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The thoughts of an American expat in Hong Kong living on an "underlying island"

In the first post on Kadoorie Farms and Botanical Gardens, I featured a wonderful photo of a red dragonfly against the backdrop of a sunflower. I promised in that post from late November 2005, that I'd post a few other photos of the trip once in a while. The photos have been sitting in the folder on the server but haven't been linked up yet.

So for part 2 I provide an image of the Butterfly Garden, which is about half-way up the Gardens. It's still quite the hike {as you can see from the mirroring hills in the distance}, but on that particular "Indian Summer" day in November, the flowers were beautiful in the late afternoon and the butterflies were dancing from plant to plant.

check the extended entry for the photo of the view from the KFBG Butterfly Garden from November 2005 {and you thought of Hong Kong as an urban concrete jungle}


Continue reading "Kadoorie Farms And Botanical Gardens II"

So for Mother's Day the wife and I brought her apoh (mother's mother) to the Hong Kong Museum of History. Updating pt. 1 I did find a replica of the order banishing "Sun Yat Sin" from Hong Kong for actions against "the Manchus" that might affect the stability of Hong Kong. It's upstairs, upstairs in a little single display case devoted to Hong Kong's involvement in the 1911 Revolution. Compare this to the large display in the entrance hall on Sun Yat Sen that does not mention this action by the Hong Kong government.

The bonus for the day was the discovery on Friday of four earthen pots in a drainage excavation 2 meters down in Mongkok. The pots date from the Jin Dynasty (AD 265-419) and are in amazing condition (in one piece and you can spot a little glazing on one and sea sand in one of the cooking vessels... yes, Mongkok used to be by Victoria Harbour.) A woman from Ming Pao, one of the local Chinese language papers, asked if I spoke English and then asked me a few questions about the pots. No idea if it will end up in print.

It was good to go to the history museum with apoh. She was born in 1926 and moved by herself to Hong Kong in 1940 at the age of 14 from a farming village in Guangdong. She snuck out of Hong Kong back to Guangdong after the Japanese occupation and returned back to Hong Kong after the Japanese defeat.

We skipped the first few sections of the musuem on pre-historic Hong Kong to move to the culture displays. It was fun to see the look on her eyes as she saw the Farm House and explained to us what each item was used for. The foot-powered rice huller. The wood-fired stove. The corn husk rain coats. How men would sleep in the lofts and women below, because men weren't supposed to rest beneath women. Then came the wedding display and she pointed out the formalised engagement letters and pre-marriage exchanges between family parents and the style of wedding clothes she used. She said she still has her wedding dress somewhere at home, which is surprising considering how little space Hong Kong homes have, hers included. Then we saw the Cantonese Opera display and some of the religious festival displays. This brought to my attention how the English and Cantonese naming of a place can be quite different. Tin Hau's birthday is tomorrow, so we paid a lot of attention to the old photos of the largest Tin Hau temple in Hong Kong. It's located on the sea coast (makes sense for the goddess of the sea) in the New Territories. The English name for the spot is Joss House Bay. ("joss" means something like luck and the incense burned in a temple are called "joss sticks" in English, so I guess the temple where joss sticks were burned might be thought of as a "joss house".) The Cantonese name for the spot is "dai miu wan" which translates to English as "big temple bay".

The next display that got a big reaction out of apoh was on the 3 years and 8 months of Japanese occupation. The sound of the air raid sirens brought a lot of emotion to her face. When she saw the photo of Japanese soldiers riding the bus with Hong Kongers, she pointed to the Kempetei soldier and not the Japanese naval officer. The Kempetei were the much hated Japanese secret police, who were responsible for a lot of the torture and mayhem of both locals and Allied citizens in Hong Kong. She told of putting mud on her face to look ugly (the anti-makeup) to avoid being taken by Japanese soldiers. (Rape was the usual reason for taking women.) History is much more interesting, when you have someone who was there to comment on the events.

The final surprise of the afternoon came at the very end. There is a large photo of the 1997 Handover Ceremony hanging on a wall. All of the key players standing in a row on the platform. Apoh pointed to Jiang Zemin, standing between Li Peng and Prince Charles, and got a scowl on her face. I've never heard her comment on contemporary politics, so the finger pointing came as a bit of a shock and the image will stick with me. Sometimes it's the little things and in this case, it's something that reinforces my own impressions and feelings.

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So the wife and I got up early on Saturday to pick up our travel tickets. After the mission was done, we drew a blank on what to do for the rest of the day. I suggested the Museum of History and we ended up spending close to 5 hours there. I love history and historiography. And the museum does make a unique example of historiography.

For example the museum does mention that the Chinese partisans fighting guerilla skirmishes in the New Territories during the Japanese occupation were Communist and mentions that Dr. Sun Yat Sen lived in exile for 16 years, but does not mention that the Hong Kong government exiled him or that this was done under pressure from the mainland authorities in Canton for provoking civil instability.

We spent a lot of time commenting and joking in the Punti cultural section. Punti = Cantonese. My wife has a few unkind words for the traditions celebrating births of boys in the clan, not that births aren't to be celebrated, but that girls should be celebrated too. And we joked about the display of marriage paraphenalia. All of the old engagement letters and negotiations and banquet menus and wedding dowry registers and the wedding dresses. She told me that her brides maids wanted to see me in the traditional Punti male wedding clothes, so they could laugh at me. I wished I could have seen her brides maid carrying her on her back.

Speaking of weddings... I'm working on scanning the 10th of 14 rolls, so those new online photo galleries will be up real soon.

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