Saturday, 30 October 2010

關羽和赤兔馬: General Kwan and his horse

I am currently discovering the Chinese literary epic, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, through the excellent and dramatic Mainland TV series adaptation. (although I suspect that these excellent and dramatic qualities are largely due to the original book's intricate and engaging plot than the talents of the series' screenwriters.)

As the story unfolds, I am learning about the historical and literary origins of the mythical Guan Yu, a second century Chinese general serving under Liu Bei, one of the story's central characters. Guan Yu is famous for his superhuman loyalty to Liu Bei. This character trait has led him to be revered by gangsters and (ironically) policemen in temples and shrines dedicated to him around Hong Kong.

In a recent episode, Guan Yu was offered an equally legendary horse, Red Hare, by the principal villain, Cao Cao. This horse stands outside the Guan Yu shrine at the very unique "six temple temple" in Shau Kei Wan. Although I am little more than a quarter of the way through the story, so cannot know for sure, the presence of this life-size painted statue suggests that the horse is going to have an important role to play in the story.
Right now, I don't dare to research more about the Romance of the Three Kingdoms or its characters for fear of spoiling my enjoyment! You can see another statue of General Kwan here.

Monday, 25 October 2010


Chinese characters are pictures, and sometimes, you don't have to be able to read Chinese to know what they mean.
These two, for example, are opposites that we are all familiar with:

Can you guess what they mean?
Thank you Sasha for showing me these.

Friday, 22 October 2010


Sunsets in this city are usually over in a matter of minutes, but what they lack in length they make up in intensity. Depending on the weather conditions, the streets can be flooded with eerie yellow, orange or pink light, such as as this evening.
For a few moments, it's a little bit like living on another planet.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Super Typhoon Catfish

As The Strongest Typhoon in the History of Hong Hong (local newspaper headline) approaches, now is an apt time to explain Hong Kong's curious Typhoon warning system.

This evening, as I returned home, the porter of my building had blu-tacked the customary warning next to the lift.

No, my porter does not have an imaginative vocabulary, nor is he persuaded that he is the captain of the boat. In fact nothing is amiss here: in Hong Kong, weather warnings are not issued or announced, they are hoisted. Perhaps there is a little man at the Observatory with a flagpole and a pulley mechanism.

Typhoon Megi, meaning 'catfish' is a 'super typhoon', the strongest category of storm, with wind speeds of up to 185km. As it approaches, the Observatory will issue further signals. What this means is that most urbanites will be keenly watching for the signal to change to 3, and then 8, at which point we are all allowed to leave the office (or not turn up, depending on the time of day). The signal can go up to 10 for very strong winds. (Tape up your windows). Ironically, Hong Kong's strongest every typhoon looks set to land on Saturday. Damn!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Patio watch

In this city, where most people live piled up one on top of the other, it is a rare privilege to have one's own private outdoor space.
My neighbours seem to make the most of theirs.

Sunday morning run-around:
 Saturday is wash-the-dog day:

Friday, 15 October 2010

Pumpkins and surprises

An enthusiastic hairdresser's salon on my way to work has decorated its window with a string of plastic pumpkin lights in the run up to Halloween. I think Chinese lanterns look a bit like pumpkins, albeit somewhat more aesthetically pleasing (to my unjaded western eye). There was something eerie about them in my photographs, too:

Against a startlingly pink sky, on Cheung Chau, on Christmas day...

...and another string at the Yuen Yuen institute. Is that a street in Paris at the end of the corridor? It looks like a deleted scene from Inception - a dreamlike juxtaposition of two worlds...

Monday, 11 October 2010

Service seats

In Quarry Bay, where I live, chairs and other forms of seating appear to be more than obliging.

The cardboard sign on these chairs is offering (very good value) haircuts on a pedestrian bridge. I suppose setting up in this location cuts overheads... (ho ho) although I'm not sure how I'd feel about clumps of hair dropping on me as I walk on the pavement below. There was no one around, but I didn't dare to sit down, in case I summoned something.
Further along my walk, I found this bench offering a rudimentary take on those airport massage loungers.
I sat down, but no mechanical hands popped out. Shame.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Marketing, market-style

In order to sell your produce, exaggeration knows no bounds.

Tesco and Asda seriously need to rethink their strategies...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


Autumn has arrived! I can be categorical because yesterday my bare knees experienced goosebumps which were triggered by phenomena other than an overzealous cinema air-conditioning policy. The thermometer stayed below 25 degrees today and caused the socks to come out. It'll be the mittens next!

Let me quickly publish some pretty butterfly pictures before they all flutter off into hibernation (or possibly die) as the Hong Kong deep freeze approaches.