- Chasing The Ghost of Suzie Wong
The image of Suzie Wong on the Star Ferry in her elegant cheongsam is one of the most iconic images of mid-twentieth century Hong Kong. It is also one of the most troubling. For everything about Suzie and her “world” is false, conjured up by Richard Mason, a British RAF intelligence officer turned writer, living in Hong Kong in the 1950s. And yet the book that was written (and the movie made) about her refuses to leave us. She’s stuck somehow in our collective consciousness as the 2.5 Million Google hits would attest. Is Suzie an empowered young woman or a hapless victim? Is she an example of plucky Cold War Hong Kong or a shameful reminder of the poverty and turmoil of its past. The debate, I’m sure, will rage on (and on) but in the meantime, I think it’s helpful to visit the places that evoke Suzie. The Fenwick Pier, Spring Garden Lane / 春園街, Luk Kwok Hotel 六國飯店 and other locations in and around Wan Chai. These places and the stories about them can help us to dissect the myth and come to terms with why Suzie is still with us today. Perhaps in walking the same Wan Chai streets, we’ll find what it is about her and her story that we love or love to hate so much. Homework: Yes, that’s right, homework. I really feel that if you don’t AT LEAST watch the original movie “The World of Suzie Wong” you’re not going to get the most out of this event. There are many ways both legal and illegal to watch the film. I’ll leave it to you. However, I'll include a link to amazon.com’s streaming service where you can watch it for a couple of bucks. While you’re there you can read the book on the Kindle platform. Once you’re done with that you can check out fellow Hong Kong Sacred Spaces member Sheridan Prasso’s “Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, and Our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient” An excellent primer of this sprawling topic. I also strongly recommend the autobiographical documentary “To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen’s Journey”. A film highlighting Nancy Kwan’s important role in Chinese and Asian American Cinema. For a more local perspective on Suzie Wong, I can recommend the hard to find “My Name Ain’t Suzie 花街時代 ” (trailer here: https://youtu.be/pUPYuC_nCIg) directed by Angela Chan 陳安琪. Intense, a little sad but a nice comparison to WSW. Movie still from the 1960 film starring Nancy Kwan as Suzie and William Holden as Lomax.
- Tour Chungking Mansion - 重慶大廈
Ascribing personality to a building is a little melodramatic. It happens all the time especially in design and architectural publications. Yet most buildings in our everyday life can be regarded simply. They are either "good" or "bad", "ugly" or "beautiful", rarely is it any more nuanced than that. Chungking Mansions, however, might be the exception. For various reasons, the Mansions remains one of the most enigmatic places in Hong Kong. Designed as residential housing and built by the Sino-Philippine developer Jaime Chua Tiampo - 蔡天普 the Mansions were a crowd jewel of Tsim Sha Tsui in the 1960s when it was built. It had apartments, a shopping arcade, a rather famous nightclub all with pretensions to luxury before its reputation took a decidedly downward turn in the 1970s and 1980s. Through it all, the Mansions survived fires, corruption scandals, and a few police raids clinging to a low-tech, high-intensity globalized entrepreneurship that few places in the world can match. If Hong Kong is a fast city then the Chungking Mansions is its whirlwind beating heart. Hong Kong Sacred Spaces is delighted to announce a tour of the Chungking Mansions co-hosted by the Africa Center Hong Kong. The Africa Center is a group dedicated to promoting African Culture centered in Chungking Mansions. The tour will include a walk through various warrens of the Complex and a discussion about past and present residence. It might include a peek at the roof (weather permitting) Afterwards we'll be treated to a buffet lunch of West African cuisine. I can think of no better way to explore this "city within a city" and learn about its colorful past. This event costs $200 for including the tour and a buffet lunch.
- A Walk along Wong Nai Chung Gap 黃泥涌峽 Pacific War Trail
"...The island was covered by a heavy pall of smoke from fires started by air and artillery bombardment. Earlier, the Japanese Imperial Headquarters claimed that Japanese troops had landed at three points and had stormed a 1,500 foot dominating hill in the center of the island, despite strong British resistance...The report is true" The following is a transcription of a radio broadcast from December 19, 1941. The "dominating hill at the center of (Hong Kong) island" is Mount Butler 畢拿山. Between the ridges of the surrounding hills is the site known as Wong Nai Chung Gap 黃泥涌峽. One of the fiercest battles during the invasion of Hong Kong in 1941 was fought here. It's a much quieter place now of course. You’re more likely to encounter hiking families then invading armies and yet between the luxury apartments, tennis courts, and cricket clubs there is a hidden past that takes a little effort to reveal. Hong Kong Sacred Spaces has the good fortune to be invited on a walk on the Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail by Mr. Bill Lake, local historian, and senior figure in the growing community of Pacific War specialists here in Hong Kong. He'll take us along the WNCG and highlight major events that transpired there. He'll also introduce us to Jardine's Lookout 渣甸山, a remote hunting lodge once used by the Jardin Matheson 怡和輪船公司 Company to manipulate local markets during the Age of Sail. This event is open to everyone in the greater Hong Kong Sacred Spaces Community. The cost of this event is as follows: Hong Kong Sacred Spaces Society Members $50, Non-members $100. Hong Kong Sacred Spaces Society Membership is separate from Meetup and required that you complete a Membership form and pay an annual membership fee of $100. Please see http://bit.ly/2udlezN for details. This walk will not be difficult for most people; however, September can still be quite hot and humid so please remember to wear comfortable clothing and sensible shoes (no sandals or anything with firm heels). Also, insect repellent and sunscreen are also advised. Water is a must!
- Visit the "Bei Shan Tang Legacy..." Exhibition
There are arts and culture groups in Hong Kong whose prestige come not from splashy exhibitions but from quiet connoisseurship. The Bei Shan Tang / 北山堂基金 Foundation is one of them. Intimately connected with both the Chinese University of Hong Kong AND the Lee Family the Bei Shan Tang has quietly promoted Chinese Arts & Culture in a city not known, until recently, for either. The CUHK Museum has turned the tables so to speak and is highlighting some of its pieces of Chinese Painting amassed by the Foundation in hopes of highlighting the amazing legacy of this group. From the University's website: " Following the work on Bei Shan Tang’s generous gift of Chinese calligraphy, zisha stoneware, stele inscriptions and ink rubbings, the Art Museum of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) is presenting “The Bei Shan Tang Legacy: Chinese Painting”, which features a selection of 120 ancient Chinese paintings donated or lent to the museum by Bei Shan Tang. The selected works, displayed in two phases, showcase the fine artistry and diverse styles of Chinese painting since the Song and Yuan dynasties. Divided into ten sections, including landscapes, bird-and-flower, religion, portraits, lady figures, Yangzhou, Guangdong, and works of women painters, the exhibits give full play to the exquisite crafts and designs of individual artists, as well as their times and artistic environments. Masterpieces like Tao Xuan’s (fl. 14th century) Pavilion against Distant Mountains, Wen Boren’s (1502–1575) River and Mountains in Mist, Dong Qichang’s (1555–1636) Landscapes after Various Masters, Gong Xian’s (1618–1689) Swallow Rock, Shitao’s (1642–1707) Fruits and Flowers in the Bei Shan Tang collection are highlighted, along with such rare gems as Shepherd Boy (attributed to Qi Xu, ca. 11th century), Lin Liang’s (ca. 1436–ca. 1487) Birds on a Pine Tree, and Wang Shizhen Composing Poems and Admiring Plum Blossoms (anon.) that are shown in public for the very first time. Together with the catalogue penned jointly by the students and teachers of the Department of Fine Arts, CUHK, this exhibition hopes to underscore the discerning taste and immense breadth of the Bei Shan Tang collection and enrich our insights into the history of Chinese painting. " Come along with Hong Kong Sacred Spaces for this FREE event which includes a docent lead tour in English and Chinese.