The lanterns didn’t stop there. Over in Tsim Sha Tsui, there was an absolutely amazing lantern display entitled The Rhapsody of Hong Kong Memories. These cute and quirky lanterns, depicting nostalgic scenes from 1960s Hong Kong, were designed by Leo Tang and I thought they were just lovely. Perfectly capturing the spirit of Hong Kong with a fond heart and light touch, it’s the sort of ephemera that’s unlikely to go down in the history books but provokes all sorts of loving rose-tinted memories. Now I’ll let the photos do the talking; as ever, click for enlargements.
Hustle and Bustle
These show scenes from 1960s city life, including many traditional businesses that have since died out, like shoe-shiners, calligraphers and rickshaw drivers.
A policeman in his pagoda directing traffic in the days before traffic lights. (Vintage photos from HK Police Force website and HK Man’s Flickr).
A tai-tai at the tailor’s – check out that retro hair-do!
I loved the attention to detail. Here the little boy at the barber is reading a comic-book to keep him entertained – and you can actually look inside the box and see what comics are on offer (hello Astro Boy!).
This little fellow is Lap Sap Chung, a monster created in a campaign to stop HKer’s from littering. He’s being chased by Miss Super Clean, remembered by lots of pre-pubescent teenage boys for her mini-skirts and go-go boots! Mischievous Lap Sap Chung proved so popular that he soon found himself being recreated as merchandise and inflatable toys! His memory was so enduring – a survey found that over 90% of respondents had heard of Lap Sap Chung! – that he was revived for a recent Keep Hong Kong Clean campaign. He even has a Facebook Group in his honour! (Posters from Chan.police’s Flickr and Gwulo.com)
Also note the red, white and blue striped lanterns in the background. These are based on the infamous plastic ‘amah bags’ that you see at wet markets or lugged around by Filipinos, burst to breaking point. I even saw one woman trying to post a full one! (Photo from Red, White, Blue, Here, There, Everywhere Flickr)
What would HK be without its food?! Here’s someone enjoying a meal at a dai pai dong (food stall in the street) – love how you can see the pak choi in the owner’s wok!
A spinning cup of milk tea (ngai cha), so beloved of HKers, being serenaded by a teddy boy.
A street hawker, carrying wicker baskets full of vegetables suspended on a bamboo pole on his shoulder. I love how the lady buying from him even has a shopping list in her hand!
An ‘airplane olives’ (fei gei larm) hawker with his distinctive brown paper bag. If you saw him in the streets, you would call down and he would throw the olives up to you several stories high! You would then drop down your money – only paying for what you caught, mind!
Not sure what this guy’s offering us. Hotpot? Congee? An ashtray? (OK, the last one seems unlikely). Answers on a postcard please.
Home Sweet Home
This one confused me – was there some strange game in the 1960s where kids had to run to and from a tap?! My auntie had a look and thinks it refers to the days when children would have to go to the village tap to collect buckets of water for the whole family back home. (Those slippers are so Hong Kong as well!)
In the old days, apartments were very small and people slept in simple metal or wood bunk beds to save as much space as possible. Here, the little girl is making plastic flowers by hand, a part-time job many people had in the 1960s to generate a little extra income.
The mum, carrying her baby in the typical Chinese papoose-sling on her back, seems to have rollers in her hair. No GHDs in those days!
The little girl is holding a traditional rabbit lantern for Mid-Autumn Festival; these stem from the rabbit’s presence in the myth behind the Moon Festival and are still sold nowadays.
Traditional paper lanterns for Mid-Autumn Festival – none of that inflatable singing and dancing tat in those days!
Do I need to tell you this is a retro thermos flask?!
Play & Playground
You might notice that some of these happy children are running about in what appear to be the old-school colourful wooden building blocks that children from yesteryear used to play with.
The circle-shaped counters with different coloured airplanes on, seen floating in the background or decorating the giant lanterns, are from a popular Chinese board game, Flying Chess (飛行棋). I say board game, it’s actually played on a fold-up piece of paper and works similarly to Ludo or Frustration. I only noticed this when I was looking back on my photos afterwards and it’s the little touches like this that Tang totally nails; I actually remember playing this when I was little and seeing that detail really made me smile, which is exactly the sort of response I think he hoped for. (飛行棋 photo from DChome forum – I swear I have the exact same game at home!)
The centrepiece to the whole display was a giant rabbit lantern, stuffed with old-school lamps, shop signs and birdcages. The amount of work that must have gone into it! Almost seems a shame that it will all have to be taken down : (
Cute, charming and quintessentially Hong Kong. What’s not to love?
The Rhapsody of Hong Kong Memories, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza (near Star Ferry), Tsim Sha Tsui. 10 September until 17 October 2010, 6.30-11.30pm.