Saturday, 10 October 2009

Making a Living on Monkey Bars

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I spent almost half an hour watching these modern spidermen travelling from one point to another point of the bamboo scaffolding. They were actually building it which extended to the seventh floor at the time I took the pictures.

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Watching them doing the stunt is a feast to the eyes. Enjoy yourselves!

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Friday, 9 October 2009

Woody Heritage

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The post of yesterday naturally brings us to the admire the bamboo art form in this city once more. Previously, we dug into the story behind bamboo scaffoldings in some sequential posts.

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One of the way to see a city is by walking around it, especially true for a packed city like Hong Kong. When you stroll in the street here, the sighting of bamboo structures cannot be missed. They may be in the form of a ladder, platform, scaffold, wall and whatnots.

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Even better is if you run into the workers building something with the bamboo sticks. Otherwise, watching them climbing from one corner to another on the bamboo structure is simply entertaining, if I can put it this way.

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The bamboo structures are flexible, seemingly flimsy, but unyieding to strong winds. They in a way reflect an traditional aspect of the Chinese culture: modesty. This nature is still obvious in some common conversations in which the Chinese dutifully refuses to be credited for a job well done. Maybe it also has a bearing on why the Chinese will not open a gift until the giver leaves.

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The men working and carrying on with this historical craft have actually been passing on a heritage without knowing it. They should collectively been given a recognition in public.

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Looking at the maze-like bamboo scaffolding, I can't help marvelling at the wits of those who invent and improve it.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Building a Bamboo Stage

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The Sheng Gong opera is not the only occasion when a bamboo-built stage is needed.  A lot many traditional Chinese folk festivals feature similar Chinese operas staged in a bamboo structure.

The bamboo-built stage is an art form that originates from years of yore.  It was lucky of us that Chris got a chance to photograph the builders making a stage and shared the photos with us.

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I dug into my photos and managed to find two photos I took in a museum.   The photos show the completed bamboo structure before being covered by galvanized zinc sheets.

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Wednesday, 7 October 2009

For Spooks' Sake

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^A two-storey papier-mache effigy of Dai Shi

All activities on the Ghost Festival celebration relate to one thing, pleasing the ghosts. One of the celebration rituals is to invite the ghosts from the Hell among which Dai Shi (literally, Big Guy) holds that highest status.

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^Sheng Po, or literally, the Deity Gown.

The Big Guy

Some folklore has it that Dai Shi is the constable of theP1020516 (Medium) inferno guarding the ghosts while others tell that he is the incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the Buddhist deity to save the sufferers. Either way, no one at the rituals will take time shilly-shallying in bribing the bigwigs of the spiritual world to keep oneself out of the hellish way on earth. That is exactly why Dai Shi makes a guest appearance on the celebration, taking burnt and food offerings.

< Another effigy, this time a ghostly horse.

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^A heavily decorated pailou

Probably the ghosts have retained some human nature of curiosity. The decorated pailou at the celebration site, as we saw yesterday, actually serve to entice the ghosts. The higher the pennants are built, the more the ghosts will be attracted; so it it believed.

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^A scene of the Sheng Gong opera

Sheng Gong Opera

To make sure that the spiritual celebrities are completely pampered, the celebration features the Chinese opera specific to the occasion. This kind of opera has a special name to it, Sheng Gong opera or literally, Deity Service opera, which befits the purpose of it. The evidence is in the front rows of seats in the makeshift bamboo-built opera house which are reserved for the ghosts.

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The playlist is restricted to the traditionally fixed selections. And there are rituals preceding and following the opera performances to show courtesy to the spiritual audience and the deity taking charge of the stage.

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At access, the ghost community can have the eating binge at the worshippers' corner where jog sticks and meat are aplenty.

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Bidding for Charity and Peace Rice

The religious origin of the Ghost Festival entails that it has a charity aspect. Unlike Christianity and its diversified denominations which dominate the religious scene in the West, the oriental religions generally concerns more about sanctification by one's own acts than by a priest.

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^Sussing out the value of the bidding items

For this reason, the celebration includes bidding for the offerings by way of which the proceeds will be used for, apart from the next Ghost Festival, meeting the needs of the poor.

The charitable aspect of the celebration is also noticed in the giveaway of rice, or Peace Rice as it is known as such. It is a good deed. However, as the Ghost Festival is held in the sultry sub-tropical summer days of Hong Kong, there have been news galore about people fainting in the queue for the rice. Unfortunately, they are mostly elderly persons. That makes me rather circumspect of the motive behind the giveaway. After all, this is a part of the Ghost Festival and the least thing lacking of in the Hell is bed space.

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^Spectators of the Sheng Gong opera

(Photos by courtesy of and copyrighted to Christopher Guy)

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Oriental Ghost Festival

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As the West has Halloween, the Chinese has a day to mark the opening of the realms of Heaven, Hell and the living. It is the Yu Lan (literally, Bowl P1020478 (Medium) Orchid) Festival, also known as Chung Yuan (literally, Middle Beginning) Festival, the Ghost Festival or the Chinese Halloween. The festival is on the 15th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar. It is a month traditionally taken as the Ghost Month among the Chinese, when ghosts and spirits of all kinds take a break from the Hell and roam among us mortals

Unlike the day of yore, festive celebrations on the day of the Ghost Festival now take on a much lesser scale in Hong Kong. The Ghost Festival first appealed to the coolies working as stevedores who were mostly from Shawtao, Luk Fung and Hoi Fung counties. For this reason, bigger whoop-de-doos for the spooks are still seen in some older areas, like the docks on western Hong Kong and the Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate II (LNII). LNII was featured in our special series months ago which P1020498 (Large)you may be interested if you missed it.

The origin of the Ghost Festival is split into the Buddhist and Taoist versions. The Taoist version has it that the Earth God descended to the earth to inspect the mortals for their deeds on the 7th month. The keen-minded people made haste to put on festivities to cheer the spiritual creatures, which later morphed into the Ghost Festival of today. For the Buddhists, the day to please ghost originates from the Buddhist story generally about a girl saving his mother among the hungry ghosts. Ancestor worship is intrinsic to the day. Simply put, the Ghost Festival is when the religious folks perform rituals to pardon the sufferings of the deceased by way of bribing the hungry ghosts.

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The most prominent feature indicating the festive celebration is none other than the gigantic pailou, or decorated archway, built on a bamboo  scaffold running the height and length of a double-decker bus. It is placed at the entrance to the venue. Decorated on it are the usual auspicious creatures to the Chinese among which bats, phoenixes and dragons are the most common. Also on the pailou are big Chinese characters saying the year, the place, the occasion and well-wishing.

P1020520 (Medium)Then there are motley pennants dancing to the summer breeze around the site under which the crowds busy themselves with watching the Chinese opera, worshipping the ghosts or bidding for the auspicious items.

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(to be continued)

(Photos by courtesy of and copyrighted to Christopher Guy)

Monday, 5 October 2009

Seriously, Compact Camera?

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Under the spotlight today is Samsung's new compact camera…er, actually, mobile phone codenamed W880.  Besides the functions a present-day cell phone is supposed to have, it sports a 12MP CCD sensor with a 3x optical zoom lens.  And look, it has a mode dial on it with M mode!  Samsung is really the rebel sabotaging the line between the two.

 

The image quality is of a decent standard, not what you would wish to replace a true camera with for sure.  But with some imagination, the phone makers can come closer in a year or two.  A sample image at the widest focal length is here, and the longest here.  The close-up sample is here.

W880 can record videos in MPEG-4, H.263, H.264, DivX and  Xvid formats.  The highest resolution is 1280 x 720 at 30 fps, which is at HD resolution.

 

A detailed preview and more samples have been posted by GSM Arena.