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May 30, 2012
Last week a Canadian friend came to Hong Kong for business and was wondering if we would fancy pigeon dinner in Tai Wai. He was reminiscing about crispy roast pigeon which he had the last time he visited Hong Kong back in 1998. Since he could not remember the name of the restaurant, I checked the website of Open Rice and figured we should be going to the Lung Wah Hotel in Sha Tin.
Renowned for its pigeon dishes, the Lung Wah is a restaurant that sits on a hill in Sha Tin. It has a history of more than half a century and although it is no longer a hotel, its name has not changed. According to their website, pigeon meat is not only delicious, it is also very nutritious. Their crispy roast pigeon (see pic) and pigeon egg dish that we ordered were indeed very tasty. Along with the pigeons, you get plastic gloves to prevent your hands from getting oily. We ordered three pigeons and that was quite plenty besides the soup, beancurd and vegetables that we had.
So if you have time to come out to the New Territories, this place is worth a visit. Their website is the Lung Wah Hotel.
Written by: Audrey
July 13, 2011
Several Chinese soap series are broadcast on local television in Hong Kong daily. Many are dramatic stories about deceit, jealousy and revenge which ultimately lead to fighting, dying and crying but in some rare cases a series is said to be relatively realistic, in that it reflects life in Hong Kong. Currently on every night is Zhenxiang 真相 or ‘The Other Truth’ which they say is not too far from the true situation in the court room.
During the episodes last week for example, there was a case where a Chinese woman accused a man of Indian descent of rape. From the presentation of the case and the discussions by the jurors there was a clear bias against the young man. Eventually, however, the jurors decided there was not enough evidence to put him behind bars (innocent until proven guilty) and the lawyer later discovered to her shock that the Chinese woman had lied.
This case of racial discrimination against Indians is beyond doubt based on real experience in Hong Kong society. By eventually showing that the Indian man was innocent, this series gives the moral message that good citizens should not judge by appearance and that racial discrimination is wrong. For someone who wants to know more about Hong Kong society through the eyes of the local people, watching this series at home can be an option.
Written by: Audrey
January 26, 2011
For one of my upcoming classes I was rereading Lu Xun’s short story ‘New Year’s Sacrifice’. A very unsettling story. But it does describe the Chinese New Year’s rituals and taboos. And it does show the skills of the author. The story—in which a poor widow tries to make a living but eventually is driven to suicide—is said to show the failure of traditional Confucian values, and at the same time it shows that the narrator—educated in modern western thought—was unable to offer any help.
As Julia Lovell indicates in the introduction to her translation of Lu Xun’s complete fiction: ‘In his movement between irony, despair and hope, and with his talent for diagnosis but refusal to prescribe, he engineered a meditation on the ethics of reading and writing—and laid bare the dilemmas of China’s modern literature.’ (xxv)
It seems to me that many of the Chinese customs still apply but people nowadays are much more aware of their cultural heritage and don’t necessarily look at traditional values as something negative. Either way, it is important to read these works and I am definitely planning to reread some more of Lu Xun’s stories over the Chinese New Year break.
Written by: Audrey
November 25, 2010
Last week I bought a copy of Stephen Hawking’s new title The Grand Design—even though normally I do not read the genre, mainly because it goes far beyond my capacity and imagination. The book starts with how humanity seeks answers to questions such as ‘How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator?’ etc. And then he says: ‘Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.’ (p. 5)
The book has some good examples to make it accessible for the general reader, e.g. chapter three ‘What is reality?’ starts with an anecdote of how fish bowls with a curved rim were banned somewhere in Italy. The fish would have a distorted view of reality. But would they? And how would they know what is the true picture? How do WE know?
Hawking argues that ‘Model-dependent realism applies not only to scientific models but also to the conscious and subconscious mental models we all create in order to interpret and understand the everyday world. There is no way to remove the observer—us—from our perception of the world, which is created through our sensory processing and through the way we think and reason. Our perception—and hence the observations upon which our theories are based—is not direct, but rather shaped by a kind of lens, the interpretive structure of our human brains. (p. 46)
In relation to this, the model may actually also apply to our perception of culture, our interpretation of our cultural heritage. Through our own cultural background (the lens) we have our own perception of the world and that is how we become aware of our (self) identity.
Written by: Audrey
October 8, 2010
The other day when I took the train, a huge suitcase tumbled half out on the platform. In spite of the obstruction, passengers boarded and alighted as if they had seen nothing.
Apparently the owner was not aware of what had happened or surely he would have come rushing out to pull his belongings back inside. As part of the boarding crowd I decided in a split second to go with the flow.
Perhaps someone should have offered to pull the suitcase up. Or were all afraid to touch somebody else’s belongings or did it look way too heavy to lift? Is it human nature or part of local culture?
Fortunately, the platform supervisor was nearby and detected the object obstructing the doors from closing. He walked calmly over, pushed the thing back inside the compartment and went back in position to blow his whistle and allow the train depart.
Written by: Audrey
August 17, 2010
In an attempt to get away from Hong Kong, we spent the weekend in Shenzhen. Although it is just across the border, it does make for a nice change in terms of space, mentality and environment.
Once on the mainland, an absolute must is Shucheng ‘Book City’. Bookstores in Hong Kong can hardly be compared with those in Taiwan and the PRC. With a few exceptions, bookstores in Hong Kong are either those pretending to be a bookstore selling more stationery than books, or those hiding somewhere on the eighth floor of a building.
Some say it is the lack of space in Hong Kong, both for the bookstores to display books on the shelves as well as for booklovers to store their purchases at home. But is it also not an indicator of the reading habit of the local people?
But space is not an issue in mainland China, and so the bookstores there are huge. People are not only buying inexpensive copies, many customers also read in the stores, spread along the corridors and sitting on the stairs. This display of concentrated reading seems quite exceptional.
Written by: Audrey
February 23, 2010
With a few exceptions most sinologists enjoy a trip to China and immerse themselves in the Chinese culture and surroundings. Last month the visiting professor from Leiden mentioned to me how he was taking in the Chineseness of Hong Kong, from the fashion of the students to the art of Kunqu opera. He also enjoyed going to Chinese restaurants, not only because the food tastes so good, but the entire ambience, the smell, the way the food is served, the waiters, the venue. He said he misses it when he is back home in The Netherlands. Although I am part of it every day, living in Hong Kong, I too can be much aware of Chinese culture, last week for instance, I was sitting at a typical local cafe they call ‘cha canting’ in Nan Shan Cun, just a short walking distance from campus, but quite a different world from CityU and Festival Walk, no foreigners about and everything Chinese. With the menu in Chinese and waiters not speaking English, it is possible to thoroughly absorb the local atmosphere. With most Chinese people assuming you (as a Laowai) do not understand Chinese, they usually continue their conversation and this allows for full appreciation of whatever is going on. Which reminds me of a friend of mine who told me an anecdote. He was sitting on a bench in the park one day feeling a little sleepy and when he closed his eyes he heard a passerby say in Chinese ‘Gee, he looks tired,’ and the other said ‘Yeah, must be jet lag!’
Written by: Audrey
February 3, 2010
This morning I was travelling on the train and witnessed a quarrel over a seat. The funny thing was that the man was a foreigner (Gwai Lo) and the woman a local Chinese (See Lai) and each in their own language was angrily muttering curses. Though their languages were different there was no doubt about the gist of the complaints. The Gwai Lo was complaining in English that the woman unrightfully claimed the empty seat on which he had thrown his bag to let his girlfriend sit. The See Lai was voicing her indignation at his claiming the seat with his bag in Cantonese and she then landed in the seat anyhow (the Gwai Lo quickly pulling his bag away). So the girlfriend had no choice but occupy a seat opposite of the Gwai Lo, while she was repeatedly crying out ‘shut up’, also annoyed with the See Lai.
In situations like this, the tone of the voice, the gestures and the harping on tell all. There is no need for a common language to understand each other. However, there was also no way to solve the problem, not that they had any intention to do so. The bickering went on for a couple of stations till eventually the Gwai Lo got so upset that he got to his feet again (with his girlfriend at his heels) and remained standing near the exit until he arrived at his destination. Were they having a bad day? Or are these clear signs of cultural differences?
Written by: Audrey
April 15, 2009
Since the launch of the Pulse in December, there has been quite a number of friends from Russian who posted their observations and remarks on this blog, so I would like to write a message of thanks to friends from another shore! I’ve to admit that I do not read Russian, so I’ve to rely on on-line translation services or friends to translate them for me, and thus occasionally for the readers. Yet despite this language differences, it’s no barrier for any exchange of views and ideas.
While this is a short message to say hi to all of you, it’s also meant to say that we from Hong Kong also would like to hear from you all your views and observations on Chinese culture, history or any aspect of which you’re interested in. And we look forward to hearing from you!
Written by: hiuylee
February 10, 2009
Once upon a time in another world, there lived an Italian and a Chinese. The two lived in the same house in a foreign city. Every morning, the Italian ate a breakfast cold and sweet, while the Chinese, hot and savory. In the evening, they saw in their meals more similarities, especially when one ate spaghetti and the other, miantiao, or when they had ravioli and jiaozi. Although neither of them was ever particularly good at cooking, one day they decided to prepare dinner together.
The Chinese asked, “So would you want to have something Italian?”
The Italian replied, “No, I’m fine with anything. Perhaps you would want something Chinese?”
The Chinese answered, “I’m ok with anything. I just want to cook something cheap and fast because I need to work tonight.”
The Italian agreed, “I have to study, too. Let’s have something that cost the least and is the easiest to cook.”
“So what should we have tonight?” Both pondered for 5 seconds, and…voila !
The Chinese shouted, “spaghetti!” – She had in her mind canned spaghetti with tomato sauce.
While the Italian yelled, “fried rice!” – He had in his mind microwave fried rice.
The two friends stared at each other, as if both have heard the most unimaginable answer.
That evening, they ordered fries and hamburgers from a restaurant.
With fastfood, they both lived happily ever after.
At last, the Italian and the Chinese were enjoying their dinner.
The Italian told the Chinese, “You know I was quite surprised to hear you actually think making spaghetti could be cheap. It takes parmesan cheese and some very fresh tomatoes if one wants to cook spaghetti properly. It requires real cooking skills if one wants the spaghetti al dente !”
The Chinese replied, “And you think it makes sense to say cooking fried rice could be fast? To make a good bowl of fried rice one must use cooked rice that has been dehydrated overnight to ensure the fried grains won’t stick to each other. Also, one needs a wok to fry rice!”
The two friends looked at each other, as if both have heard an assertion that is unheard of.
….. both murmured, “What have I been eating when I thought I was having a Chinese/Italian meal….?”
(Based on the true story of Leonardo Bonfanti and Szenga Lau.)
Written by: SzengaOlder Posts »