A Visit to the Ko Shan Cantonese Opera Theatre / 高山劇場 with Hong Kong Sacred Spaces

A Visit to the Ko Shan Cantonese Opera Theatre / 高山劇場 with Hong Kong Sacred Spaces

I’ve been trying to learn about Cantonese Opera / 粵劇 ever since I moved to Hong Kong. Of all the artistic endeavors that are unique to South China, none evokes such a strong opinion. Cantonese Opera is often overshadowed by its aristocratic Beijing /京剧 cousin or the “Grande Dame” of Chinese Opera Kunqu 崑曲.  Cantonese Opera with its fantastical makeup and acrobatics can seem to some garish and unrefined. Yet what is less controversial about it is its importance to Cantonese Society itself. It is the glue that connects the past to modern life. It does this through festivals, in theatres performances, on late night television and over the crackle of an old speaker during a lonely late-night taxi ride through Wan Chai. The lamentations of the Faa Daan / 花旦 (young female character) and the fierce roar of the Mou Sang / 武生 (warrior) are, I’m told, the heart and soul of Guangdong.

The Ko Shan Theatre and the New Wing Cantonese Opera Education and Information Centre remains one of this City’s premier Cantonese Opera performance spaces.

If you’re in Hong Kong why not come along with Hong Kong Sacred Spaces on Saturday 12 May 2018 at 1:45 PM in the afternoon for a FREE English tour of the Ko Shan Theatre and the Centre. You’ll surely learn more about Cantonese Opera and who knows, you might even (heaven forbid) catch the Opera Bug!

There are several buses that stop along both Chatham and Ko Shan Roads running parallel to the Ko Shan Theatre. Please check specific bus schedules for details: 5, 5A, 5P, 11, 14, 26, 28, 93K, 101, 107, 108, 111, 116, A22 and 28MS. We’ll meet at the park directly in front of the theatre.

-Photo from the Ko Shan Website.

Chasing the Ghost of Suzie Wong Event Followup

One-sheet movie poster from “The World of Suzie Wong”

The image of Suzie Wong on the Fragrant “Star” Ferry in her long elegant cheongsam / 長衫 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.  Is Suzie an empowered young woman or is she 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 represent 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 that 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.


Publicity Photo from WSW featuring Nancy Kwan

On April 21, 2018, Hong Kong Sacred Spaces Society hosted a community walking tour were Society Members joined in a conversation about Suzie and the Wan Chai she would have inhabited.

Our walk started in the new Harcourt Garden behind Police Headquarters on Arsenal Street.  We walked East towards Fenwick to the site of the former Fenwick Pier Boat Landing, across Hennessey and then over the Pacific Place 3 ending on Star Street.  We then walked across Sau Wa Fong / 秀華坊 Street to Ship Street then heading down to Queen’s Road East stopping at the Hung Shing Temple / 洪聖古廟 and continuing on to Stone Nulla Lane.  After a brief look at the restored Blue House and the Old Wan Chai Market, we headed down Wan Chai Road then Cross Street over to Spring Garden Lane.  Finally, we used the Wan Chai MTR Station Pedestrian Flyover to walk to Connaught Road to the Luk Kok Hotel where we ended our day.

Original Royal Naval Canteen from Historic Postcard.
  • The Fenwick Pier Area (Former Servicemen’s Guides Association, Fleet Arcade, and Site of China Fleet Club, Hong Kong) The landing site for almost all American serviceman in Wan Chai during the Vietnam War Era.  A gateway of sorts controlled by the US Military Police (MPs) who would regularly patrol the area’s most notorious bars.  Primary Theme: SOFA ( Status of Force Agreement) and the lesser known VFA (Visiting Force Agreement).  Secondary Theme: PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Ship Street /船街 and surrounding area.  One of the first commercial warehouse districts in Hong Kong which consequently has one of the first Red Light Districts in the Late Nineteenth Century Hong.  The area lost out to the emergent Taikoo in present-day Causeway Bay.
  • Hung Shing Temple /洪聖古廟  Hung Shing  / 洪聖 was a Tang Dynasty Official who’s Queen’s Road East Temple runs along Wan Chai’s ancient shoreline.
Historical postcard of original Spring Garden Lane along Praya or Waterfront.
Historic snapshot of the so-called “Big Numbered” brothels that lined Spring Garden Lane prior to and after the Pacific War.
  • Spring Garden Lane /春園街 and Old Wan Chai Wet Market / 灣仔街市  This is an important stop in the imaginary world of Suzie Wong as this is the site of the Nam Kwok Hotel where the protagonist artist Robert Lomax played by William Holden lives and works.
  • Luk Kwok Hotel 六國飯店 (Currently Gloucester Luk Kwok Hotel) The actual site (not building) where Richard Mason author of “The World of Suzie Wong” worked during his stay here in Hong Kong.  Nothing like the fictional hotel, the current iteration has a Suzie shrine that we’ll all get to see.

One-sheet for “To Whom It May Concern”
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, here’s a link to amazon.com’s streaming service where you can watch it for a couple of bucks.  While you’re at it you can read the book on the Kindle platform.
by Sheridan Prasso
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 Cinema in general and Hong Kong Cinema specifically as one of the first popular biracial actresses working in Hollywood.
For a more local perspective on the Suzie Wong myth, I can recommend the hard to find “My Name Ain’t Suzie 花街時代 ” (trailer here) directed by Angela Chan 陳安琪.  Intense, and a little sad “My Name Ain’t Suzie” is a nice comparison to WSW.
If you’re more of a literary type you can compare “A Many Splendored Thing” written by Han Suyin / 韓素音 and the Hollywood movie with a slightly different title again starring William Holden from 1955. The film also stars (jarringly) Jennifer Jones in Yellow Face. It won an Academy Award for Best Picture among other things and if you watch “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” FIRST, you’ll see just how refreshing Nancy Kwan’s “Suzie” really is.
New Event Alert!  Attend Exclusive Guqin / 古琴 Recital with Master John Thompson

New Event Alert! Attend Exclusive Guqin / 古琴 Recital with Master John Thompson

John Thompson

Although I like to run a tight ship in terms of scheduling events here at Sacred Spaces every once and a while something comes up that prompts a “drop everything” moment. Having an opportunity to hear a renowned Guqin / 古琴 Master in a Daoist Sacred Space definitely fits that description. On March 4, 2018, at 4:00 pm we will get a chance to do just that.  The Guqin / 古琴 is one of the most ancient and recognizable of all Chinese instruments. The Guqin was played by scholars and poets, generals and courtiers for literally hundreds of years. Master John Thompson / 唐世璋, a trained ethnomusicologist and student of the late Master Sun Yü-Ch’in / 唐世璋 has been performing “Historically Informed / 復古風格演奏” elements from the Guqin repertoire for several years and has earned a reputation as a scholar and performer held in high regards. From Master Thompson’s websites…

“John Thompson, with the largest recorded repertoire for the guqin silk-string zither, is certainly one of the most listened to players today: since May 2007 his website has averaged over 8,000 hits a day, many of them from people listening through China’s music download websites to his recordings, unaware that it is not a Chinese master playing their most ancient surviving music. In all, he has reconstructed and recorded over 200 melodies from 15th and 16th century guqin tablature, and his website complements each melody with extensive musicological, historical and philosophical commentary.

As a result, John Thompson is also the best-known musician giving historically informed performances of early guqin music. After a college degree in Western musicology (early music) and graduate studies in ethnomusicology, he began in 1974 to study the modern guqin tradition from Sun Yü-Ch’in in Taiwan. After moving to Hong Kong in 1976 to consult with Tong Kin-Woon he turned his focus to early repertoire, gradually gaining a reputation for the fidelity, fluency and feeling of his performances. In 1992 the National Union of Chinese Musicians invited him to Beijing as the focus of a seminar on reconstructing music from the earliest surviving guqin handbook, Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425 CE).

While based in Hong Kong as artistic consultant to the Festival of Asian Arts Thompson performed throughout East Asia, and published seven CDs of his musical reconstructions as well as four books of music transcription. Since 2001, when he moved to New York (and including 2009-2013, when he was based in Mumbai and Singapore), he has continued to perform, teach, research and lecture on the guqin, creating new music as well. His website, www.silkqin.com, is the most comprehensive English-language source of information on this instrument.”

With special thanks to Sifu Kerby Kuek from the Tai-Yi Daoism School for co-hosting this event.

This recital and talk is a FREE Hong Kong Sacred Spaces Society “Members Only” Event. If you are not already a member please see our Membership Application here for details. Membership will give you access to this and other exclusive Sacred Spaces Society Events. Please don’t hesitate to IM me if you have any questions.  For those who wish to attend please RSVP here or go to www.sacredspaces.asia/events for further details.


Phoenix Reborn: Chu Jades Excavated from Hubei Exhibit Event Roundup

Phoenix Reborn: Chu Jades Excavated from Hubei Exhibit Event Roundup

Phoenix Reborn: Chu Jades Excavated from Hubei

From those of you who did not get a chance to come with Hong Kong Sacred Spaces on our visit to Chinese University of Hong Kong‘s (CUHK) Art Museum to see the Phoenix Reborn Exhibit I’ve assembled a roundup post that includes some of the public materials published by the Museum as well as photos from Sacred Spaces members through the visit.  The exhibit itself was jointly presented with the Hubei Provincial Museum in Hubei, China and includes dozens of exquisite pieces of jade found at various archeological sites there dated to the Western Zhou Period (1046 to 771 BC/E).  You can also check out the Sacred Spaces Digital Libary with more specific information.  Click here for details.

If are in Hong Kong before the exhibition closes on February 25, 2018, I wholeheartedly recommend traveling to the CUHK campus, visiting the museum and viewing these beautiful pieces up close.

Heidi our superb guide

Sacred Spaces photos courtesy Jean Sicard 

Hong Kong Food Culture Series – Winter Wetlands Walk – Scouting Notes

Wetlands Walk – Winter

To help make things a little easier for everyone I’m posting details from my scouting trip to the Yuen Long Wetlands related to Hong Kong Sacred Spaces’s upcoming winter wetlands walk.  If you’re interesting coming along you can find the RSVP details here.

Yuen Long MTR Station, Exit G1

We’ll gather in this open space just inside the Yuen Long  MTR Station, Exit G1 to take attendance and create our trip “teams” or smaller groups of members to make travel on the final bus trip easier.  We’ll then be taking the Fairview Park Coach NR 93 (Trip fare is $6.80 as of 6 January 2018) to the very FIRST stop at Fairview Park.  The ride should take about 20 minutes.

First Fairview Park Coach Bus Stop

Look for the Esso Station across the street.

We’ll then exit Fairview Park and take a right on the next access road that we come across.  There is a Florist on the corner that looks like this…


…and there is also a Hardware Store on the opposite side of the road.

Hardware Store

After a 5 minute walk, we’ll come upon a sign for Tai Sang Wai Village which is our main destination.  Take a RIGHT at the fork.

Tai Sang Wai Sign

After another 5 to 10 minutes we’ll come to the Village.  It is important to note that on this portion of the walk the small road is VERY CONGESTED with heavy tracker-trailers and lorries EVERYWHERE so caution is a MUST.  After that, however, you’ll see this…

Tai Sang Wai Fishpond
Tai Sang Wai Fishpond

When we’re finished I would suggest that most people pick up the number 36 green minibus BEFORE we head to the main road as the GMB is likely to fill up quickly.  For those who don’t want to wait you can take walk back to Fairview Park to take the Coach to Yuen Long MTR.  If you do take GMB 36 remember that it stops at Sun Yuen Long Centre at the foot of a pedestrian flyover to YOHO Mall and therefor Yuen Long MTR Station.  The signs for the MTR are there but not easy to see from the road so keep an eye out and made sure you get off.

GMB 36
View Art from Palace Museum in Beijing

View Art from Palace Museum in Beijing

Take advantage of renovation work being done in Beijing’s Palace Museum by checking out over 200 pieces from their collection on display at Hong Kong Heritage Museum. The pieces are from the famous “Hall of Mental Cultivation” and cover several Chinese Imperial Dynasties including the Ming and Qing.

Visit Devil’s Peak and Lei Yue Mun

Visit Devil’s Peak and Lei Yue Mun

Several weeks ago Hong Kong Sacred Spaces went to the Hong Kong Coastal Defense Museum 香港海防博物館 near Sau Kei Wan 筲箕湾 on Hong Kong Island. When there the group kept looking across the Lei Yue Mon 鯉魚門 channel to the hills just opposite and our docent guide told us about a fort, now in ruins, lay just on the other side.  The name of that fort was Devil’s Peak 魔鬼山 and it was a major part of Hong Kong’s naval defenses at the beginning in the 20th Century consisting of Gough Battery, the Devil’s Peak Redoubt, and the Pottinger Battery. These defense fortifications were “state-of-the-art” at the time and included several serious guns pointed at the Eastern Approach.  Bad news to the uninvited.  The fortifications are ruins now but they have become part of the “ghost” forts of Hong Kong.  Fortifications that were not maintained by previous leadership: Ming, Qing, or British.

Sacred Spaces will exit from the Yau Tong MTR 油 Station and walk 20 minutes to the section of the Wilson Trail where the structures are sited and explore these forgotten sentinels.  We’ll then head down to the shore line and visit the Tin Hau Temple that’s positioned just next door to the Lei Yue Mun Fishing Village and Seafood Market. After our time exploring both high and low we’ll head over to the fish market for a seafood lunch.

Devil’s Peak

Come along for a little fun and exploration.  You’ll get a chance to see several layers of Hong Kong history and culture.

Lei Yue Mun

As always I’ve put together some materials for the interested.  They include a few reports written some ago describing the installations in great detail.  A survey of the Pottinger Battery and a Report on the Redevelopment of Lei Yun Mun from HKSAR Government.

If you’re interested in exploring with us on Saturday, September 30 from 9:45 AM to around 12 noon, click here to RSVP.

First and second photos are from wiki commons, the third is from Hong Kong EPD www.epd.gov.hk/