And I Love You Three

— FOR R.

Do numbers count? Exactly how much
is the anniversary
of a mystery? When I finished school
with a diploma in you, we
took up all our time,
meaning those myriad minor-finer details
of How? Why? Where? What? Who?
hardly ever made even half a lip-print on memory.
Those first few Eden leaves grew up largely
unnoticed — seamless
and quite ruly — there
where loving makes a living out of dearth,
in all its forms . . .
In the three spheres,
in the nine heavens,
in the eighteen unspeakably shameless hells
it is you-you-you
whom I with my triple hammered stutter

Learning Cantonese: 你究竟接唔接受你自己?or Can You Learn to Accept Yourself?

Is love possible in an imperfect world, or must we turn to illusions to fulfil our yearnings? In this wonderful video by The Official Curry, we are treated to an exploration of this question, accompanied by images from the recent film 《幻愛》or “Hallucinatory Love” based on the novel by 蔣曉薇 Chiang Hiu-mei (but known in English by the title Beyond the Dream), together with a haunting-mesmerizing soundtrack.

The key words in the voice-over are “perfection” [完美 yùhn4 méih5], “love” [愛 ngoi3] and “hallucination” [幻覺 waahn6 gok3]. The last of these gave me a bit of trouble when in the English translation. Although basically a psychologically term in Cantonese, 幻覺 also seems to a have a more general application akin to the word “illusion” in English. Partly for this reason — and also to avoid too much repetition in the translation — I have used both “hallucination” and “illusion” for the one Cantonese noun. Bear in mind as you read that “illusion” here may carry a hint of “ill” in it . . .

There’s an interesting pronunciation issue too in this video. As Yip and Matthews point out in Basic Cantonese, the low falling tone “can often be recognized by a ‘creaky’ voice quality as the pitch reaches the bottom of the speaker’s voice range” (12). This phenomenon is particularly noticeable in the voice-over: listen out for it in words such as the often-repeated 完美 yùhn4 méih5, as well as 同時 tùhng4 sih4, 人 yàhn4, and 為 wàih4. But just to make life interesting, there seems to be a similar creakiness with 自己, officially pronounced as jih6 géi2. I can’t say why this is.

With regard to grammar, you won’t find anything too troubling or terrifying! One rather rare feature is the use of the expression 好比 hóu2 béi2, which means something like “could be compared to”. This crops up in the sentence 你就好比一個數學世界入便嘅正號去追求完美 = “You are comparable to a plus sign in a mathematical world heading off in search of perfection”. You’ll also notice some interesting uses of the aspect marker 住 jyuh6 to suggest an on-going after-effect: 缺乏住愛 = “to lack love”; 互相抵觸住 = “to be in conflict with one another”; 幻覺嚟拯救住你 = “being saved by illusions” (that is, “saved” as an on-going state”). The nuance expressed by 住 jyuh6 seems to lend itself to on-going states, but it takes a while to get the hang of it. Finally, the resultative 得一乾二净 makes an appearance in this video, with 一乾二净 (literally “one-dry-two-clean”) suggesting something comparable to “completely; utterly” in English. Typically, it is used with verbs of forgetting, but here it crops up with 蠶食 chàahm4 sihk6 = “to nibble”, in other words, the kind of eating [食] done by a silk-worm [蠶] (hence the presence of the two insect radicals 虫 at the bottom of the character!) . . .

Needless to say, there’s also plenty of useful vocabulary to expand your range: 驅使 kēui1 sí2 = to prompt; to urge; 抵觸 dái2 jūk1 = to conflict with; to contradict; 洗牌 sái2 páai4*2 = to shuffle cards; 抛棄 pāau1 hei3 = to abandon; 渴望 hot3 mohng6 = to thirst for; to long for; to yearn for; and 困局 kwan3 guhk6 = a predicament.

You can view the video here. 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.


世界上大多數 | 都希望可以有一個能夠同自己終老嘅伴侶 | 但係因爲人嘅不確定性 | 往往做好多不如意嘅事 | 爭執、分手、離婚 | // 事每日都發生緊 | 亦都明確知 | 愛並唔係永恆,因爲人並唔完美 | 但我哋天生就追求完美 |  所以我哋追求愛 | 但同時,世界並不完美,並且缺乏住愛 | 愛,就好似現實生活中完美嘅表現 | 幻覺幾時係真,幾時係假? | 一般嘅定義就係,現實世界存在嘅就係真 | 出現腦入便嘅,就係假,係幻覺 | 雖然啲幻覺唔存在於現實空間 | 但幻覺驅使咗人表達出情緒、言語、動作 | 幻覺會嘗試成為現實中嘅一部分 . . .

● 終老 jūng1 lóuh5 = live out one’s years | ● 伴侶 buhn6 léuih5  = a companion; mate; partner | ● 不確定性 bāt1 kok3 dihng6 sing3 = roughly, “indefiniteness”; perhaps even here “indeterminacy” cf. 確定 = definite | ● 爭執 jāng1 jāp1 = to disagree; to argue | ● 永恆 wíhng5 hàhng4 = eternal; perpetual | ● 追求 jēui1 kàuh4 = to seek; to pursue | ● 幻覺 waahn6 gok3 = hallucination | ● 驅使 kēui1 sí2 = to prompt; to urge; to spur on | ● 言語 yìhn4 yúh5 = spoken language; speech | ● 嘗試 sèuhng4 si3 = to attempt; to try

The majority [of people] in the world hope that there could be a companion out there with whom they could live out their years. But owing to the indefiniteness [不確定性] of people, many unfortunate things get done: we argue, split up, get divorced. [These] things are happening every day, and they clearly tell us that love is not eternal, because human beings are imperfect. By nature, however, we are made to seek perfection [追求完美], and so we set off in pursuit of love. By the same token, however, the world is far from perfect and lacking in love. Love, it would seem, is an expression of perfection in real life. When are hallucinations or illusions real, and when are they unreal? According to most definitions, what exists in the actual world is real, while what [only] appears in the mind is false, a hallucination. Although some illusions do not exist in the space of reality [現實空間], they impel [驅使] people to give expression to their feelings, to speech, to actions. Hallucinations can attempt to make themselves [嘗試成爲] a part of reality . . .

【1:00】. . . 令到人嘅經歷變得完美 | 但同時因為人嘅唔完美 | 造就咗一切追求完美嘅行為 | 都同人,呢一個天生唔完美嘅物種,互相抵觸住 | 就好似擁有所謂精神病嘅阿樂 | 嘅幻覺就係源自於希望有人愛自己 | 因為當有人真心愛佢嘅時候 | 佢嘅世界先至可以變得更完美 | 同時佢亦都可以唔使過得咁痛苦、孤獨 | 但人天生嘅唔完美 | 就令到葉嵐一開始就唔係出於真心喜歡而接近阿樂 | 錯誤嘅開始即使最後成就愛 | 亦唔係雙方共識嘅愛 | 最後變得不愛 | 經過一輪嘅重新洗牌 | 世界又重回不完美嘅平衡點上面 | 而由另一個角度咁睇,亦都可以話 | 每一個人咗獲得完美 | 亦都各自對事物制定咗唔同解釋嘅完美

● 造就 jouh6 jauh6 = to bring up; to train | ● 物種 maht6 júng2 = species | ● 抵觸 dái2 jūk1 = to conflict with; to contradict | ● 源自於 yùhn4 jih6 yū1 = roughly, “to originate from; to have (its) origins in  | ● 真心 jān1 sām1 = wholehearted; heartfelt; sincere | ● 成就 sìhng4 jauh6 = to achieve; to accomplish | ● 一輪 yāt1 lèuhn4 = roughly, “a round” | ● 洗牌 sái2 páai4*2 = to shuffle cards | ● 重回 chùhng4 wùih4 = to return to | ● 平衡點 pìhng4 hàhng4 dím2 = cf. 平衡 = balance; equilibrium + 點 = point | ● 各自 gok3 jih6 = each; respective | ● 事物 sih6 maht6 = thing; object  | ● 制定 jai3 dihng6 = to draw up; to formulate

. . . so that people’s experience can become perfect. At the same time, however, because human imperfection conditions [造就] all those behaviours [designed to] seek perfection, they are imperfect like people — this species which is by nature imperfect — and conflicts between people arise. His [that is, Ah Lok’s] hallucinations have their origins in his hope that there is someone who loves him, because it is only when someone gives him wholehearted love that he his world can get closer to perfection [可以變得更完美]. At the same time, [it means that] there is no need for him to live his life [過得] in pain and loneliness. But human beings are imperfect by nature, and this initially makes Yip Lan get close to Ah Lok without having a genuine liking for him. Although after this flawed beginning [she] achieves love, it is not a love the two of them both acknowledge and, in the end, it stops being love [變得不愛]. After a reshuffling of the cards [重新洗牌], the world goes back to that pivot-point [平衡點] of imperfection. Viewed from a different perspective, one could also say that, in order to obtain perfection, people have formulated different understandings of the thing, perfection (?).

【2:00】從而妥協獲得内心嘅平衡 | 但對於世界或者整體而言 | 始終都係缺乏住真正嘅完美,真正嘅愛 | 你眼中嘅完美,或者係等於人哋眼中嘅唔完美 | 你眼中嘅愛或者正正就等於人哋眼中嘅痛苦 | 所以,要活喺呢個大世界 | 你可以做嘅就係選擇去接受 | 或者唔接受呢一個沒有愛而且唔完美嘅世界 | 接受嘅話,咁既然人願意愛自己 | 你唯一能夠控制嘅就係你自己 | 嘗試令到自己變到完美 | 令到你自己愛自己 | 你永遠都會喺自己身邊 | 你想做啲乜,你都會陪你一齊去做 | 你更加唔會抛棄你自己 | 人哋會對你白眼係正常嘅 | 但因爲你接受咗佢哋係唔完美而且沒有愛 | 所以更加唔會去渴望喺佢哋當中得到愛同埋完美

● 妥協 tóh5 hip3 = to come to terms; to compromise | ● 整體 jíng2 tái2 = whole; entirety | ● 眼中 ngáahn5 jūng1 = lit. “in one’s eyes”, that is, “the way one sees/views sth. (in one’s mind)” | ● 大世界 daaih6 sai3 gaai3 = (?) the world at large (but perhaps with the implication of “the big wide world”, a world beyond one’s own personal sphere) | ● 抛棄 pāau1 hei3 = to abandon; to forsake; to cast aside | ● 白眼 baahk6 ngáahn5 = a supercilious look cf. 返白眼 = to roll one’s eyes | ● 渴望 hot3 mohng6 = to thirst for; to long for; to yearn for

Thus, by making compromises, one obtains an inner [psychological] balance. Nevertheless, in terms of the world or the bigger picture [整體] there is always [始終] this lack of true perfection, of true love. The perfection you see in your mind’s eye may be what other people think of as imperfection, [while] the love you see in your mind’s eye may be exactly what other people see as agony. And so, if you wish to live in the big wide world, the thing you can do [你可以做嘅] is to choose to accept [this state of affairs], or not accept this world that has neither love nor perfection in it. If you do accept it [接受嘅話], since no one is willing to love you, the only thing you have control over is yourself. You can try and make yourself more perfect, and to make yourself love yourself. You will always [永遠] be right there by your side, and whatever it is you feel like doing, you can keep yourself company in doing it together. Even less [你更加] can you abandon yourself. It is perfectly natural for people to give you disapproving looks, but because you have [already] accepted [the fact that] they are imperfect and without love, you will be even less inclined to long for love and perfection from them [喺佢哋當中].

【3:00】唔接受嘅話,咁將會係一個困局 | 現實世界唔會因為你而改變 | 噉就只好由幻覺幫助你 | 重新去建立一個新世界嚟令到你接受 | 你就好比一個數學世界入便嘅正號去追求完美 | 世界就係一個永遠嘅負號缺乏住愛 | 而最終正負得負 | 你都會被呢一個負號蠶食得一乾二净 | 最後只能夠靠擁有絕對完美嘅正號 // 即係幻覺嚟拯救住你 | 但你已經失去咗自我嘅控制權 | 唔接受得唔到嘅愛,何必呢?| 所以,所有事情不能好壞 | 到最後嘅關鍵都係:究竟你接唔接受?| 你接唔接受你自己有精神病?| 你接唔接受你自己曾經有好似葉嵐咁樣嘅經歷?| 你究竟接唔接受你自己?

● 困局 kwan3 guhk6 = a predicament; plight; dilemma | ● 正號 jing3 houh6 = a plus sign (+) | ● 負號 fuh6 houh6 = a minus sign | ● 正負得負 jing3 fuh6 dāk1 fuh6 = ? | ● 蠶食 chàahm4 sihk6 = to nibble | ● 何必 hòh4 bīt1 = there is no need; why; why is it necessary (used to form rhetorical questions)

If you don’t compromise, then there will be this predicament: the real world won’t change to fit in with you. All you can do then is to get help from illusions to re-establish a new world you can give your acceptance to [令到你接受]. You are comparable to a plus sign in a mathematical world heading off to find perfection: the world being an eternal minus sign lacking in love, in the end a positive multiplied by a negative [always] gives a negative [正負得負] and you’re liable to be nibbled away by a minus sign till there is nothing left. Finally, all you can do is rely on the absolute perfection of the plus sign [UNCLEAR], that is, being saved by illusions. But [by then] you have already lost control of yourself, so what’s the point of a refusing a love you couldn’t accept [anyway]? And so for this reason, there is no good or bad in anything. The crucial thing is: Can you accept that you have a mental illness? Can you accept the experiences you once had, experiences like those Yip Lam was subjected to? Can you accept yourself?

Love-Evol-Ution (He Watches Her Waver)

Tuen Hou Temple_11 MAR 2020

She mutes the wave upon her palm.
Tentative, she hangs one arm out
into the willing air. He watches
with the way he stands, well-wishing her
to understand: will love,
will love now finally show him
a way ― muscular ― exerted in her wrist,
extending frankly tip by fingertip,
till it signals (wing to wing, at last)
joint flight, blood-hope, first trust?


Photograph: 香港屯門口角天后廟 Hau Kok Tin Hau Temple, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong

Ocean and Notion

Tai Po Man-Mou Temple Cat TWO_3 MAR 2020

Ocean and Notion
Had little in common;
A freak of English
Enforced their union.

They took their honeymoon
Down by the sea
And talked all day
Of philosophy.

Notion went swimming —
A lover of quirks —
While Ocean kept watch
In case of sharks.

Sunburnt but happy
They drove back to town
To start new lives
As Proper Nouns.


Photograph: 香港大埔文武廟 Man Mo Temple, Tai Po, Hong Kong (Evette Kwok, 2020)

Mateship, Shipwreck. . .


I hear it in the choices
of the words they make: their voices
meet, but only the voices meet ―
an appearance of conversation, where no soulmateship
is intended in the slightest, produces plastic flowers
of itself, approximate to the real thing, but souring
subtly in the lack of sweet scent-smell.
Hell ―
hole-hearted ― starts to feel like this,
a kiss no deeper than the four lips of the kiss,
an imitation of intimacy that, technically,
is just about all friendshipwreck. Just because
you can count all your feathers
doesn’t mean you can fly . . .