Thursday, November 4, 2010

Updated Archive Link to Alice Poon Blog

Here is an updated archive link to Alice Poon Blog at Asia Sentinel:-

http://alicepoon.asiasentinel.com

The following are blog posts written since the last update:-

- An Interview Transcript (地產霸權)

- An "Inflated" Policy Address (Hong Kong Current Events)

- Political or Not Political (China Current Events)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Du Mu's Poems & Why I Like Su Shi




Prompted by a primary school mate who loves Chinese poetry, I came to learn about (or anew) the works of Tang poet Du Mu (杜牧), who was known as much for his amours and philandering habit as for his prodigious literary talent.

Since then, I have developed a keener interest in his poems. As much as I like the light-hearted, romanticist and gallant style of his poetry, he has not surpassed, although he has almost equaled, Su Shi (蘇軾), on my list of top favorites. I must confess, though, that I am still just a dabbler, if not neophyte, in Chinese poetry appreciation.

Inspired by a blogger over at HKEJ’s discussion forum, Wong Wang Fat (黃宏發), former Legislator Council president, who has been posting his English translations of Chinese poetry on the forum and who has recently posted a rendition of Du Mu’s “Given in Parting II” (“贈別: 其二”), I’ve come up with my own rendition of this sentimental, guilt-ridden poem, which was written when the poet had to bid farewell to one of his lovers. In fact, another of his poems that has similar tone and feelings is “Conveying Sentiments” (“).  I’ve only read part of Du Mu’s collection of poems, and the one I like best is “Autumn Eve” (“”), of which I’ve also done a rendition below.

Original of “Given in Parting II” (“贈別: 其二”) :-

多情卻是總無,
唯覺樽前笑不成。
蠟燭有心還惜別,
替人垂淚到天明。

My Rendition:-

My heart enslaved, yet heartless I appear.
Chalice emptied, but cheer eludes me, I fear.
O’er our parting the kind candle grieves,
Weeping till the dawn is near.

Original of “Autumn Eve” (“秋夕”):-

銀燭秋光冷畫屏,
輕羅小扇撲流螢。
天階夜色涼如水,
臥看牽牛織女星。

My Rendition:-

On the cold screen a candle paints the autumn light;
Silk fan in hand, fireflies she chases in pure delight.
Cold stone steps, under a dark chilly sky,
Lying down, watching the stars in pairs, she turns restless.
 
[Note: A lonely maiden-in-waiting in the imperial court inspired the poet to write this poem on a chilly autumn night.]


Why I Like Su Shi:



If I were to pick my idol Chinese poet, it would have to be Su Shi (蘇軾) of the Song dynasty (宋朝).

I’ve lately been reading “Chinese History Revisited” (“中國文明的反思”) by Xiao Jiansheng (蕭建生), in which the author, among other things, gives high praises to the Song dynasty for its diverse, liberal and eclectic collection of literature and works of art. The relatively stable and prosperous Northern Song era (北宋時代) under the rule of several benevolent emperors, during which intellectuals and scholars were able to enjoy a great deal of respect and creative freedom, provided a nurturing background for great literary talents like Su Shi and others. Six of the eight great scholars of classical literature of the Song and Tang dynasty (唐宋八大家) were from the Song dynasty. Su Shi, his father 蘇洵 and his brother 蘇徹 were among the six.

From a cursory study of Su Shi’s life history, it is hard not to be moved by his intoxicating love for his first wife (his emotions were nakedly displayed in his commemorative and elegiac song lyrics 江城子, which was written on the tenth anniversary of her death). Some contemporary critics are quick to point out that when he wrote the elegy, he had already been living with his concubine 朝雲 for a few years, thus it showed that he was not that loyal to his wife 王弗. To me, such criticism seems to be applying present-day mores to the ancient times, during which it was the social norm for a widower (even for a man whose wife was alive and well) to take on a concubine. Besides, why should the fact that he had a concubine be a cause for people to doubt his true and lingering emotions for the woman he had once loved with all his heart? On the other hand, neither does writing the elegy mean that he did not love his concubine. To the contrary, as we can see from another equally heart-breaking poem that he wrote after he subsequently lost his concubine to sickness: 悼朝雲詩. Indeed, I would say that Su Shi was an honest man who had no qualms about expressing his true emotions, including the great pains that he suffered from the loss of loved ones. It takes a man of great courage to lay bare his own vulnerability and his inner soul, even if on paper.

Apart from his literary writing skills, the poet was known for his free-mindedness, straight talking ways, patriotic and principled behavior as a court official, although his officialdom career was marked by quite a number of set-backs as a result of his audacity in speaking his own mind. In the early part of his career, he was opposed to the aggressive reform agenda of the prime minister Wang Anshi (王安石), which he considered as too rash, as he thought that gradual reform would have a better chance of success. In the latter part, when Wang’s reform proposals were all struck down by his successor Sima Guang (司馬光), Su Shi was not reticent either about his disapproval of the latter’s radical negation.

The following poem best sums up the tribulations of his career life. The poem, though self-mocking, has no bitterness in tone. He talked of his heart being numb like a log, and that he was feeling aimless like an unanchored boat. Then he named the three places where he was demoted to at different times of his life and said those places painted his entire career.

心似已灰之木, 身如不繫之舟。
問汝平生功業, 黃州、惠州、儋州。

These verses from two different poems show that Su Shi was an inward-looking person and was always aware of his own uncompromising character and unconventional leanings:-

我本麋鹿性, 諒非服轅姿

嗟我本狂直, 早為世所捐

As for Su Shi’s style of writing, the following excerpt from a letter written by him to his brother gives a description of how he viewed his own writing:-

吾文如萬斛泉源, 不擇地皆可出, 在平地滔滔汨汨, 雖一日十里無難。及其與山石曲折, 隨物賦形, 而不可自知也。所可知者, 常行於所當行, 止於所不可不止, 如是而已矣。其他雖吾亦不能知也。

(A translation found on the internet):-

“My style is like a spring of inexhaustible water which bubbles and overflows where it lists, no matter where. Running its course through the plains, it may glide along at the speed of a thousand li a day. When it threads its way through cliffs and mountains, one never knows beforehand what size it would assume to conform with these obstacles – it flows where it must flow and stops where it must stop.”

The following is one of my favorite poems 東欄梨花 by Su Shi and my own English rendition:-

The Original “東欄梨花” (“Pear Blossoms by the East Fence”):-

梨花淡白柳深青,
柳絮飛時花滿城。
惆悵東欄一株雪,
人生看得幾清明?

My Translation:-

Pallid pear blossoms afloat, in a deep green sea of willow.
Petals waltzing with catkins in mid-air, all over blown.
By the east fence stands this one sad tree white as snow.
Of life, how clearly can we see, in reality?



Thursday, September 2, 2010

Updated Archive Link to Alice Poon Blog

Here's the updated archive link:-

http://alicepoon.asiasentinel.com

The following are blog posts written since the last update:-

- Anti-Anti-Speculation Action (Hong Kong Current Events)

- Book Promotion Trip (地產霸權)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Updated Archive Link to Alice Poon Blog

Here is an updated archive link to the Alice Poon Blog at Asia Sentinel:-

http://alicepoon.asiasentinel.com

The following are blog posts written since the last update:-

- Book About Land and Power in Hong Kong (Culture)

- My Two Cents on Politics (Hong Kong Current Events)

- Han Han's First Magazine "Solo Choir" (China Current Events)

- The Marginalized Second Generation Peasants (China Current Events)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Remembering June 4th

This post is to share a video clip of the June 4th 1989 tragedy and background history and to repost the song “Flower of Freedom” to commemorate those who needlessly perished for an ideal on that day, in the hands of their own countrymen.

“Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it,” Michel de Montaigne once said. Those who witnessed the tragedy would know what he meant.

For those who did not witness it, here is a video clip produced by the HK Professional Teachers’ Union of the June 4th 1989 tragedy and background history:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvBWU-AlLso


The unforgettable song “Flower of Freedom”:-

忘不了的, 年月也不會蠶蝕
心中深處始終也記憶那年那夕
曾經痛惜, 年月裡轉化為力
一點真理, 一個理想永遠地尋覓

We cannot forget, nor will time wear away our memory;
Deep in our heart we always recall that day in that year.
We felt the pain, but time has turned it into strength.
One bit of truth and one ideal are what we will forever seek.

悠悠長長繼續前航不懂去驚怕
荊荊棘棘通通斬去不必多看它
浮浮沉沉昨日人群雖不說一話
不想清楚分析太多真心抑意假

We continue on a long long journey but we know no fear.
We will cut away all hindering thorns, not minding them one bit.
People of yesterday went through thick and thin in silence;
They didn’t want to hear more reasoning, be it true or unreal.

但有一個夢, 不會死, 記著吧
無論雨怎麼打, 自由仍是會開花
但有一個夢, 不會死, 記著吧
來自你我的心, 記著吧

But there is a dream that will not die - remember.
No matter how hard it rains, freedom will still bloom,
But there is a dream that will not die – remember.
It comes from your heart and mine – remember.

忘不了的, 留下了不死意識
深深相信始終會變真某年某夕
如此訊息, 仍賴你跟我全力
加一把勁, 將這理想繼續在尋覓

We cannot forget, as has prevailed our undying belief.
We deeply trust some day it will finally turn real.
This message, depends on you and me,
Doing our best, to keep searching for that ideal.

悠悠長長繼續前航不懂去驚怕
荊荊棘棘通通斬去不必多看它
浮浮沉沉昨日人群雖不說一話
不想清楚分析太多真心抑意假

We continue on a long long journey but we know no fear.
We will cut away all hindering thorns, not minding them one bit.
People of yesterday went through thick and thin in silence;
They didn’t want to hear more reasoning, be it true or unreal.

但有一個夢, 不會死, 記著吧
無論雨怎麼打, 自由仍是會開花
但有一個夢, 不會死, 記著吧
來自你我的心, 記著吧

But there is a dream that will not die - remember.
No matter how hard it rains, freedom will still bloom,
But there is a dream that will not die – remember.
It comes from your heart and mine – remember.

但有一個夢, 不會死, 記著吧
無論雨怎麼打, 自由仍是會開花
但有一個夢, 不會死, 記著吧
來自你我的心, 記著吧

But there is a dream that will not die - remember.
No matter how hard it rains, freedom will still bloom,
But there is a dream that will not die – remember.
It comes from your heart and mine – remember.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Updated Archive Link to the Alice Poon Blog

Here is an updated archive link to the Alice Poon Blog at Asia Sentinel:-

http://alicepoon.asiasentinel.com

The following are blog posts written since the last update:-

- Compassion in the Past Tense (Hong Kong's Past)

- Flip Side of China's Shopping Spree (China Current Events)

- A Hyperbole (Hong Kong Current Events)

- Traditional Media's Defection (Hong Kong Current Events)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Updated Archive Link to Alice Poon Blog

Here is an updated archive link to the Alice Poon Blog at Asia Sentinel:-

http://alicepoon.asiasentinel.com

These are blog posts written since the last update:-

- Mind Over Money (U.S. Economy)

- Random Note on Shanghai (Travel)

- Saving Agricultural Lands (Hong Kong Current Events)

- On Literature (Culture)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Updated Archive Link to the Alice Poon Blog

Here's the updated archive link to the Alice Poon Blog at Asia Sentinel:-

http://alicepoon.asiasentinel.com

These are blog posts written since the last update:-

- Han Han's View on Google's Exit (China Current Events)

- A Talk on "Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong" (Hong Kong Culture)

- Feminists Are Only Human (Civic Rights)

- Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Home (Hong Kong Current Events)

- Photos That Paint An Era (Hong Kong's Past)

- We Still Believe in Our Future (Civic Rights)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Talk on my book "Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong"

I've been informed that 序言書室 (HKReaders), a local bookstore operated by a group of young people who aspire to promote reading culture in Hong Kong, has organized a talk on my book "Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong". Details of the talk are as follows:-

「左翼21」主辦:左翼星期四
反自由市場的地產財閥
日期:4月15日(星期四)
時間:晚上8時至10時
地點:序言書室(旺角西洋菜南街68號7樓)
講者:雷永錫(在職社會學人/生)、易汶健(中文大學社會學系研究生)

不難發覺,地產財團壟斷香港土地發展。而市民的日常生活,從超級市場買餸以至商場購物,由家用的電力、煤氣以至代步的巴士、渡輪,每個環節都被這些財團牢牢控制。曾在地產集團任職高層多年的Alice Poon 在《Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong》一書中,以自由市場的立場批判港式地產商主導的經濟,猶如封建時代的生產邏輯;並揭露地產財伐如何在政府的「暗合」下,透過「合法」手段吞拼各個市場環節,建立龐大的地產王國,「統治」香港。誰說地產商是靠自己努力,白手興家?
查詢:2395 0031(序言書室)、9809 4981(林致良)

The speaker 易汶健 has recently done a review in Chinese of my book. The link to the book review is here:

http://www.inmediahk.net/node/1006211

Here's the link to the bookstore's website:

http://www.hkreaders.com/?page_id=13

Anyone who is interested in attending the talk is welcome to contact the bookstore direct to book seats.

I'm flattered and humbled by the operators of HKReaders having shown such an interest in my book. I hope the talk will generate more discussion and debate among young people in Hong Kong on the current land and housing quandary, and by extension, the existing economic, social and political impasse. After all, it is up to them to shape the future of the SAR and to instigate much needed progressive changes.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Updated Archive Link

Here is an updated archive link to the Alice Poon Blog at Asia Sentinel:-

http://alicepoon.asiasentinel.com

These are posts written since the last update:-

- Story of the Post-80s in the Mainland (China Current Events)

- On Soft Power (China Current Events)

- You and I Can Make A Difference (China Current Events)

- Freedom of Expression Too Precious to Throw Away (Hong Kong Current Events)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Updated Archive Link

Here's an updated archive link to the Alice Poon Blog at Asia Sentinel:-

http://alicepoon.asiasentinel.com

These are blog posts written since the last update:-

- Google's Other Battle (Social Justice)

- Uncovering Values in "Dwelling Narrowness" (Culture)

- Voices of Hong Kongers Thus Analysed (Hong Kong Current Events)

- The Post-80s from Another Angle (Hong Kong Current Events)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Updated Archive Link

Here is an updated archive link to Alice Poon's Blog at Asia Sentinel:-

http://alicepoon.asiasentinel.com

The following are blog posts written since the last update:-

- Notes on a Taipei Trip (Travel)

- Random Thoughts on Change (Hong Kong Current Events)