Monday, 22 March 2021

E. H. Parker's works










gone with the days when I immersed myself with the British diplomat-turned-scholar E. H. Parker’s works on China published by some key publishers of the time.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Tsang Fook Piano II

Following my previous post on Tsang Fook Piano's early history from Allister Macmillan's Seaports of the Far East: historical and descriptive, commercial and industrial, facts, figures, & resources (1923) and its advertisement on South China Morning Post in 1915, the following passage is from Wah Kiu Yat Po 華僑日報 on 5 January 1955 (p. 5).

曾福琴行簡史
全港各界人士尤其愛好音樂者莫不知有今日參加工展之「曾福琴行」之名。該琴行史畧,諒必為一般人所樂知者。誠以在港製造鋼琴,祇該行一家,目由我華人創辨而能飲譽遠東垂肆十年,實亟應向海內外同胞介紹,藉以提倡華資工業,亦以誌前人創業之精神也。茲由該行概述史畧如後:

遠在一九零伍年曾福先生受職於港英商鋼琴公司名Robinson Piano Company。該公司專為人修理鋼琴,及調音,先生既以聰明勤敏得經理稱許,復從該公司之調音師學得調音之技術,經理因是屢將其薪給提陞,先......[公共圖書館電子版邊緣部份全黑,不能閱讀],遂自費放洋,先後在德、法、英、美等國各著名鋼琴廠實地研究。至一九一伍年三月在美國密西根之著名鋼琴調音學院Niles Bryant School of Piano Tuning考取文憑後,即是年回港自行創辨「曾福琴行」於灣仔,經營鋼琴,所有零件俱由曾福先生自行設計。初期本行之工場尚屬雛型,惟以先生之經驗與毅力,製出之鋼琴竟能媲美歐美貨品。蓋先生有鑒於遠東之特殊天,乃運用其在歐美研習所得之科學化經驗,將鋼琴之全部木材及大小零件悉加以防潮、防銹及防霉之保護,務求合熱帶氣候之特殊環境而後已。故菲律賓及南洋各地,圴紛紛來單訂購。本行初時每月出產僅數十架,其後信譽日隆,產量大增,至本年(一九伍肆年)已先後製成輸出近六千具矣。

猶憶曾先生創業之始,因其琴行店址位於「摩利臣」山(Morrison Hill)之麓,乃以該山之名名其鋼琴,蓋取其「與山同壽」之意。執意不久,香港政府為改良城市計,竟將「摩利臣」山陵續夷平,有向先生調侃曰:「君之鋼琴,原欲與該山同壽,今該山已矣,君之鋼琴豈非與之同為命運耶?」先生答之曰:「君之見該山雖平,而我之鋼琴仍屹然耶?固知我之鋼琴不祇壽比南山而實壽高于山也。」亦本港工業界中軼事也。果也,今者摩利臣山幾已夷為平地,而摩利臣(Morrison)牌鋼琴不獨巍無尚存,而且規模遠舉,將益進而無疆也。

其時本琴行自製之Morrison牌鋼琴已漸邀信賴,而代顧客修理及調音,復因服務效率特高,聲譽日隆,而營業亦隨之蒸蒸日上,先生並將其經驗所得,悉傳授諸其兩胞曾貴及曾方;而先生仍每事均親自力為,不辭勞苦。由是本琴行在曾氏三昆季通力合作下,繼續發展。至一九二九年,乃在英皇道自建工廠,同時將辦事處及門市部由灣仔遷至中環雪廠街,營業範疇已不囿於發售摩利臣裨鋼琴一項,舉世界名廠鋼琴及其他樂器,亦有代售,且有不少名廠委托本行為香港總代理者。旗以雪廠街之行址暫不敷用,乃於一九三五年當公主行落成之際,即遷入現址,擴充營業。當時社會人士已莫不知有曾福琴行,而外埠對Morrison牌鋼琴之信賴,有加無已,訂單之至,如雪片飛來,大有應接不暇之勢。豈料一九四一年冬太平洋事變猝起,香港各業蒙重大損失本行亦難逃此刦,幸得本行同人,不避艱辛,勉強維持。至一九四五年香港光復始重張旗鼓,復蒙社會人士與海外僑胞及各國廠商之信賴與愛護,在曾貴先生籌策下,本行業務得以重振。

現目本工廠方面已設有新型電鋸,電鑽、電刨及電磨光機等。所選木材,均為上乘堅緻之木,並經長時間之擱置焙乾,故對鋼琴各部之製造,異常精美,並特別宜於熱帶氣候之環境。此外復置有電動調音器,調音絕對準確。而各部門所雇用技工,均經嚴格訓練,並具豐富經驗,且有不少經曾福先生一手造就者。至公主行樓下辦事處及門市部,以地方寬敝,足以陳列不少鋼琴及其他各種樂器,以備顧客選購。近年來更兼售歐美名廠各種電器,如電唱機、收音機、電雪櫃、電爐、空氣調節機、電洗衣機等,而營業範圍實已形擴大矣。凡此固賴社會人仕賜顧之殷及本行同人合作之誠,亦曾福先生三昆季積善成德有以致之。尤盼各界仕女諸君,時予匡導,幸甚!

Saturday, 2 January 2021

1926年日本人眼中的「支那の國民性」

近日因石峽尾窩仔山配水庫 (service resevoir) 而追查香港水務工程史,竟然在中央研究院臺灣史研究所的臺灣研究古籍資料庫中,找到臺灣總督府外事部編的《香港水道調查報告書》(1942),何等驚喜。


順藤摸瓜,發現更多,幾乎在寶庫中迷失,找到不少直接和間接關於香港的書籍(尤以一、二戰間居多),更多是關於中國的書籍。其中,有一本值得略略書寫和存目,以備記錄作教學和研究用。這是藤本實也的《南支那及台湾之產業》(發行:東京:大阪屋號書店,1926),當中一部份是「支那の國民性」,篇幅幾近五十頁。藤本列出中國人四十七種國民性,估計是同類外國人眼中的中國人的書籍所少見的。


---   ---   ---


外國人眼中的中國人,從來都是中外交流和關係史的焦點。

身處陌生的國度,外國人每日都需要與陌生的面孔打交道。有來者不善,也有來者引路。在地真實的接觸,比以訛傳訛踏實,也可以比口耳相傳凶險。於是,有關中國人ABC的介紹性,judgemental and always controversial書籍應運而生。

外國人以本國文字撰寫的關於中國人的書籍,在於「我者」與「他者」之別,以己度人,是以「我」看「他」。

十九世紀以還,中外交流和關係中上一連串不幸的歷史事件,都和「我者」與「他者」之別密不可分。

1889年,在中國居住了近二十年的美國傳教士Arthur H. Smith (1845-1932)在上海出版的North-China Daily News上撰寫"Chinese Characteristics"的文章。翌年結集出版,引來廣泛討論。

1894年,美國著名的Fleming H. Revell Company (由福音派傳教士成立,自我標榜publishers of evangelical literature) 獲得版權在北美出版(出版地有New York, Chicago, and Toronto)。同時,出版社在出版業期刊The Publishers' Weekly宣傳該書 "...to use the word of one, 'the best book on the Chinese people' ever issued." 

這本書應算是bestseller,不斷重印,在英語世界廣為流傳,堪稱入門中國ABC。後來,這本書也翻譯成中文和日文。中譯本引來中國知識界強烈反應。相關研究眾多,不贅。


further reference: Lydia H. Liu, "The Ghost of Arthur H. Smith in the Mirror of Cultural Translation," The Journal of American-East Asian Relations, 2013, Vol. 20, No. 4, THEME ISSUE: Asia Knowledge: Inside and Outside the Ivory Tower (2013), pp. 406-414.


---   ---   ---


藤本實也列出四十七種「支那の國民性」,見下:

  1. 個人主義
  2. 拜金主義
  3. 神經遲鈍
  4. 侮蔑心
  5. 猜疑心
  6. 迷信
  7. 不信實
  8. 言行不一致
  9. 薄同情心
  10. 事大主義
  11. 保守主義
  12. 泥古
  13. 雷同と盲進
  14. 享樂主義
  15. 虛榮心
  16. 面子
  17.  饒舌
  18.  壓制と束縛 
  19. 差別階級
  20. 誇大妄想
  21. 權謀術數
  22. 社交性
  23. 發明と工風
  24. 單調
  25. 名聞慾
  26. 摸倣性
  27. 忍耐
  28. 孝心
  29. 勤勉
  30. 節儉
  31. 重禮
  32. 獨立自衛
  33. 愛鄉と愛國
  34. 團結心
  35. 好學心
  36. 精力
  37. 性慾生殖
  38. 食道樂
  39. 從順
  40. 宿命觀 
  41. 知足安分
  42. 虛飾
  43. 矛盾
  44. 悠長
  45. 不潔癖
  46. 不規律
  47. 殘忍性
  48. 博奕

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Kowloon Tong service reservoir

Service reservoir - The service reservoir is situated on a hill of decomposed granite just beyond the old boundary-line of the British territory, no site at a suitable height being available near the center of the supply district. is is built entirely in cutting, with floor and sidewalls of cement concrete, and vaulting of the same material carried on brick arches and stone pillars. The reservoir is 150' in diameter and 20' deep, and has a capacity of 2,000,000 galls., the in and outlet being arranged so that the water flows in at the top and out from the bottom of the reservoir, thus insuring aeration and circulation.


source: Lawrence Gibbs, "General scheme and construction of the Kowloon 'Hongkong' waterworks system," The Far-Eastern Review, Vol. 3, Issue 10 (Mar 1907), pp. 316-319. Gibbs later wrote a short article entitled "Kowloon Water Works. Early History," The Hong Kong Naturalist, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Feb 1931), pp. 65-68.











Saturday, 26 December 2020

六七暴動後的「時髦愛國」

資料搜集中 


近大半年,每日都下載《中國學生周報》,作教學和研究備用。

沒有餘閒的話,只會隨意看看目錄(每期都有大量廣告(估計收入頗豐),以補習和留學為主)就全部先下載。

有時間的話,會多看到其中的內容,特別留意介紹歐西流行音樂的崇優文章(作者披圖氏(即梁柏濤)有過百篇,將會另文討論)。

以下幾篇討論愛國的文章,放在後六七暴動的歷史脈絡中觀察,尤其有趣。作者除了有為人所知岑逸飛,還有來自女拔和英皇的學生。


一、(拔萃女校)毓秀:〈愛國精神狹隘的民族主義〉,《中國學生周報》,第808期,1968年1月12日

二、岑逸飛:〈反「時髦愛國」 〉,《中國學生周報》,第816期 ,1968年3月8日。 

最近,談「愛國」的人愈來愈了。不少社團、雜誌、文章,都多多少少反映了一點「愛國」的色彩。與許多朋友閒談,也發覺他們的嘴邊總脫離不了一些「國家」、「民族」之類堂而皇之字眼,似乎沒有這些,就顯不出他們的「高級」。

......


三、戴雪君:〈時髦愛國與反時髦愛國〉,《中國學生周報》,第817期,1968年3月15日。

四、(英皇)海文:〈怎樣才算愛國〉,《中國學生周報》,第820期,1968年4月5日。  


Saturday, 19 December 2020

Han Suyin's borrowed time, borrowed place


 



Life, International edition, vol. 27, no. 12, December 7, 1959.





Han Suyin, "Hong Kong: Ten-Year Miracle"


The city that was doomed is today more alive and prosperous than ever


Always go to Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year, which may happen any time from mid-January to the end of February. 

...

No cooking can be done during the first three or five days of the New Year; no fires are lit and the servants have all gone. So each housewife stocks up beforehand - with New Year cakes made of sticky rice, barley, sago, with meat or fruit stuffling, meat dumplings which require only boiling water to cook, and mounds of crystallized fruit, dates, kumquats, lotus seeds and watermelon seeds, not counting the dehydrated lacquered ducks and sausages which are sent or received as presents, as well as pomelos, oranges and other round fruit, the signs and symbols of fullness and content. New Year puddings are boiled and put away. As evening approaches, work becomes more frantic: the laundries and the drycleaning shops stay open till 3 in the morning, and so do many shops, discharing their accounts, and cleaning their floors, and their walls, taking the furniture out and sousing it in water. And then everybody must have a bath; all the girls and women have had fresh permanents, and their hair washed and dressed; all nails are trimmed, for no knife or scissor may be used on the first day of the New Year for fear of bad luck. When the houses are clean, then they are decorated in and out. No household, not even the most tumbleddown refugee shack, omits two things; above the lintel of the front door and on both side red paper scrolls with painted characters wishing happiness and luck to all; and inside, flowers bought at the flower fair.

...

[to be continued]



[P.S. cover: Blackie Kronfeld of Pan-American Airways. Chester 'Blackie' Kronfeld, a Pan Am photographer, Norman Rockwell, a painter, and Bill House, an art director of an advertising agency, travelled around the world under the commission of Pan Am in September-November 1955. They stayed in Hong Kong for three days residing at Peninsula Hotel in mid October. Kronfeld died in an American Airlines plane crash after taking off in New York killing 95 people on March 1, 1962]


Sunday, 29 November 2020

Canto-Rock coined in 1979

Canto-Rock, the new idiom in pop music

After years of unsuccessfully attempting to duplicate the Top of Pops of the Western World, Hongkong music makers have finally put aside their copier machines for musical inspiration, musical muscle and, perhaps more importantly, musical identity.

All this searching has resulted in Canto-Rock, a best-of-both-worlds musical concoction, the ingredietns for success being colloquial Cantonese lyrics sung over a grinding, Anglo-American-Influenced hard-rock instrumental backdrop.

Canto-Rock began to roll into action in 1974 when singer-songwriter-actor Sam Hui recorded the soundtrack album to Games Gamblers Play, a film in which he co-starred together with his elder brother Michael.

Prior to the release of the album, Hui had seemed content to follow a safe-as-milk recording approach, churning out innocuous albums in English that lacked originality, credibility and commercial success. The singer seemd lost in a sea of confusion, scratching the surface of second generation rhythm and blues, touching on mild-mannered Top Forty hits, flirting with middle-of-the-road sentimentality, everything eventually dissolving into a musical deadend.

But on Gamblers, the artist changed direction, shuffled a full deck of new ideas and camp up trumps, drawing on Western pop and rock rhythms, marring them with potent Cantonese lyrics that reached out and grabbed the local masses between the ears.

Apart from his own compositions, Hui also turned to songwriters such as Paul Simon and Lobo for melodic support.

To the tune of Simon's neo-reggae-in-spired Mother And Child Reunion, for instance, he tackled the then-topical subject concerning water-rationing, whereas the white-on-white purity of Lobo's I'd Love You To Want Me was turned into soft-core blue moves.

"Before the release of Games Gamblers Play, all Chinese recordings had a typical, conventional type of instrucmental backing - guitars playing a few simple chords, drums that could barely be heard whereas the lyrics only dealt with love," explains Norman Cheng, head of operations in Southeast Asia for Polydor, the label Hui records under. "Sam changed all that. He sang about everyday life in Hongkong, about what people here like and about what they don't like over a rock beat. It was an enormous musical breakthrough." 

Games Gamblers Play rocked and rolled and reeled in triple-platinum dividends, having to date sold more than 200,000 units in Southeast Asia.

Hui has released four Canto-Rock albums since Gamblers, the most successful of these being last year's soundtrack to yet another Hui borhters film, The Contract. To date The Contract has sold more than 500,000 units in the region, making it the largest selling album in the history of the Southeast Asian recording industry.

But possibly his most interesting recording has been the 1977 release Here Comes Fortune, an album featuring a wild, wacky choice of material. Hui, for instance, unravelled the scrambled intracies of mahjong playing to the tune of the current disco smash A Little Bit of Soap then employed Don't Be Cruel, once a hit for Elvis Presley, as the backdrop to a song revolving around a popular Chinese dish in wintertime known as "Monks jumping over the wall."

This April, Hui released his most controversial recording to date, a Canto-Rock version of the old Bill Haley classic, Rock Around The Clock, a song that dealt with inflation and the "problems" of being a Hongkong-born Chinese, the lyrics screaming out the message, "If your face is yellow, you won't have much power/If I had only known that earlier I would have been born a Britisher/At least I would have a home to return to." 

Although he jokingly refers to himself as "the Chinese answer to Bob Dylan," Hui with his increasingly more politically-pointed lyrical jabs, is gradually emerging as the musical spokesman, social chronicler for Hongkong's young and restless, his music now also reaching millions of Chinese overseas.

In fact, Norman Cheng calls Hui "the best-known Chinese recording artist in the world today."

"Sam's records are selling very well in Chinatowns in even America and Canada," says Cheng.

"He is also a movie star, which means that he is very much in demand by promotors around the world. In fact, he has been approached to tour the States for quite some time now. In the past, we always felt that he wasn't ready for a tour of that scale. But now I think he has had enough success in this part of the world to gradually concentrate on breaking into other markets."

In January of this year, Hui, and his long-time backup band the Lotus, took Canto-Rock to the heartbeat of Canada, performing at sell-out concerts in Vancouver and Toronto.

Then, as if to prove that Canto-Rock has no geographical boundaries and no language barriers, the theme song from the 1975 Hui Brothers film, Private Eyes, began to gain widespread popularity in Japan.

Titled Mr Book specifically for the lucrative Japanese market, the recording has sold over 500,000 units in that country, the achievement somewhat underscored by the fact that Hui's Cantonese recording was competing for chart honours with two local versions of the same song.

Hui followed up the success of Mr Boo with the equally popular theme song from The Contract. And in a recent marketing move, a full-scale promotional push was planned for the artiste that capitalised upon his recent participation in this year's Tokyo Music Festival.

Hui, the first artiste from Hongkong invited to perform at the increasingly prestigious musical event (others invited included international acts such as Rita Coolidge, Sergio Mendes and Brasil 88, Al Jarreau and A Taste Of Honey) used the Festival as the launching pad to introduce his third single release in Japan.

Titled You Make Me Shine and co-written by Hui and American songwriter Casey Rankin, the record features the artist singing in both English and Cantonese, the session having been produced in Hongkong by highly-respected Japanese producer, Robby Ward.

According to Ward, Shine has all the necessary commercial ingredients to become a million-seller and establish Hui as one of Japan's most popular international artists.

Spurred by Hui's success with Canto-Rock, Polydor in Hongkong recently announced plans to record almost its entire local talent roster in Cantonese.

"It seems the logical step to take," says Cheng. "Whereas in the past Cantonese albums outsold English ablums by two to one, in the last 16 months this ratio has stretched to as much as four to one."

Among the label's newer Cantonese releases was the debut solo album from Alan Tam, lead singer with the Wynners, one of the most popular groups in Southeast Asia who have made a name for themselves with their English recordings.

The album, produced by John Herbert, who once worked with bands such as Boney M and SIlver Convention in Germany, included Cantonese versions of Billy Joel's My Life, the Bee Gees' Too Much Heaven, Let Your Love Flow and I Was Made For Dancing (a recent hit fo weenybopper idol, Leif Garret) plus originals by Cantonese writers James Wong and Joseph Koo. The material showed Tam to be moving away from Hui's brash, hard-rock sound, sprinkling his material with brass arrangements and synthesiser work that gave the album an almost Canto-disco flavour.

As Tam explained, "Sam (Hui) opened the door for us as far as recording Cantonese music is concered. And now that he has opened that door, it would be a total wast of energy if we didn't explore other musical avenues, begin experimenting with new sounds and develop Canto-Rock even further."

Lam, another singer who only recently made the transition from recording in English to recording in Cantonese, is also beginning to chart a new course for this increasingly interesting musical hybrid.

Having first made a name for himself with his Paul McCartney-Paul Simon-influenced English recordings, Lam was about to begin work on an English album of his own material when the Canto-Rock bandwagon rolled his way. The artist jumped on for the ride.

The result was The Money Trip, an album obviously moddled after Hui's Games Gamblers Play and featuring Canto-Rock versions of Boney M's Rivers of Babylon, Mandy, Jim Croce's I'd Have To Say I Love You In A Song and Wild Cherry's Play That Funky Music.

Lam describes the album as something of a "cop-out," a contrived effort to attain commercial success, artistically unsatisfactory since he feels it was devoid of any emotional content.

With his soon-to-be-released follow-up album, Passenger, however, all that has changed, he says, commerciality being replaced by originality, and brass, synthesisers and marmonies taking the place of the hard guitar-oriented sound that dominated The Money Trip.

Containing Cantonese versions of Little River Band's Long, Long Way and original material, Passenger features exciting jazz-tinged keyboard work and arrangements by Filipino musician Chris Babida, pumping-iron bass lines and high-flying Eagles-type harmonies.

"What missed most of all with The Money Trip were the lack of opprotunities to experiment with different vocal harmonies, something I'm very fond of doing and some thing I always attempted on my English recordings," says Lam.

"Because of the necessity for clearly-defined inflections of Cantonese words, adding harmonies to songs is a very difficult, time-consuming, sometimes impossible task. But on Passenger, I believe we've succeeded in getting around this problem.

"On Long, Long Way, for instance, the recording features triple-tracked harmonies. What I am particularly pleased about is that with this album, I believe we have stumbled upon the perfect blend of Cantonese and sophisticated Western popular music. I guess you could call it Canto-jazz-rock."

If Lam is the prime mover behind a more sophisticated approach to Canto-Rock, Big A take this music genre back to the basics, screaming out his risque, hard-core lyrics in a gin-soaked voice reminiscent of Rod Stewart at his most rough, tough, street-wise level.

On his first album for CBS Sony, the artist tackled the rituals of Chai Mui, the Chinese drinking game whereas Buttons and Bows, once a hit for Doris Day, was transformed into a song about alcoholism, called in Chinese, I'm Not Drunk.

Also making their presence felt today are artists like Roman Tam, a flamboyant personality who has been described as a Chinese version of Liberace, Paula Tsui and Adam Cheng, all of whom are providing Chinese record buyers with an alternative to rauchy Canto-Rock by recording saccharine-soaked sentimentality, strings taking the place of guitars, brass taking the place of do-wops Man-Yee-Lo-style Canto-Pop, if you like.

As for Sam Hui, the person who renewed this interest in Cantonese music almost overnight, well, he's too busy to be worried about any competition.

"I'm changing all the time as far as my recordings are concerned," he says. "I always make a survey of the market before I record an album, listen to all the Cantonese songs released at that particular time and then look for areas I can improve on. This whole Canto-Rock thing is still so new to me. I feel that we can still do a great deal more with it. Which is why I experimented with instruments like the pipa, the tsang and even Chinese flutest on The Contract. As for my new album, I think it will be more politically aware, lyrically, than my previous recordings. There's a song on it for instance, called Where Is My Home? which is about a young guy contemplating the insecurities of living in an ever-changing city like Hongkong. Whw will never change however is my music. It will always be about what I care the most ... and that is Hongkong and its people."



Hans Ebert, "Canto-Rock, the new idiom in pop music," South China Morning Post, 4 Nov 1979, p. 16.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Chow fan meets fish and chips: SCMP's review on Samuel Hui's Cantonese single in 1974

Lay down your weary tune: Sam Hui has done just that - and in Cantonese too. Confused, defused or bemused? It's all very simple really. The new Sam Hui single will be sung in Cantonese. In fact, the two songs featured as background music for the Sam and Michael Hui starrer, "The Gamblers." Both songs have been composed by Sam. How would you describe them? How about East meets West? Or chow fan meets fish and chips? An album, again featuring all Cantonese material, is in the works. ("In the works" - pop/rock jargon meaning in the planning stages). There is talk that Sam may even decide to sing in English again ... someday ... over the rainbow.


South China Morning Post, 15 September 1974, p. 30

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

1979年中文歌曲樂壇

無疑,許冠傑今日的成就,已遠遠超出他的期待,而許冠傑亦是將本地樂壇帶入到新境界的先驅。幾年前他開始改變風格,放下結他,唱起諧趣,節奏輕快的粵語歌曲,而且歌詞全部針對時弊,道出了一般市民的心聲,當然引起共鳴,因此許冠傑的新唱法,已經唱到街知巷聞,跟風者大不乏人,但是許冠傑搶先一步,達到名成利就了。
。。。。。。
雖然不少人對「半斤八兩」等歌詞認為流於俗套,沒有雋永的價值。其實這是見仁見智的問題,祗要能細心分析,就會發覺許冠傑所譜唱的歌曲,含意是相當現實的。
以許冠傑、鄭少秋、羅文三位本港歌星來看中文歌曲樂壇大勢,就能發覺到是有三種的風格存在,許冠傑屬寫實通俗,鄭少秋流暢中有一股豪氣,而羅文的歌則幽而深邃,三人就各有自己的擁護者。


香港工商日報, 1979-04-09

Friday, 9 August 2019

SCMP's 1918 report on 斬雞頭,燒黃紙

SCMP 13 Sep 1918, p. 6

Fung Yuk-nam, one of the witnesses in the Chan U-man partnership action created a small sensation yesterday in the Supreme Court, when he disclosed to the Chief Justice, Sir William Rees Davies K.C., an alleged attempt by a witness for plaintiff to bribe him.


...


Mr C. G. Alabaster, O.B.E., (instrcuted by Mr F. C. Jenkin, C.B.E. (instructed by Mr D. J. Lewis, of Messrs Johnson, Stokes and Master), for defendant.


...


Witness continued: I solemnly say that every word is true and if any word is not true I am willing to suffer all kinds of calamity, even the death of everyone of my children and may all kinds of bad luck befall me. And I am willing to go to Man Mo Temple and chop off a cock's head."

Mr Alabaster: You will probably have to. We are going to make the suggestion that all do it.
His Lordship: This gentleman seems rather of superior education and character and perhaps would not attach much importance to the superstition.
Mr Jenkin: He offers to cut off a cock's head for what it is worth.
Mr Alabaster: So do we. Hiu Chik-wa is willing.

...


Witness: I say I am not and am willing again and again to go to the Man Mo Temple and go through the ceremony of chopping off a cock's head.


...


Mr Alabaster: Will de defendant Chan U-man go to the Man Mo Temple and perform the ceremony of cutting off the cock's head? - I for my part certainly will.

Mr Alabaster: Will Chan U-man? I put the challenge out.
The question was put to Chan U-man, who said "Yes, I am willing to cut off a cock's head for everything in the action."
Mr Jenkin: We shall probably be where we are I suppose.
His Lordship agreed to allow the test and asked if counsel proposed to attend.
Mr Jenkin: I should like to.
Mr Alabaster: I didn't propose to but I have no doubt it will be interesting.
Mr Jenkin: Perhaps you can't get a free for it.
Finally it was agreed that Hiu Chik-wa, Fung Yuk-nam and the defendant Chan U-man should undergo the ordeal of the cock's head and the case was adjourned until Monday.

---   ---   ---


SCMP 26 Sep 1918, p. 3


According to arrangement the parties in the antimony ore case at the Summary Court went to the Man Mo Temple on Tuesday, where defendant's principal witness took an oath by decapitating a cock that his books etc. were genuine. As the result Mr P. W. Golding, representing the plaintiff (the Hung Tai firm, of King's Building, Compradores) agreed to judgement for defendant (Ho Yik Piu, alias Ho Shau, of 7 Temple Street, Yaumati) represented by Mr W. B. Hind. The amount sued for was $500, said to have been deposited with the defendant for organising an antimony ore business.


The ordeal explained.


The frequency with which the cock's head ordeal has been invited of late by Chinese litigants and the curiosity thereanent among foreigners make interesting a few particulars of the ceremony and its portent. 


It seems that not many people have actually seen the test carried out, for a number of reasons. In the first place no one particularly wants to see it. Secondly the participants naturally desire privacy and only those immediately interested are admitted to the temple; and the third and perhaps principal reason is that the ceremony seldom takes place. Some Chinese of higher class scorn to do it, holding that when a man has to resort to those means to establish his veracity it must be that he is a person regarded as not above suspicion and to descend to such a demonstration is to lose face. They prefer to lose the money involved, even up to a considerable sum. Others of course have become westernised and for them the decapitation of a rooster conveys only a feeling of regret for the rooster. Furthermore, even when the challenge thrown out is accepted, there are always forces working to prevent its culmination. To the superstitious Chinese mind the penalties for perjury or mistake are so real and terrible that the party taking the oath is often beset with doubts, and even when his excess of indignation or confidence carry him right up to the temple his relatives are ever ready to stop him, since the calamities he dares will affect them and their descendants for ever. As an instance the case of a woman is recorded. Her face paled and her hand trembled when the chopper was given to her. She laid it on the cock's neck, but there her strength failed. The cock freed himself and walked away. The lady made a feeble slash at it, and then the relatives, fearing the portent and glad of the excuse, interfered and the ordeal was abandoned.


Locally almost all of the tests are carried out at the Man Mo temple, which is the principal temple in the Colony and the only suitable one in central district. Although the time honoured "joss pidgin" enshrouds the proceedings to some extent the programme is simple enough. The arrangements are made with the Temple keeper, who receives a fee. The oath which is the affirmant is to make is written out on yellow paper with the penalties for swearing falsely. In effect he "swears by the cock" the inference, being: "As I sever this cock's head may my own be severed if I swear falsely in this matter," and a similar fate is invited for all the pilgrim's children right down the generations. Sudden death, regarded as a punishment, is abhorred by a Chinese and there is the additional prospect of having no descendants to pray for him. Joss sticks are lighted and a kow-towing ceremony gone through, after which the temple keeper beats the drum and gong. The oath is sometimes read next, and then it is burnt, that it may be wafted to the knowledge of gods. No particular deity is invoked, any who happen to be listening will note the matter. Then the party adjourns to the courtyard of the temple where stands a new chopping block, a new chopper, and the fowl, all provided by the attestant. The reason for the change of scene is that the deed must not be concealed in any way from the god's sight and therefore may not b performed under a roof. The rooster's legs are tied, and the affirmant kills him apparently as best he is able, with one stroke, sometimes seizing its head and sometimes its body. Since no one cares about the corpse it becomes the perquisite of the temple keeper.


That is the ceremony as observed in Hongkong. Exactly why a rooster is selected as the victim is not clear, except that it figures generally in Chinese sacrifices. There seems danger that the ordeal is becoming too common and that its value as an adjuct to the dispensation of justice will be lost. We understand that the Court exacts a tax for each oath of the kind administered; and the increase of this might keep the challenges and the rooster mortality within bounds.