生命力 sāng1 mihng6 lihk6 = “life force; vitality”. This “power of life” is essential to every human being, especially at a time when, as Yu points out, “there are already too many lives in this world lacking in vitality”. As a musician, she is also committed to the idea art as (potentially) a supremely authentic expression of life, as well as a kind of flow [流動] that enables an exchange of happiness, sincerity and love between one human being and another. Her short presentation in this video is like a whole creative manifesto in miniature.

In this Kongstories video, you will hear Yu use the structure 冇得+ Verb at 1:10. I discussed this grammar topic in the previous Learning Cantonese post on the landscape painter 黃進曦 Stephen Wong Chun Hei, speculating that it might be used to convey an absolute inability. I think Yu’s use of it here reinforces the hypothesis: the phrase 分享音樂帶出嚟嗰份歡樂、真實同埋愛嘅流動係冇得呃嘅 = “there can be no duplicity in the flow of happiness, sincerity and love that the sharing of music brings” does seem to indicate absolute 100% improbability.

With regard to vocabulary, there is a wonderful example of the Cantonese use of 齋 jāai1, the basic meaning of which is “to abstain from meat, wine, etc. (when offering sacrifices to gods or ancestors)”. In spoken Cantonese, the basic sense of “abstinence” is extended in some very interesting ways. 《香港粵語大詞典》gives a few examples, including 齋啡 jāai1 fē1, the word for “black coffee” with neither milk nor sugar in it, and 齋坐 jāai1 chóh5, which means something like “to sit in a restaurant without ordering any food”. At 1:10, Yu uses it to modify 彈 tàahn4, the verb used for “playing” the piano. 齋彈冇靈魂 literally means “to play abstainingly, without soul”, suggesting that 齋 also conveys a sense of something not being done to its fullest possible extent, or perhaps without giving oneself fully. I also once came across 齋聽 jāai1 tēng1 = “to listen (to a conversation) without contributing to it in any way”.

In addition, listen out for the following useful vocabulary items: 孭 mē1 = to carry on the shoulders; 魄力 paak3 lihk6 = daring & resolution; boldness; 劏房 tōng1 fóng4*2 = a subdivided flat, unit & apartment; 獨一無二 duhk6 yāt1 mòuh4 yih6 = unique; unparalleled; unmatched; and 呃 āak1 = to cheat; to deceive; to dupe.

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

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Caption: 音樂人生 | A Life in Music

香港係其中一個最多人學樂器地方 | 你一出街,周圍都有孭住樂器嘅學生 | 但係有幾多個學上唔係浄係齋彈靈魂 | 而係尋找到屬於獨特嘅聲音同埋生命力嘅呢?| 我覺得有生命力嘅音樂同藝術背後係有 message、有訊息嘅 | 有魄力嘅藝術家、音樂人佢哋生命都可以流露出一份有生命力嘅 message | 而呢個世界已經有太多冇生命力嘅生命喇 | 所以無論係世界上唔同嘅音樂廳表演同埋講學 | 喺演藝學院同每一個學生互動交流 | 定係喺深水埗嘅劏房教小朋友彈琴 【1:00】| 都係生命影響生命獨一無二嘅機會 | 分享音樂帶出嚟份歡樂、真實同埋愛嘅流動係冇得呃嘅 | 呢啲都係生命最真誠嘅表達 | 呢個世界需要音樂,需要藝術 | 呢個世界更加需要有傳遞生命訊息嘅人 | 我叫余頌恩,香港土生土長,七百萬個故仔成就一個香 . . . 港故仔

● 孭 mē1 = to carry on the shoulders | ● 魄力 paak3 lihk6 = daring & resolution; boldness | ● 流露 làuh4 louh6 = to reveal; to betray; to show unintentionally | ● 音樂廳 yām1 ngohk6 tēng1 = a concert hall | ● 講學 góng2 hohk6 = to give lectures | ● 互動 wuh6 duhng6 = an interaction; interactive | ● 劏房 tōng1 fóng4*2 = a subdivided flat, unit & apartment | ● 獨一無二 duhk6 yāt1 mòuh4 yih6 = unique; unparalleled; unmatched | ● 歡樂 fūn1 lohk6 = happy; joyous | ● 流動 làuh4 duhng6 = ① to flow ② mobile | ● 呃āak1 = to cheat; to deceive; to dupe | ● 真誠 jān1 sìhng4 = sincere; genuine; true | ● 傳遞 chyùhn daih6 = to transmit; to deliver; to transfer

Hong Kong is a place in which so many people are learning to play a musical instrument. Just step outside your door and you’ll see students everywhere [周圍都] carrying musical instruments on their backs. But how many of these students are looking for a voice that belongs to them alone and a vitality, rather than merely going through the motions devoid of soul [浄係齋彈冇靈魂]? It is my feeling that behind any music or art there is a message. An artist or musician with daring and resolution has the capacity to reveal [流露] a message of vitality — and there are already too many lives in this world lacking in vitality, in life-force. So no matter whether [I] am performing in different concert halls around the world or giving lectures, interacting [互動交流] with every single student [studying] at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, or teaching a child in a subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po how to play the piano, these are all unique opportunities for one life to influence another. There can be no duplicity [冇得呃] in the flow of happiness, sincerity and love that the sharing of music brings. All these things [呢啲都] are the most authentic expression of life. This world needs music; it needs art. Even more, it needs people who can transmit messages of life [生命訊息]. My name is Grace Yu Chung-yan. I was born and raised in Hong Kong. Seven million stories go to make up [成就] one [of the] Hong . . . Kong Stories.

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.

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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.

Learning Cantonese: 盡力彰顯真實民意 or “Make the True Will of the People Clearly Manifest”

● 奮力 fáhn5 lihk6 = do all one can; spare no effort | ● 抵抗 dái2 kong3 = to resist; to stand up to | ● 社會民主連線 (or 社民連) Séh5 Wúi6*2  Màhn4 Jyú2 Lìhn4 Sin3 = The League of Social Democrats  | ● 回應 wùih4 ying3 = to respond | ● 決議文 kyut3 yíh5 màhn4 = resolution | ● 提名權 tàih4 mìhng4 kyùhn4 = roughly, “the right to nominate (oneself as an election candidate)” | ● 剝奪 mōk1 dyuht6 = to deprive; to expropriate; to strip | ● 變相 bin3 seung3 = in a disguised form; covert  | ● 廢除 fai3 chèuih4 = to abolish; to annul; to repeal | ● 公平公正 gūng1 pìhng4 gūng1 jing3 = roughly “fair & impartial” | ● 壓制 [ng]aat3 jai3 = to suppress; to stifle; to inhibit | ● 憑良心 pàhng4 lèuhng4 sām1 = roughly, “relying on the goodness of one’s heart” or perhaps “in good faith” | ● 彰顯 jēung1 hín2 = to bring out conspicuously; to manifest; to make evident

Do All You Can to Resist | Up Until [the Day of] Victory

— Resolution of the League of Social Democrats in Response to Changes
in the Hong Kong Political Situation in 2021 —

Under the present circumstances, in which the right of citizens to nominate themselves as candidates in elections has been seriously stripped away and, to all extents and purposes, abolished, and in which Hong Kong has lost a fair and just electoral system, the League of Social Democrats will not take part in the 2021 elections either for the Election Committee or for the Legislative Council. Moreover, given that the right to vote has not been completely suppressed, the League of Social Democrats would like to call on members of the general public to actively express their views in good faith by means of these various elections and to do all they can to make the true will of the people clearly manifest.

The League of Social Democrats

Learning Cantonese: Strengthening the Innermost Heart (Kongstories 99)

The title of this video from Kongstories means something like “that little kid isn’t slow”, and refers to the treasures hidden inside every human being, even those dealing with some form of serious disability. As 馮惠芳 Nancy Fung puts it towards the end of the presentation: 總有一日可以追尋自己嘅夢想,踏上屬於自己嘅舞台, or “One day you will be able to go chasing after your own dreams, and step out onto a stage that belongs to you and you alone”.

You can take a lot of heart from this video, and the English subtitles make it very accessible, even if you’re not interested in the Cantonese. Michelle Li’s comment — 每日嘅生活就係强壯内心嘅過程 = every day is a process of strengthening one’s noi sam, one’s innermost being — is something than lingers in the mind for a long time . . .

For those of you who are language learners, however, there is nothing too challenging about the grammar in this video, but there are some very nice turns of phrase that are well worth trying to make your own, such as 過目不忘 to have a great memory (and its opposite, 過目即忘); 喐嚟喐去 = to move back and forward; to be unable to sit still (using the specifically Cantonese verb 喐 yūk1); 局限自己 = to limit oneself; 擴闊自己嘅世界 = to broaden one’s world; to expand one’s horizons; 接納 = to accept (a person as they are, without conditions); 渡過難關 = to go through a difficult period in one’s life; and 總有一日 = one day (in the future); the time will come that.

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

You might also like to make use the Ekho Text to Speech Converter if you have trouble matching any part of the transcribed Chinese text to the spoken version. Just make sure you select “Cantonese” under the language menu before you paste cut and text into the relevant box.

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Title: 小孩不苯 | The Little Kid Isn’t Slow

馮惠芳:我同一般家庭一樣,有兩個仔 | 但唯一唔同就係大仔 Wilson 有學習障礙 | 簡單嚟講,人讀書就係過目不忘 | // 就係過目即忘 | 所以細細個要佢讀書真係好辛苦 | 因爲佢成日喐嚟喐去 | 要比一般人用多好多時間佢先可以記得到啲嘢 | 但好彩我發現佢由細到大都好鍾意音樂 | 所以我就諗,不如用音樂嘅拍子去幫佢背書 | 結果呢個方法有得 | 順理成章,音樂就成爲佢嘅生日一部分 | 印象最深刻就有一次,我帶 Wilson 上音樂班 | 個老師同佢上完一堂就講:你叫你仔仔返去啦,唔好再帶佢嚟 | 時間【1:00】, 嘥錢,教完佢一次,佢下一秒又唔記得喇 | 呢句説話我記到而家,但我同 Wilson 講,佢唔教 | 呢就自己練習 | 只要肯心機咁練習,世上嘢難倒你 | 俾心機一定得

● 過目不忘 gwo3 muhk6 bāt1 mòhng4 = to have a great memory; to not forget stuff that has passed by one’s eyes | ● 喐 yūk1 = to move | ● 拍子 paak3 jí2 = (musical) beat; time | ● 順理成章 seuhn6 léih5 sìhng4 jēung1 = ① follow as a logical course ② follow as a matter of course | ● 嘥 sāai = ① waste; squander; ruin ② wasteful; extravagant ③ miss; let go; lose (a chance) | ● 心機 sām1 gēi1 = ① mood; frame of mind; feeling ② energy; effort; patience | ● 難倒 nàahn4 dóu2 = to daunt; perhaps also “to be put off doing (sth. difficult)

麥妙玲:劉理盈一出世嘅時候,我只能夠用「震驚」嚟形容 | 因爲我從來冇諗過 | [平時] 喺街上邊見到嘅唐氏綜合症 | 會發生自己嘅女身上 | 所以我將佢嘅名改做「盈」| 希望佢人生可以經歷好多嘅恩典 | 當初佢出嚟跳舞嘅時候 | 見到佢聽到音樂,有得跳舞就好開心 | 但到之後,佢學得幾好,要去考試 | 我開始怕,我怕佢失敗 | 怕佢做唔到,怕佢企唔返身 | 但後來我諗深一層【2:00】,人人都有失敗嘅可能性 | 點解我要抹煞佢成功嘅可能性呢?

● 震驚 jan3 gīng1 = to shock; to amaze; to astonish | ● 唐氏綜合症 Tòhng4 sih6 jūng1 hahp6 jing3 = Downs syndrome | ● 恩典 yān1 dín2 = favour; grace | ● 失敗 sāt1 baih6 = ① to be defeated ② to fail | ● 企唔返身 kéih5 mh5 fāan1 sān1 = (?) to get back on one’s feet | ● 抹煞 mut3 saat3 = to remove from evidence; to expunge; to suppress; to wipe out, to obliterate (also written 抹殺)

李苑峰:對於我嚟講,我唯一嘅願望係我嘅仔 | 梓鍵可以好似其他小朋友咁 | 擁有童心,開心快樂咁成長,咁樣就已經好滿足 | 梓鍵佢細細個就被診斷有杜興氏肌肉營養不良症 | 隨住年齡增長,佢嘅肌肉就會慢慢退化 | 你上年見到佢,佢仲可以行行走走 | 但係到咗今年,佢就已經行唔到喇 | 雖然佢而家行唔到,但都唔等於要局限自己 | 只要佢想,無論係跑步定係要游水 | 只要係我能力範圍之内,都會盡力做到 | 希望佢可以見識更多,擴闊自己嘅世界 | 每日嘅生活就係强壯内心嘅過程 | 我相信,只要我同梓鍵一齊 | 就有能力、堅强【3:00】、勇敢去面對生命中嘅困難

● 願望 yuhn6 mohng6 = a desire; wish; aspiration | ● 童心 tùhng4 sām1 = childishness; playfulness | ● 診斷 chán2 dyun3 = to diagnose | ● 杜興氏肌肉營養不良症 Douh6 sih6 gēi1 yuhk6 bāt1 lèuhng4 jing3 = Duchenne muscular dystrophy | ● 退化 teui3 faa3 = 1. degeneration 2. to degenerate; to deteriorate | ● 上年 seuhng6 nín4*2 = (over the) past year| ● 行行走走 hàahng4 hàahng4 jáu2 jáu2 = (?) to walk around | ● 等於 dáng2 yū1 = equal to; equivalent to | ● 局限 guhk6 haahn6 = to limit; to confine | ● 範圍 faahn6 wàih4 = scope; limits; range | ● 見識 gin3 sīk1 = experience; knowledge; sensibleness | ● 擴闊 kong3 fut3 = to broaden | ● 强壯 kèuhng4 jong3 = strong; sturdy; robust | ● 堅强 gīn1 kèuhng4 = strong; sturdy; staunch

麥妙玲:我覺得,就算佢係唐氏,都阻礙唔到佢實現自己嘅夢想 | 做家長嘅只可以好似放風箏咁,喺適當嘅時候就要識得放手 | 好多困難都係自己俾自己 | 就好似搭地鐵嘅時候,怕人哋望到阿女 | 但其實要人哋接納佢,首先係要自己接納佢先 | 呢個心態上嘅轉變就好似當你渡過難關之後 | 回頭一看就會發現呢個嘅經歷會令你嘅生命更加精彩

● 阻礙 jó2 ngoih6 = to hinder; to block; to impede | ● 放風箏 fong3 fūng1 jāng1 = to fly a kite | ● 放手 fong3 sáu2 = to let go; to let go one’s hold | ● 接納 jip3 naahp6/laahp6 = 1. to admit (into an organization) 2. to accept | ● 轉變 jyún2 bin3 = to change; to transform | ● 渡過難關 douh6 gwo3 nàahn4 gwāan1 = tide over a difficulty; pull through | ● 回頭一看 wùih4 tàuh4 yāt1 hon3 = turn around and look | ● 精彩 jīng1 chói2 = brilliant; splendid; wonderful

馮惠芳:佢就日練夜練,有時日頭返工,夜晚練習 | 佢終於可以完整咁彈 // 首《真的愛你》俾我聽 | 我覺得上帝喺每個人嘅生命裏面都有一個計劃 | 無論本身你有咩困難【4:00】,只要你肯努力 | 總有一日可以追尋自己嘅夢想,踏上屬於自己嘅舞台

● 日頭 yaht6 táu4*2= the sun; daytime | ● 完整 yùhn4 jíng2 = complete; integrated; intact | ● 追尋 jēui1 chàhm4 = to pursue; to search; to track down

我叫馮惠芳 | 我叫李苑峰 | 我叫麥妙玲 | 香港土生土長,七百萬個故仔成就一個香 . . . 港故仔

Hong Kong Uplift Two: Kongstories No. 100

This episode of 港故仔 Kongstories was made to commemorate the remarkable effort of making 100 consecutive videos in as many weeks. It brims with fantastic Kong-optimism and is full of words such as 恩典 yān1 dín2 = grace, 傳奇 chyùhn4 kèih4 = legendary, and 祝福 jūk1 fūk1 = a blessing, words now that possibly only the bravest, most visionary of Hongkongers would dare voice. The inspirational message is summed up in the phrases: 我哋香港人係有能力嘅 | 只要你願意,我哋每個人都可以成就傳奇 . . .

If you are not interested in the Cantonese aspects of the video, please click here to view it — the English subtitles are generally very good.

But if Cantonese is what you’re after, highlights in the language department include the structure 一 … 半 … used with measure words, which seems to convey a sense of “merely” or something like “measly” in English: 拍一條半條 = “to make a measly single video”. Also, there’s the adverb 不間斷 bāt1 gāan1 dyuhn6 = (?) “uninterrupted; without interruption” as well as a number of four-character phrases: 木口木面 muhk6 háu2 muhk6 mihn6 = pudding faced; 一事無成 yāt1 sih6 mòuh4 sìhng4 = accomplish nothing; get nowhere; and 成就傳奇 sìhng4 jauh6 chyùhn4 kèih4 = (?) to accomplish something that becomes a legend.

The episode finishes with a long list of personal names. Apart from being good practice (the list includes some less commonly seen surnames, including 霍 Fok3 and 詹 Jīm1) and you can also use these names to search for further videos in the 港故仔 Kongstories series.

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 might also like to make use the Ekho Text to Speech Converter if you have trouble matching any part of the transcribed Chinese text to the spoken version. Just make sure you select “Cantonese” under the language menu before you paste cut and text into the relevant box.

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唔收錢咁樣為香港拍片 | 拍一條半條,邊個都得 | 拍十條或者都大有人在,拍到五十條可能已經唔多 | 能夠堅持一百個星期,或者香港開埠以 | 可能只有我 | 港故仔 | 由2016年嘅7月2號開始 | 第一集《港故仔》播出之後 | 不間斷持續一百個星期 | 呢份堅毅完全體現咗香港精神 | 我哋唔係講多過做,我哋做咗先講 | 香港人係有能力、有夢想、有堅持、有作爲 | 我哋每個香港人都可以,只要我哋願意一齊為自己 | 為家庭、為香港走多一步,堅持多一啲 | 我哋嘅香港本身就係一個傳奇 | 過去呢一百個星期,我哋經歷咗好多唔同嘅恩典 | 呢一百個唔同香港嘅故仔【1:00】有希望成爲你哋嘅祝福

● 收錢 sāu1 chín4*2 = to charge (money); to take money for doing sth. | ● 拍片 paak3 pín3*2 = (?) to shoot a film; make a video | ● 開埠 hōi1 fauh6 = lit. “to open a (new) port”; generally used to refer to the English settlement of Hong Kong Island | ● 播出 bo3 chēut1 = to broadcast | ● 不間斷 bāt1 gāan1 dyuhn6 = (?) uninterrupted; without interruption | ● 堅毅 gīn1 ngaih6 = firm & persistent; with unswerving determination; with inflexible will | ● 體現 tái2 yihn6 = to embody; to incarnate; to reflect; to give expression to | ● 作爲 jok3 wàih4 = 1. deed; conduct; act 2. to accomplish; to do something worthwhile | ● 傳奇 chyùhn4 kèih4 = legend; legendary| ● 恩典 yān1 dín2 = favour; grace | ● 祝福 jūk1 fūk1 = a blessing; a benediction

當我哋香港人生活上遇上唔同嘅困難 | 可能會有失意、迷茫、困惑、痛苦嘅時候 | 但係希望你唔好放棄,唔好失去盼望 | 我哋有一百個港故仔去鼓勵你、勉勵你 | 無論你以前係咪曾經喺毒海裏邊或者係讀書唔正 | 或者係木口木面,可能而家係一事無成 | 又或者環境對你有大嘅捆 [擾] | 就算冇人明白你,好似冇人幫到你 | 我哋港故仔好想話你聽:我哋香港人係得嘅 | 我哋香港人係有能力嘅 | 只要你願意,我哋每個人都可以成就傳奇 | 只要你願意,先付出,為別人貢獻自己 | 將來有一日,你會成爲香港嘅傳奇 | 我哋每一個人嘅付出 | 就係成就【2:00】呢個香港東方之珠嘅基石

● 失意 sāt1 yi3 = to have one’s aspirations, plans, etc. thwarted | ● 盼望 paan3 mohng6 = to hope for; to long for; to look forward to | ● 勉勵 míhn5 laih6 = to encourage; to urge | ● 唔正 mh4 jeng3 = not very good | ● 木口木面 muhk6 háu2 muhk6 mihn6 = pudding faced | ● 一事無成 yāt1 sih6 mòuh4 sìhng4 = accomplish nothing; get nowhere | ● 捆擾kwan3 yíu2 = to perplex; to puzzle (subtitles have 捆綁 = usu. to bind; to tie up) | ● 成就傳奇 sìhng4 jauh6 chyùhn4 kèih4 = (?) to accomplish something that becomes a legend | ● 為別人貢獻自己 wàih4 bīt1 yàhn4 gung3 hin3 jih6 géi2 = to devote/dedicate oneself for others | ● 東方之珠 Dūng1 Fōng1 jī1 jyū1 = the Pearl of the Orient | ● 基石 = gēi1 sehk6 = foundation stone; cornerstone

我係梁淑儀 Lèuhng4 Suhk6 Yìh4 / Zoe Leung
我係文曉光 Màhn4 Híu2 Gwōng1 / Henry Man
我叫黎演樂 Làih4 Yín2 Lohk6 / Lock Lai
我係鄭淦元 Jehng6 Gam3 Yùhn4 / Ken Cheng
我叫藍全傑 Làahm4 Chyùhn4 Giht6 / Manson Lam
我就江富德 Gōng1 Fu3 Dāk1 / Kong Fu Tat
我叫陳浩源 Chàhn4 Houh6 Yùhn4 / Denial Chan
我叫做謝寳達 Jeh6 Bóu2 Daaht6 / Donald Tse
我叫黃明慧 Wòhng4 Mìhng4 Wai3 / Jennifer Wong
我叫志鵬 Fok3 Ji3 Pàahng4 / Thomas Fok
我叫黃岳永 Wòhng4 Ngohk6 Wíhng5 / Erwin Huang
我係羅孟慶 Lòh4 Máahng5 Hing3 / Jeff Law
我係張柏淳 Jēung1 Paak3 Sèuhn4 / Dennis Shun
我係阿露。何嘉露 Hòh4 Gāa1 Louh6 / I am Lu
我叫糖兄峰 (潘雲峰) Pūn1 Wàhn4 Fūng1 / I am Poon Wan Fung
我叫麥心睿 Mahk6 Sām1 Yeuih6 / I am Lesley Mak
我哋叫 The Wave
我叫詹家俊 Jīm1 Gāa1 Jeun3 / I am Wallnex Jim
我叫黃子財 Wòhng4 Jí2 Chòih4 / I am Colon Wong

香港土生土長 | 七百萬個故仔 | 成就一個香 . . . 港故仔

Learning Cantonese: Kin-man’s Bookroom, Kim Dae Jung’s Prison Writings (Part 1)

陳健民 Chan Kin-man is a very thoughtful fellow and he uses the videos collected in his 健民書房 series to illuminate Hong Kong’s current predicament by offering ideas and insights from the books he has grappled with. In this episode, he tackles the question “Why do good people suffer?” via the prison letters of Korean democracy activist 金大中 Kim Dae Jung. Along the way, he also brings in a visit to Jimmy Lai, still in detention until his forthcoming trial in April or May, Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, and some of the ideas of the French philosopher, priest and palaeontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Chan uses plenty of sophisticated vocabulary, much of which is worth making your own. You’ll notice too that he tends to pronounce the third-person pronoun 佢 as héuih5 and is a heavy user of that common filler 即係 *je!

Please scroll down for my transcription and notes (the transcription is a bit rough in places, but the translation is pretty accurate, because I’ve been able to use the subtitles to fill in the parts I can’t hear clearly). You can view the video here (you are offered subtitles in both English and Standard Written Chinese). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

You might also like to make use the Ekho Text to Speech Converter if you have trouble matching any part of the transcribed Chinese text to the spoken version. Just make sure you select “Cantonese” under the language menu before you paste cut and text into the relevant box.

I will add the second part of this episode in the coming weeks . . .

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各位,歡迎返到我健民書房 | 前幾日我走去探黎智英先生 | 啊,非常之,即係 *je ,深感觸嘅一次探訪啦 | 我亦都 Facebook 裏邊寫一個 post 【貼文】啦 | 啊見到一個傳媒嘅老闆 | 著住件,即係 *je ,殘舊嘅囚衣 | 坐喺個探訪室玻璃窗嘅另一面 | 當然我係有特別深嘅感觸啦 | 噉但係就覺得自己嘅生命係活喺上帝嘅恩典裏邊 | 佢亦都相信上帝對佢嘅人生自有安排嘅 | 噉,呃,好多人都話,喂,其實你一早應該要走剌 | 佢就話,佢能夠為香港做多事因爲佢留咗落 | 噉佢覺得係無怨無悔嘅 | 我覺得佢係非常之堅强呀,哈 | 噉作爲一個天主教徒我好相信呢,佢嘅信仰係支撐住佢嘅 | 但當佢一講到屋企人嗰陣時候 | 特別係覺得屋企人好擔心佢呢 | 佢就差唔多,即係 *je ,講唔到,即係 *je ,説話

● 黎智英 Làih4 Ji3 Yīng1 = Jimmy Lai Chee-ying | ● 感觸 gám2 jūk1 = thoughts & feelings; feeling (感觸 is regularly used with 深 sām1 = deep)| ● 殘舊 chàahn4 gauh6 = tattered; ragged; worn out | ● 囚衣 chàuh4 yī1 = prison clothes | ● 探訪室 taam3 fóng2 sāt = (?) visitors room | ● 恩典 yān1 dín2 = grace | ● 自有安排 jih6 yáuh5 [ng]ōn1 pàaih4 = (?) has His own arrangements | ● 無怨無悔 mòuh4 yun3 mòuh4 fui3 = have neither complaints nor regrets | ● 堅强 gīn1 kèuhng4 = strong; firm; staunch | ● 支撐 jī1 chāang1 = to prop up; to sustain; to support

Note: The grammar of the sentence 噉做爲一個天主教徒我好相信呢,佢嘅信仰係支撐住佢嘅 actually suggests that Chan Kin-man is himself a Catholic, but in actual fact the phrase 我好相信呢 is an insertion, and possibly even a form of displacement, coming between 做爲一個天主教徒 and the preposition it modifies, 佢.

Welcome all of you to my “Kin-man’s Bookroom”.  A few days ago, I paid a visit to Mr Jimmy Lai, an extremely moving, a deeply moving, visit. I also wrote a post about it on Facebook. Of course, I was deeply moved, seeing this media boss dressed in ragged prison clothes sitting on the other side of a glass window in the visitors room. He, however, felt that he lived his life in the grace of God [係活喺上帝嘅恩典裏邊]. He was also of the belief that God had made arrangements of His own [自有安排] for Lai’s existence. Many people have said that he should have left [Hong Kong] long ago, [but] to this he replied that the reason why he has been able to do so much for Hong Kong is because he stayed. He felt that he had nothing to complain of and has no regrets. My sense is that he is exceptionally strong. Since he is a Catholic, I firmly believe that his faith sustains him. However, once he began to talk about his family, and feeling in particular that his family was very worried about him, it was hard for him to go on talking [講唔到説活].

【1:00】 | 甚至流眼淚落嚟嘅 | 噉啊作爲,即係 *je ,曾經坐過監嘅人 | 即係 *je ,對於屋企人嘅内疚我係好完全理解得到嘅 | 噉啊離開咗呢個監獄之後唔夠半個鐘頭呢 | 政府就宣佈呢,用國安法繼續係加控,即係 *je ,黎智英嘅罪名嘅 | 噉佢要,即係 *je ,繼續被還押至到出年四月呢,係先至受審嘅 | 即係 *je 話,未有罪都好啦,已經要坐四五個月嘅監獄嘅 | 噉呢個就係 *jai 香港嘅情況 | 喺佢探訪之後,我係諗起,呃,一本書 | um 亦都係今日呢個健民書房同大家分享嘅 | 因爲嗰個對話好宗教性 | 咁我就諗起 um, 即係 *je ,韓國嘅民主運動嘅金大中 | 佢喺獄中裏邊呢,就寫咗好多信 | 噉啊編咗本書叫做 Prison Writings | 噉啊唔係幾好睇我當時覺得 | 因爲實在太過宗教性喇 | um ,金大中呢 . . .

● 内疚 noih6 gau3 = compunction; guilty conscience | ● 還押 wàahn4 [ng]aat3 = (?) to be remanded in custody | ● 受審 sauh6 sám2 = to stand trial; to be tried | ● 宗教性 jūng1 gaau3 sing3 = of a religious nature | ● 金大中 Gām1 Daaih6 Jūng1 = Kim Dae Jung

He even shed tears. As someone who has spent time in prison, I perfectly comprehend this feeling of guilt with regard to one’s family. Less than half an hour after leaving the prison, the government announced that they would continue to add charges against Jimmy Lai by using the National Security Law. He will remain in custody [awaiting trial] until April or May next year. Which means that, even though he has not yet been found guilty, he still has to spend four or five months in prison. This is what the situation is like in Hong Kong. After my visit to him, I thought of a book, one that I am also sharing with you all today in “Kin-man’s Bookroom”.  Because my interchange with Lai was of quite a religious nature, it made me think of Kim Dae Jung, [a figure in] Korea’s democracy movement. While he was in jail, he wrote a great many letters. These were put together in a book called Prison Writings. Not a great read I thought when I first read it because it was too religious. Now Kim Dae Jung . . .

【2:00】噉係韓國嘅,即係 *je ,民主運動嘅領袖啦 | 佢曾經有一件好傳奇嘅事情 | 就喺1973年當佢流亡去到日本呢 | 韓國嘅政府呢,竟然係派佢哋,即係 *je ,C.I.A. ,哈,佢哋嘅中央情報局呢 | 走到日本裏邊擄劫咗佢呢,係返返去,呃,即係 *je ,韓國嘅 | 而喺嗰個公海嗰度呢,甚至係將佢綁咗喺石頭度 | 諗住抌佢落海呢,就整死佢嘅 | 但係點知道呢,就美國嘅,即係 *je ,軍方呢,就一路就知道呢件事情 | 噉就派飛機喺架船嘅上空裏邊呢,係徘徊 | 噉啊一路監察住佢之後呢,呢個韓國嘅軍政府先至冇落手嘅 | 噉啊結果就送返返去,即係 *je ,韓國嘅本土嘅 | 噉但係佢喺呢個1980年嗰陣時候呢 | 因爲呢個光州嘅事件呢 | 佢係曾經被政府呢,係被,呃,控告 | 跟住就送到軍事法庭裏邊呢,告佢一個叛亂罪嘅

● 領袖 líhng5 jauh6 = leader | ● 傳奇 chyùhn4 kèih4 = as an adjective, this means “legendary”, referring to someone “unusual” [奇] whose exploits are “passed on down” [傳] through the ages | ● 中央情報局 Jūng1 Yēung1 Chìhng4 Bou3 Guhk6 = the Central Intelligence Agency | ● 擄劫 lóuh5 gip3 = (?) to abduct | ● 公海 gūng1 hói2 = the high seas | ● 丟抌 dīu1 dám2 = (?) to throw away; to discard | ● 整死 jíng2 séi2 = (?) to kill; to do away with | ● 軍方 gwān1 fōng1 = the military | ● 徘徊 pùih4 wùih4 = usu. “to pace up & down” or “to wander”, but here the context suggests “to hang around” or “to fly back and forth (overhead)” | ● 軍政府 gwān1 jing3 fú2 = a military government | ● 落手 lohk6 sáu2 = usu. “to set about”; perhaps “to lay a hand on” or “to do the deed” here | ● 本土 bún2 tóu2 = one’s native country | ● 光州嘅事件 Gwōng1 Jāu1 ge3 Sih6 Gín6*2 = the Gwangju massacre in the aftermath of the coup d’état of December Twelfth | ● 控告 hung3 gou3 = to charge; to accuse | ● 叛亂罪 buhn6 lyuhn6 jeuih6 = ? cf. 叛亂 = “armed rebellion”

Note: I cannot find a dictionary definition for the compound 擄劫. Also, remember that as a verb 整 jíng2 in Cantonese can take on a whole range of meanings, just like “to make” or “to do” in English. Only the resultative 死 (“dead”) gives the specific meaning of “to kill”.

. . . was a leader in Korea of the democracy movement. Something once happened to him which is the stuff of legends. In 1973, while he was in exile in Japan, the Korean government actually went so far as [竟然] to dispatch members of their own secret service to abduct him and take him back to Korea. [Sailing back] on the high seas, they even went so far as to tie him to a rock [將佢綁咗喺石頭度] with the intention of throwing him down [into the water] in order to kill him. But who would have guessed that the American army had all along known about this matter and so sent an aeroplane to fly back and forth above the ship to keep an eye on it and only because of this, the Korean military government did not go through with the killing.  As a result, he was sent back to his own country, Korea. However, in 1980, owing to the Gwangju Massacre, he was charged by the government and sent to [appear before] a military court, where he was accused of the crime of (?) armed rebellion [叛亂罪].

【3:00】就判佢死刑嘅 | 噉結果喺美國同埋日本嘅壓力底下呢,先至係轉咗係一個,即係 *je ,入獄嘅一個嘅,即係 *je ,嘅懲罰 | 噉啊結果,獄中裏邊呢,先係,呃,坐咗大概六個月度,五、六個月都係單獨監禁嘅 | 跟住呢,先只係正式監禁大概年幾兩年度 | 佢就離開監獄嘅 | 噉佢坐過五、六個月呢,有啲似而家,即係 *je ,黎智英個情況呢,黎智英而家都係單獨監禁緊嘅 | 佢,呃,除咗嗰次嘅監禁之外呢,1985年至到86年呢,佢亦都係被軟禁,哈 | 就唔係正正式式喺監獄裏邊呢,係被軟禁嘅 | 噉所以其實佢陸陸續續咁樣不斷咁樣係坐監呀 | 受到生命嘅威脅嘅 | 佢喺佢坐監同埋被軟件期間呢 | 佢都係容許寫信俾屋企人 | 但係都係一張紙,一個信箋嘅 | 喺一張好薄嘅紙

● 死刑 séi2 yìhng4 = the death penalty | ● 入獄 yahp6 yuhk6 = to be put in prison; to be sent to jail | ● 懲罰 chìhng4 faht6 = to punish; to penalize | ● 度 dóu2 = roughly; approximately; almost | ● 單獨監禁 dāan1 duhk6 gāam1 gam3 = (?) solitary confinement | ● 有啲似 yáuh5 dī1 chíh5 = there is something of a resemblance to | ● 軟禁 yúhn5 gam3 = to put sb. under house arrest | ● 陸陸續續 luhk6 luhk6 juhk6 juhk6 = one after another; in succession| ● 容許 yùhng4 héui1 = to tolerate; to permit; to allow | ● 信簡 seun3 gáan2 = ? cf. 簡 gáan2 = letter; note; bamboo slip (for writing on) (In Cantonese 信箋 seun3 jin3 = “letter paper” is not (generally) used, it would seem.)

Subsequently, he was given the death penalty but, under pressure from the United States and Japan, this was reduced [轉咗] to punishment by imprisonment [instead]. As a result, he was put in prison for approximately 6 months, he was in solitary confinement for 5 or 6 months, then after that, he officially went to prison for roughly two years. He spent 5 or 6 months in prison, a bit like what has happened to Jimmy Lai, who is now in solitary confinement. Apart from this spell in prison, between 1985 and 1986 [Kim Dae Jung] was put under house arrest, not officially in prison but under house arrest. So, he spent his time in one form of prison or another [不斷咁樣係坐監] and he lived in danger of his life [受到生命嘅威脅嘅]. While he was in prison and under house arrest, he was permitted to write letters to his family, but only one piece of paper, a sheet of letter paper, on a sheet of very thin paper . . .

【4:00】就寫嗮下落去,而且經過政治審查 | 所以佢信裏邊呢,其實好少係講到政治嘅問題 | 基本上咪都係講佢嘅宗教信仰呀 | 呃,講佢,即係 *je ,點樣叮囑佢啲屋企人點樣去到呢,好好,即係 *je ,過生活呀 | 教啲細路仔讀大學時報咩科呀,咁樣嘅 | 噉呢一次呢,我係佢嘅呢本書裏邊呢,就揀咗一封信呢 | 係喺1985年佢軟禁嗰陣時11月2號寫嘅 | 呢封信係,呃,我覺得係好特別嘅封信呢 | 封信個題目係 “What is This Called My Life?” ,呢個:我的生命究竟係啲咩嘢呢 |  「我嘅生命究竟係啲咩嘢呢」就係 *jai 呢封信嘅主旨嚟㗎 | 噉呢封信佢寫嘅嗰陣時佢緣起呢 | 就係佢一朝早起身嗰陣時候呢 | 佢望出去出邊嗰個花園嗰度呢 | 佢發覺呢 . . .

● 審查 sám2 chàah4 = to examine; to investigate | ● 叮囑 dīng1 jūk1 = to urge again & again; to warn; to exhort | ● 主旨 jyú2 jí2 = purport; substance; gist | ● 緣起 yùhn4 héi2 = genesis; origin | ● 出邊 chēut1 bīn1 = outside

. . . the whole of [these letters] were written down and were inspected for political content [經過政治審查]. For this reason, there is actually little discussion of political matters [in them]. Basically, the letters talk about things such as religious faith, advising his family how to go about living a good life, and instructing his children about what subjects they should take at university. Now on this occasion I have chosen one letter that was written on 2 November 1985 while he was under house arrest. This letter is one I feel to be a very special letter. It bears the title of [個題目係] “What is This Called My Life?” (sic) [Kin-man then provides a translation in Cantonese]. And “What is This Called My Life?” is the main substance [主旨] of this letter. In this letter, he writes that it all started [佢緣起] when he got up one morning and looked out at the garden outside, and discovered that . . .

【5:00】. . . 佢所種嘅花呢,除咗菊花之外呢,其他全部呢,都死 | 就好似我哋嘅呢幾日突然間天氣凍呢 | 噉花呢,都突然間就凋謝咗喇 | 佢有個好强烈嘅哀愁同埋空虛嘅感覺 | 噉佢話呢,其實一個人呢,當你被某啲吸引住呢 | 噉開始你就有種依戀嘅話呢,咁你就要承受一種,即係 *je ,分離之苦喇 | 噉你可能依戀住就係呢啲花 | 呢啲花死嗰陣時,你就有一種憂愁嘅感覺 | 如果你就依戀你屋企人嘅話 | 當你同佢哋分離 | 譬如話你坐監嘅時候呢 | 你都會承受住呢一種痛苦喇 | 佢寫呢封信陣時 | 佢話佢有好强烈嘅一種,即係 *je ,想家嘅感覺 | 好懷念住佢屋企人 | 噉所以呢封信呢,係好觸動到我嘅 | 我亦都好相信呢,就好似黎智英而家,即係 *je ,呢種嘅狀態 | 噉佢問喇,話其實我啲嘅生命係啲咩嘢呢,咁樣?| 佢話佢自己覺得佢自己嘅人生呢,係充滿咗一連串嘅厄運

● 凋謝 dīu1 jeh6 = to wither & fall | ● 哀愁 ōi1 sàuh4 = sad; sorrowful | ● 依戀 yī1 lyún2 = be reluctant to leave; to feel regret at parting from | ● 承受 sìhng4 sauh6 = to bear; to support; to endure | ● 分離之苦 fān1 lèih4 jī1 fú2 = (?) the pain of separation | ● 憂愁 yāu1 sàuh4 = sad; worried; depressed | ● 想家 séung2 gāa1 = to be homesick | ● 懷念wàaih4 nihm6  = to cherish the memory of; to think of | ● 觸動 jūk1 duhng6 = to move sb.; to stir up sb.’s feelings | ● 厄運 āk1 wahn6 = adversity; misfortune

. . . all the flowers he had planted had all died, apart from the chrysanthemums. It was like the sudden cold snap we’ve had here [in Hong Kong] in these past few days. [In response to] the sudden withering of these flowers, he had very strong feelings of sadness and regret [at the loss]. He says that actually when you feel an attraction for something then you will begin to feel a reluctance to be separated from [it]. And so, you must endure the pain of separation. You may feel reluctant to be separated from some flowers, and when they die, you then have feelings of sadness. If you feel a reluctance to be separated from your family, when you come to be separated from them, for example when you are put in prison, you will also endure a form of pain. When he wrote this letter, he said he was experiencing strong feelings of homesickness and was missing [懷念] his family. For this reason, this letter moved me very much and I can well believe that [what the letter describes] is very much like Jimmy Lai’s situation at present. [So Kim Dae Jung] asks: What actually is this human life of ours? He says that he felt that his own life was filled with a series of misfortunes.

【6:00】正我 . . . 正如我 // 所講呢,係咪,佢走過生死啦、又坐過監咁樣、又被人軟禁咁樣 | 佢話自己好似都 . . . 曾經冇好快樂咁樣生活過 | 噉咩先至係所謂快樂生活過呢 | 就係無憂無慮啦 | 可以同屋企人一齊啦,咁樣 | 佢成日都過唔到呢一種嘅生活嘅 | 噉但佢又追問呢,// 其他好多人其實生活上面都係好舒適嘅 | 亦都可以同屋企人 // 喺埋一齊嘅 | 但係係咪嗰啲人就覺得自己人生好有意義嘅,咁樣? | 佢發覺唔係 | 嗰啲人又覺得好多時候係虛度人生嘅 | 噉所以究竟,即係 *je ,佢嘅生命係咩嘢呢?| 佢冇咗其他平常人嗰種快樂 | 但係係咪佢又覺得佢自己人生冇意義呢,咁樣?  | 佢又覺得佢又唔係呀 | 佢覺得佢冇後悔嘅噃 | 如果佢話佢自己有咩嘢真真正正好難受呢 | 佢覺得第一就話佢想到佢自己 . . .

● 無憂無慮 mòuh4 yāu1 mòuh4 leuih6 = not have a care in the world | ● 舒適 syū1 sīk1 = comfortable; cosy; snug | ● 發覺 faat3 gok3 = to find; to detect; to discover | ● 虛度 hēui1 douh6 = to spend time in vain; to waste | ● 後悔 hauh6 fui3 = to regret; to repent

Note: Someone was kind enough to provide the following explanation of the use of 噃 bō1 in this segment: “I think 噃 bō1 is similar, if not identical to 喎 wō1, which is used like a filler word in English, or to express a slight level of surprise. […] And in 佢覺得佢冇後悔嘅噃, it is even more pronounced since he should, in normal sense, feel that life is meaningless and would feel regret upon reflecting on his experience, yet he feels the opposite: he thinks that he had no regrets. In this case, the 噃 is quite useful to express the contrast in a subtle manner . . .”

Just, just as I mentioned just now, didn’t I, he had been through a lot [走過生死], spending time in prison as well as being put under house arrest. He said that he had never been happy in his life. Now what is needed [咩先至] before we can call something a “happy life”? Being free from all worry, and being able to spend time with one’s family. Such a life he had never enjoyed himself, but then he goes on to ask: There are many people whose lives are very comfortable, who are able to spend time together with their families, but do those people feel that their lives have any meaning? He found that this was not the case. Much of the time, such people felt that they had lived their lives in vain. For this reason, then, what was this thing called his life, when all was said and done [究竟]? He had not had those kinds of happiness that ordinary people have, but did he feel that his own life was meaningless? No, he thought, it was not. He felt that he had no regrets. He said if there was anything that he felt to be truly [真真正正] very hard to bear, he thought firstly of his own . . .

【7:00】. . . 參與喺民主運動裏邊呢,連累咗屋企人 | 噉呢個係一個好深嘅内疚 | 第二樣嘢佢覺得人生裏邊呢,好多人呢,其實都對佢好好嘅 | 亦都咗好多幫忙佢嘅 | 但佢係冇機會呢,去到報恩 | 嗱,呢一種係連累,呃,家人同埋冇法報恩嘅感覺呢 | 係佢 . . . 如果你問佢有咩後悔呢?| 佢覺得比較難受呢 | 其實係,即係 *je ,呢一個,即係 *je ,部分 // | 噉啊佢話,佢對人生其實係一個最大,最大嘅一種嘅疑惑呢 | 就係佢見到佢點樣去就係「殺人放火金腰帶」| 見到呢,就係義人、好人呢,反而係要蒙難嘅 | 噉呢種都唔係我哋話,啊「好人有好報,即係 *je ,惡人有惡報」,唔係咁喎 | 佢見到現實人世唔係咁嘅 | 噉呢個就係佢人生裏邊呢,其實係一個最大最大一個,即係 *je ,疑惑、係個謎團嚟㗎 | 噉佢就喺呢封信裏邊講到呢,中國嘅歷史裏邊呢 . . .

● 連累 lìhn4 leuih6 = to implicate; to involve; to get sb. into trouble | ● 報恩 bou3 yān1 = to pay a debt of gratitude | ● 疑惑 yìh4 waahk6 = feel uncertain; not be convinced | ● 殺人放火金腰帶 saat3 yàhn4 fong3 fó2 gām1 yīu1 daai3 = “murderers & arsonists have their purses full of gold” cf. This is part of a longer phrase used to suggest that only the wicker prosper. The second part reads: 修橋補路冇屍骸 and seems to mean something like “those who build bridges & make roads end up as penniless skeletons (?) | ● 義人 yih6 yàhn4 = ? cf. 義士 yih6 sih6 = a person who upholds justice | ● 蒙難 mùhng4 naahn6= (of a revolutionary) be confronted by danger; fall into the clutches of the enemy | ● 謎團 màih4 tyùhn4 = doubts & suspicions

. . . participation in the democracy movement [and how it] had implicated members of his family. This was a very deep guilt. The second thing was that he felt that many people in his life had actually been very good to him and had helped him enormously, but he had never had the chance to repay his debts of gratitude. Now these feelings [connected with] the implication of family members and the failure to repay his debts of gratitude were his . . . If you asked him whether he had any regrets, what he felt quite distressed about were these [two] parts [of his experience]. He said that in fact his greatest doubts about human life had to do with seeing how “murderers and arsonists have their purses full of gold”, while those who tried to uphold justice, good people, fell into the clutches of the enemy [蒙難]. Now this is not the “good people get good things, while bad people get bad things” we often talk about, it’s not like that. He saw that life in the real world was not like that. Now this was a great doubt he had in his life, a tangled mess of doubts and misgivings [謎團]. In this letter, he goes on to talk about something in Chinese history . . .

【8:00】. . . 呃,司馬遷嘅故事 | 噉啊司馬遷大家知道係一個,即係 *je ,寫,即係 *je ,咁重要嘅中國嘅歷史學家 [啦] | 噉但係當時裏邊呢,喺漢代漢武帝嘅時期裏邊呢 | 佢因爲為咗一個人,係一個將軍,去到辯護 | 因爲呢,當時呢個將軍呢,打敗仗 [呀] | 噉啊漢武帝呢,就要,即係 *je ,要殺佢,咁樣 | 噉佢就講呢,其實唔係罪 . . . 喺佢嘅身上邊 | 因爲只有啲救兵嚟唔切嘅 | 亦都係,[係] 呢個皇帝呢,即係 *je ,暗示呀,係用人嗰陣時係用得不當 | 所以呢,佢冇足夠嘅,即係 *je ,調配呀,即係 *je ,援助呀 | 結果全部都係打 // | 其實佢已經係好勇敢 | 嗱,// 講法呢,其實令到漢武帝就係好 [喇] | [就] 話,係咪我,即係 *je ,唔識,即係 *je ,調兵遣將呢?我用錯人呢?| 啊,你正 // 諷刺緊,即係 *je ,我啫 | 之前其實已經唔係幾滿意司馬遷呢,寫佢嗰陣時候 [呢],有啲嘅伏筆呢 | 其實都喺 [度] 講緊,即係 *je , 個 . . .

● 司馬遷 Sī1 Máah5 Chīn1 = Sima Qian | ● 辯護 bihn6 wuh6 = to speak in defence of; to defend | ● 打敗仗 dáa2 baih6 jeung3 = to suffer a defeat; to be defeated in battle | ● 救兵 gau3 bīng1 = reinforcements | ● 嚟唔切 lèih4 mh4 chit3 = not arrive in time | ● 用得不當 yuhng6 dāk1 bāt1 dōng1 = used inappropriately | ● 調配 diuh6 pui3 = to allocate; to deploy | ● 援助 wùhn4 joh6 = to help; to support; to aid| ● 調兵遣將 diuh6 bīng1 hín2 jeung3 = to move troops; to deploy forces | ● 諷刺 fung3 chi3 = to satirize; to mock | ● 伏筆 fuhk6 bāt1 = usu. a hint foreshadowing later developments in a story, essay, etc.; foreshadowing

. . . the story of Sima Qian. Now as everyone knows, Sima Qian was such an important Chinese historian. However, back in those times, in the days when Han Wu Di was emperor, because he [i.e. Sima Qian] came to the defence of a certain general. Because this general had, at the that time, been defeated in battle, so, Han Wu Di wanted to have him [i.e. the general] put to death. [Sima Qian] said that the crime was not his [i.e. the general’s]. It was merely because reinforcements did not arrive on time. He also implied that this emperor made inappropriate use of army personnel [用人嗰陣時]. And so, he [i.e. the general] did not have a sufficient deployment [調配] or support. And as a result, he was defeated. As a matter of fact, he [i.e. the general] showed great courage. Now [Sima Qian’s] comments enraged Han Wu Di, who asked: Are you saying (?) that I don’t know how to deploy my forces? That I made the wrong use of personnel? You are making fun of me! In fact, before that, [Han Wu Di] had not been too pleased with Sima Qian and, when he wrote about his [i.e. Han Wu Di’s] time [as emperor], there were a few hints of things to come [in his History] in which in fact he was talking about . . .

【9:00】. . . 漢武帝嘅不是嘅 | 噉結果呢,漢武帝呢,就要判佢呢,係死刑 | 噉啊判死刑呢,又有兩個方法解方 . . . 解決方法佢哋 | 嚟呀,[你] 可以取替嘅方案就係你用好多好多錢呢,你 [都] 可以贖身嘅 | 噉但係司馬遷冇 | 第樣嘢呢,就係你可以接受個腐刑 | 所謂「腐刑」,即係 *je 腐爛」嘅「腐」呢,其實就係一個,即係 *je ,宮刑嚟㗎 | 就係呢,要進行閹割嘅 | 噉啊金大中就用呢個故事 [嚟講就話] | 嘩,對一個男士嚟講係幾咁大嘅一個羞辱,去接受呢個咁樣嘅閹割 | 而佢只不過係一個正直個人,講出一啲,即係 *je ,真相,講真話 [呢] | 結果就受到咁樣嘅,即係 *je ,報復 | 噉所以 [佢] 好人唔一定係得到好報 | 噉啊點樣,即係 *je ,解脫呢件事情呢?| 即係 *je ,對呢種嘅疑惑佢 [主要]  點樣去到,即係 *je ,解開嗰啲疑惑呢,咁?| 喺呢封信裏邊呢,就話佢曾經係受到兩個人嘅作品 . . .

● 不是 bāt1 sih6 = (noun) fault; blame | ● 死刑 séi2 yìhng4 = the death penalty | ● 贖身 suhk6 sān1 = (of slaves, prostitutes) to redeem oneself; to buy back one’s freedom | ● 腐刑 fuh6 yìhng4 = (?) cf. 宮刑 | ● 腐爛 fuh6 laahn6 = 1. decomposed; putrid 2. corrupt; rotten | ● 宮刑 gūng1 yìhng4 = castration (a punishment in ancient China) | ● 閹割 yīm1 got3 = to castrate or spay; to emasculate | ● 羞辱 sāu1 yuhk6 = 1. shame; dishonour; humiliation 2. humiliation; to put sb. to shame | ● 正直 jing3 jihk6 = honest; upright; fair-minded | ● 報復 bou3 fuhk6 = to make reprisals; to retaliate | ● 解開 gáai2 hōi1 = to untie; to undo; to get rid of

. . . Han Wu Di’s faults. The upshot was, Han Wu Di condemned him [i.e. Sima Qian] to death. Now there were two options available for avoiding the death penalty. The first way was to [offer a replacement] by giving a lot of money to buy back your life [贖身]. Sima Qian, however, did not [have lots of money]. The second option was to accept a form of punishment known as fu ying. The fu here is that fu that is used in the compound fu laan, meaning “putrid” or “rotten”. This kind of castration, the carrying out of yim got, castration. Kim Dae Jung made use of this story to say that for a man to accept such a punishment by castration was an enormous humiliation. He was no more and no less than a fair-minded man telling the truth, saying what was true. As a result, [he] was on the receiving end [受到] such a form of retaliation. And so he said good people do not necessarily get good things. And so [the question is]: how do we free ourselves from such a thing? How do we rid ourselves of such uncertainties? In this letter, he states that the writings of two people . . .

【10:00】. . . 嘅影響呢 | 係令到佢開始睇通 [咗] 啲嘢 ,得到啲啓示嘅 | 第一個呢,就係我自己大學時好鍾意睇 [嘅] 一本書嘅 | 就係《卡拉馬佐夫的弟兄們》 | 噉呢本書係杜斯妥也夫斯基寫嘅一本嘅小説,哈 | 呢本俄國小説喺我以前讀大學嘅時代裏邊係一個好流行嘅一個小説 | 好重要嘅小説 | [噉] 我話俾你聽,我讀呢本書嘅感覺係點 [呀]? | 我 [又] 讀到某啲章節嗰陣時候呢 | 我覺得我想跪低祈禱嘅,係變咗好虔誠 | 但讀到某啲章節嗰陣時,我都 [覺得] 上帝已死 | 噉根本冇上帝,[喺] 呢個世界 | 即係 *je 佢可以將你個情緒帶動到咁極端嘅 | 噉我係好鍾意呢本書嘅 | 噉佢亦都提到呢一本書對佢嘅影響 | 佢覺得呢本書裏邊嘅,嗰,嗰三兄弟裏邊 // 其中嘅大哥呢 | 最臨尾因爲同個爸爸,即係 *je,爭,爭女仔呀,哈 | 結果呢,就某個情況底下爸爸死咗 | 結果佢告呀,話佢殺死佢爸爸 | 噉呢個嘅,呃,大哥 . . .

● 啓示 kái2 sih6  = enlightenment; inspiration; revelation | ● 《卡拉馬佐夫的弟兄們》Kāa1 Lāai1 Máah5 Jo3 Fū1 Dīk1 Daih6 Hīng1 Mùhn4 = The Brothers Karamazov | ● 杜斯妥也夫斯基 Douh6 Sī1 Tóh5 Yáah5 Fū1 Sī1 Gēi1 = Fyodor Dostoyevsky | ● 俄國 Ngòh4 Gwok3 = Russia | ● 章節 jēung1 jit3 = chapters (this may be one of those words that seems to have a built-in plural sense cf. 船隻 = ships) | ● 跪低 gwaih6 dāi1 = to kneel down | ● 虔誠 kìhn4 sìhng4 = pious; devout | ● 帶動 daai3 duhng6 = to drive; to spur; to bring along | ● 最臨尾 jeui3 làhm4 méih5 = ? in the end cf. 臨尾 = final (Sheik)

Influenced him and made him able to start to see more clearly about things, and to get some illumination. The first was [a book] that I myself liked very much when I was at university, The Brothers Karamazov. This book is a novel written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This Russian novel was very popular back in those days when I was studying at university, and it was a very important one. Let me tell you what my feelings were like when I read it. Some of the chapters in it made me want to get down on my knees and pray when I read them, and I felt very pious. But other chapters in the book made me feel that God was already dead, that there was no God in this world. His narrative [佢可以講?] could drive you to [different] extremes. I like this book very much and so does [Kim Dae Jung], who refers to its influence on him. In his opinion, of the three brothers [UNCLEAR] The elder brother argues with his father in the end over a woman and, as a result, the father dies in [rather] particular circumstances. This results in the elder brother being charged with the murder of his father.

Once in a Million Years

This beautiful photograph taken by Joan Law is included in the book she did with the English scholar Barbara Ward called Chinese Festivals. Since the book dates from 1982, I imagine that the children shown in this image are probably in their late 40s or early 50s by now, and I can’t help wondering how they are celebrating the current Chinese New Year in the year 2021 . . .

They play in their own innocent way with powerful forces, with rhythms and symbols the significance of which they instinctively guess at but cannot fully grasp. And yet their game is nothing less than the regeneration of the cosmos. As Barbara Ward writes:

Morally the keynote is renewal. The old year goes, and with it go old misfortunes and old wrongs; the new year comes and brings the chance for starting afresh.

The chance of a fresh start is an invaluable thing. And yet there is a danger inherent in the idea of renewal, especially to the Chinese mind, which tends to associate it with such things as harmony, stability, unity, discipline and peaceful conformity. But do such qualities truly make for a vital world? Thomas Berry provides an answer for us in the following comment in The Great Work:

We might consider, then, that the wild and the disciplined are the two constituent forces of the universe. the expansive force and the containing force bound into a single universe and expressed in every being . . .

Only Earth became a living planet filled with those innumerable forms of geological structure and biological expression that we observe throughout the natural world. Only Earth held a creative balance between the turbulence and the discipline that are necessary for creativity. The excess of discipline suppressed the wildness of Mars. The excess of wildness overcame the discipline of Jupiter. Their creativity was lost by an excess of one over the other.


To me, the main reason why Hong Kong is a world issue and not merely an internal matter for the People’s Republic of China is because, uniquely, Hong Kong is one place ⸺ perhaps the only place ⸺ where the possibility of such an unlikely creative balance was gradually being realized. True, it has entailed great suffering over a long period of time, and countless instances of unjust and inhumane behaviour. And yet this protracted, haphazard social experiment has resulted in a priceless hybrid, in which the Chinese genius for discipline has, to some degree, fused with the Western gift for individual wildness in a way that has not happened anywhere else in the history of humankind, and is not likely to happen again in the foreseeable future.

This hybrid, in which a “creative disequilibrium” exists between wildness and discipline, represents to my way of thinking the only real option for a human renewal in the genuine meaning of the words. Discipline or wildness alone can only bring sterile repetition, disguised beneath constant consumer novelty and sensational technological innovation, in the course of which our planet is increasingly degraded to the point of absolute no return.

So next time you wish someone 出入平安 during this Chinese New Year, think to yourself the following addition: And a Joyous Creative Disequilibrium to you, too!

Hong Kong Uplift . . .

I think the whole world could do with some 香港精神 Hong Kong Spirit right now.

I stumbled across this video when looking for material on the American fantasy writer 娥蘇拉 • 勒瑰恩 Ursula le Guin. The contents is out of date, but the spirit never dies . . . Never.

The video I hope will leave you feeling a little less inhuman and a good deal more life-like.

You can find it on the Oh Readly Facebook page here!