Ξ July 2017 Ξ
THEME PARK —
Hong Kong was an early adoptee of the Victorian conception of a rebuilt eden, but modernized, one that can be classified – and caged – for the edification and education of humankind. It is one of the oldest gardens of its kind in the world; and in its turn has been tendered to, coddled at, and dissected every one in a while.
Thirty years after the island, a stone’s throw from the mainland of China, was established as a royal crown colony by Britain, in 1871: a large parcel of land on Government HIll, 500 feet above sea level, where construction was going on to build Government House (begun 1860) and where the sitting governor was temporarily housed, conducting official business all the while puttering in his backyard w/ the young science of botany, applying his office to re-create the first garden; and w/in sight of the eastern realm of the celestials.
Within a few seasons, the appropriated space became enclosed ground, under the guidance of careful hands and inquiring minds. Flowerbeds and paths w/ gas lamps. Stonework and grand staircases. Even an animal enclosure (one of the first in the world). Here, and elsewhere in their colonies, the Victorians set up yet one more living laboratory, studied the flora and fauna, forget to look at themselves.
Since it began life in 1864,
when still tendered personally by the governor, until today, the gardens have always been open and free to the public. In 1975 it was renamed, but locals have always known it as (in English) the Botanic Garden. The Chinese call it, have always called it, 兵頭花園 (bing tau fa yuen), “commander-in-chief’s garden”.
Eden In the East
In 1871, a Victorian laboratory was set up by the British Botanic Society in Hong Kong. It began as a garden behind the Governor‘s House, halfway up the Peak.
STUDIO — As British botanist Charles Ford set about setting up this laboratory to nature, his work surfaces began to pile up w/ the local flora and fauna. +
A sprig of dawn redwood. A print of the orchid tree. A framed painting of a local flower Ford dubbed the chinese lantern. +
Framed insect. Two miniature chinese paintings. Page from a fern catalog. A branch of the chinese elm sitting on a dish. +Ginseng, and a foot long centipede - a sight to behold. The PHOTO ALBUM has views from 1898 (top left), 1936 (lower left), 1957 (lower right). See more
early photos of the Botanical Gardens. + The fourth foto shows lovers’ lane, 1898.
By the time the first governor of Hong Kong laid down the beginnings of what became the Hong Kong Botanic Garden, his wife had a hand in the planning. And subsequent governors carried on the work. And their wives too, as well as gardeners, builders, and laborers, all took charge and began to tame the unfriendly slope, sweeping upwards to meet the Peak. Into the ground went palm and trees from near and far. Banyans were tucked about to create backdrops. Ferns sheltered the much-sought-after sensitive plant, a natural wonder. The only india rubber tree for miles around can only be found within these grounds.
1841–1941 Avenue of Gum Trees, early 20th century.
A bronze statue of KING GEORGE VI was erected in the Old Garden in 1941 on the 100th anniversary of British colonial rule. + Sketch by Gary Yeung. + Photo by Lau Ching Ping [verification needed].
Indigenous plants met their tropical and sub-tropical selves.
The first superintendent of gardens was a British botanist by the name of Charles Ford. The front entrance is on Albany Road, right side, which became the Old Garden. His domain extends over to the left side of the road also, the New Garden, a space of about equal size. The whole surrounded by Robinson Road, Upper Albert Road, Garden Road, and Glenealy.
Ferns took to the site very well and produced profusely, offering shade and, more importantly, privacy. Overnight, this open air conservatory had turned into a living paradise for Adamses wanting somewhere to take their eager Eves. The helpful illumination of the paths and staircases w/ gas lamps that stay lit until midnight offered even the animals in the zoo some measure of a safe haven.
It was deemed safe enough that late into the evening, dating couples took to strolling among evening shadows, listening to birdsong and holding hands. Here was where the norfolk island pine can be seen, nodding its airy fingers at the royal palms. Over there a white jade orchid tree perfumes the nearby, grateful, bench.
Jules Verne in HK
THE VISIBLE INVISIBLE —
At the invitation of botanist Charles Ford, Jules Verne travelled to the colony in 1865 to help document the life aquatic. Verne was doing research on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and spent six months learning the local language and taking down oral history. Sadly, going to the best sources for authentic information on the underwater world of HK didn’t make it into the final book; set in 1866, it came out in 1870. An article on his searchings and findings finally appeared, in the June 15 1884 issue of L’Algerie magazine, featuring artwork by Alphonse de Neuville, Édouard Riou, and Macau-based George Chinnery.
Roses, mock lime, orange-jessamine, sweet osmanthus, and the “kwai-fah” add other scents. And other paths.
The Old Garden, w/ its shady boulevards and flowerbeds, came w/ an aviary and a green house, where ferns, bromeliads, orchids, climbers and house plants lived contentedly.
The focal feature, the Fountain Terrace Garden, had a fifty feet wide circular pond, raised just so to allow sitting along the rim, w/ fountain works in the center, and home to water lilies. The terrace was edged on four sides w/ herbs and year round flowering shrubs. Around the bend a children’s playground could be heard [need photo].
On the western side of Albany Road is the New Garden, started in 1876 to house animal enclosures, ending up chock-a-bloc w/ uncomfortable mammals (none larger than an ape) and reptiles commingling their noises and odors. All came in carted, and unbidden: the american flamingo is left to woo the hawaiian goose, the red-crowned crane steers clear of the greek tortoise, a young burmese python hiding from the too-curious emperor tamarin.
MIMOSA PUDICA The mimosa is a creeping annual or perennial herb of the pea family Fabaceae, often grown for its curiosity value: the compound leaves fold inward and droop when touched, defending themselves from harm, and re-open a few minutes later. The species is native to South America and Central America, but is now a pantropical weed. Grows mostly in undisturbed shady areas, under trees or shrubs.
After a hundred years of ignonimity, major renovations were undertaken in 1976, and the beleaguered beasts given new digs and modern zoology practises. Forty new or renovated enclosures to separate the reptiles from the mammals, and everyone from the birds, on the other side of Albany. Twin programs were established to study captive- as well as conservation-breeding techniques; and co-existence can once again have try-outs.
A pedestrian tunnel under Albany Road has always connected the two sides, creating a grotto where none had existed. Today 900 species live side by side and learn how how to get along in a very crowded city.
| BOTANICAL GARDENS FOOTNOTES –
In 1975, the garden complex was renamed the HK Zoological and Botanical Gardens. It is second in size, after Victoria Park, in public space; together they cover 215 acres of parks and playgrounds.
Native plantings include carpnell’s camellia, grantham’s camellia, the rare yellow camellia, the local ailanthus, the dawn redwood, and the amazing orchid tree.
 Based on reporting by
HK Government Report for the Year 1961,
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ONE LUMP OR TWO
That morning I heard water being poured into a teapot.
The sound was an ordinary, daily, cluffy sound. But all
at once, I knew you loved me. An unheard-of-thing,
love audible in water falling.
Robert Bly (1926- )
The must-dos for brewing a proper pot of tea, and how a colonial drink, made palatable w/ the addition of sugar, calmed a nation’s nerves.
THE QUEEN OF TEA — The popularity of tea in England, it may be remarked, was due to a Portuguese infante, Queen Catherine, whose predilection for that beverage rendered it fashionable. In an ode to her, Waller sings: The best of queens and best of herbs we owe / To that bold nation who the way did show / To the fair region where the sun doth rise, / Whose rich productions we so justly prize. ‘Historic Macao,’ by C. A. Montalto de Jesus, Oxford University Press, 1984.
CREAM OR LEMON —
A steadfastness in dutiful habiting is a core definition of Britishness in all matters related to tea, and it’s now due for a review:
… the official six-page specification for how to make a cup of tea, is officially "under review". But don't panic. It is standard procedure for the British Standards Institution (BSI) to do a "systematic periodic review" of each of its many specifications which, piecemeal, define nearly everything British. Belying stereotypes of peremptory rigidity in anyone or anything that officially tells the populace what’s what, the BSI is nice about what it does”.
11|13|15 - Manchester, England — Middleton officer Andy Richardson: “Just dealt w/ a 95 year old couple, called and said they were lonely. What else could we do?” He and a fellow offer ended up going over to the couple’s house and sharing a cup of tea over a 30 minute visit, and later tweeted about the call. “We’ve got to look after people as well. It’s not just fighting crime, it’s protecting people in whatever situation they find themselves.” Fred Thompson, the elderly man who made the call: “You feel somebody cares and oh that does matter … simple things they talk about, nothing very special but they showed that they cared by being there and talking to you.”
British Standards are voluntary in that there is no obligation to apply them or comply with them," it says. The standards are "devised for the convenience of those who wish to use them". That sentiment appears in the 44-page specification, copies of which are available free of charge.
In 2013, Christopher Hitchens gave an account of the golden rules of
George Orwell for making tea:
… Just after World War II, during a period of acute food rationing in England, George Orwell wrote an article on the making of a decent cup of tea that insisted on the observing of 11 different "golden" rules. Some of these (always use Indian or Ceylonese—i.e., Sri Lankan—tea; make tea only in small quantities; avoid silverware pots) may be considered optional or outmoded. But the essential ones are easily committed to memory, and they are simple to put into practice. If you use a pot at all, make sure it is pre-warmed. (I would add that you should do the same thing even if you are only using a cup or a mug.) Stir the tea before letting it steep. But this above all: "[O]ne should take the teapot to the kettle, and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours." This isn't hard to do, even if you are using electricity rather than gas, once you have brought all the makings to the same scene of operations right next to the kettle. It’s not quite over yet. If you use milk, use the least creamy type or the tea will acquire a sickly taste.
"Please pass the cream - yes - that’s enough'
("I knew her years before the war')
"I'd love some of that sugary stuff"
("She must be at least fifty-four")
"I can't believe your dress is true"
("He said his lines in an appalling way")
"It’s almost a delphinium blue"
("To me he ruined the entire play")
"The whole thing’s such a terrible disgrace"
("Surely he was the Duke’s adopted son!")
"If I were in Winston Churchill’s place..."
("My dear, you're thinking of another one")
"I always loathed the girl, she drinks and swears"
And everyone was thinking - "Christ! Who cares."
— Daphne du Maurier
And do not put the milk in the cup first—family feuds have lasted generations over this—because you will almost certainly put in too much. Add it later, and be very careful when you pour. Finally, a decent cylindrical mug will preserve the needful heat and flavor for longer than will a shallow and wide-mouthed—how often those attributes seem to go together—teacup. Orwell thought that sugar overwhelmed the taste, but brown sugar or honey are, I believe, permissible and sometimes necessary.
In 1997, Morrissey was asked in a sit-down interview: Do you ever get sick of drinking tea? Given the moment, he expounded on how this custom is still practised:
I absolutely never get sick of drinking tea. It’s a psychological thing really, it’s just very composing and makes me relax.’ It’s just so much a part of your culture. ... ‘Oh yes yes, I’m very avid, I have to have at least four pots a day.’ ...
For those of us who don’t know how to make a pot of tea, what do you do?
'Well you really have to put the milk in first which many people don't.' Put the milk in with the water, before you boil the water?
Morrissey strikes a pose in a scene cut from the film The Collector. In the film, Terence Stamp is holding a chloroform pad. This has been replaced w/ a glass of milk.
'No you're confused already no, you put the milk in before you pour the water in or the tea, whichever.' Well I would do that without even thinking about it. 'Right and also you have to use real milk you can't use the UHT fake stuff, you have to use proper milk.' Okay, so what about the actual brewing of the tea? ‘The brewing of the tea, it’s very important that you heat the pot before you put the water in, if you use a pot. I know most people who just throw a teabag into a cup but in England of course you have to make a pot of tea and you have to heat the pot first with hot water and then put the teabags in—I can’t believe I’m saying this—and then put the hot water in and then just throw it all over yourself, rush to Out Patients and write a really good song.
| HIGH TEA FOOTNOTES —
excerpt from “The correct way to make a cuppa is being reviewed,” by Marc Abrahams The Guardian 4|29|2013.
“How to Make a Decent Cup of Tea: Ignore Yoko Ono and John Lennon, and heed George Orwell’s tea-making advice” by Christopher Hitchens, slate.com, 7|5|2013.
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UNESCO ::: 2013 UNIVERSITY TOWN RECIPIENT
University of Coimbra
Biblioteca Joanina. Steep street in Coimbra. Students out to seranade. University grounds. 16th century map of Coimbra. Local sigils and crests. A 17th century scene of university life.
Evolving into an institution since Coimbra was chosen in the 12th century as the new kingdom of Portugal’s first capital by swallowing up buildings around the upper town (cicade alta) where it was founded,
an important Roman municipality known as Aeminium before that, the oldest continuous institution of higher learning in Europe, the very first university town, the steepest school on earth with a passageway called Backbreaker Street (Rua de Quebra-Costas), perched 31 miles up the Modego river from where it enters the Atlantic, and two hours up the coast from Lisbon, is the university in the town of Coimbra.
Before it was a university it was a royal palace on the summit of a hill; the throne room is now used only for PhD candidate examinations. An observatory was built on its east side, a harbinger of the priority Portugal will place on the science of circumnavigation, and a symbol of the quest to make spatial sense of the Heavens. A botanical garden, created in 1772, belongs to the university, and contains some 1,200 plants living among meandering paths and fountains. There is a cathedral up here, gifted by the Jesuits in 1598. A former bishop’s residence now houses a national museum containing pieces from the 14th to the 16th centuries including ceramics, paintings, and several quite large limestone pieces. It is best known to university students, though, for its underground maze of Roman-era passages, the criptoportico de Aeminium, brimming w/ Visigothic artifacts and earlier discoveries.
Riverside is literally down town (cicade baixa). It is where commerce happens and, among original Romanesque, early Baroque, Rococco, and Gothic fixtures, some sporting a patina of the Moorish while others adopt the nautical motifs of the Manueline, you will find the 12th century monastery of Santa Cruz, housing the tombs of Portugal’s first two kings. And because it’s a university town, a former auxiliary chapel belonging to the monastery is now an internet café. A Portuguese queen is buried downtown, in a silver tomb housed in the convent of Santa Ciara-a-Nova, built in 1696 and receiving her remains 47 years later. The Fountain of Life, waiting for you since the 14th century, is behind the church.
Today the University of Coimbra is an institution having nine faculty departments w/ a focus on the judicial and European court systems, on interdisciplinary nuclear science as applied to cancer research and forensic science, and on the Arts. The university has a digital repositorium inside a techological park containing research centers, knowledge labs and associated incubators. A military hospital is there because someone said so. Collecting a reputation as a place for writers, artists and academics, it is often described as the Lusitanian Athens (Lusa Atenas). Branches outside the university system take on civic disciplines such as in sports, theater and botany, in preservation, and in the maintenance of a repository for April 25, which documents the toppling a dictatorship.
Portuguese poem by Antero de Quental
Ali, o lirio do scelestes vales
tendosen fim, terão a seu começo,
para não mais findar, nossos amores.
Yonder, lily of celestial valleys,
your end shall be their beginning
our loves ne’er more to perish.
The student body numbers around 20,000, making up a third of the town’s inhabitants.
Graduation ceremonies lasting all week take place in May and a localized form of fado is sung by male students only, and only on the steps of the old cathedral when 10 p.m. comes around, with lyrics more intellectual and romantic than the genre asks for, perfuming the air w/ lamentations until dawn.
UNESCO’s property consists of two areas: the hilltop complex of buildings and parts of the lower town which had major roles in the university’s history: the old and the new cathedrals, the monastery of Santa Cruz which is now a foundation, and the original library, founded on March 1, 1290. The new library, the Biblioteca Joanina, is at hilltop. It is the oldest such library in continuous use in the world, housed in resplendent Baroque rooms rich in gilt and exotic wood, and lined w/ 300,000 volumes. A colony of bats is kept inside the library and employed to keep the insect population down, making this a zoo.
| COIMBRA FOOTNOTES
(from top left) the Biblioteca Joanina as seen from the outside;
a steep street in Coimbra; university grounds looking towards the west; 16th century map of Coimbra; sigils and crests of Coimbra;
sigils and crests; a 17th century scene of university life.
[ expand: Lynne Booker of the Algarve History Association has written about the Manueline style, Portugal’s architectural salute to the sea in a rococo riff found nowhere else in Europe.]
Culled from reporting by Tim Pozzi, the University of Coimbra, Wikipedia and guide books. Photos by Francisco Antunes + screenshots.
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UNESCO ::: 2013 SACRED SPACE RECIPIENT
Blessed by superb symmetry, taking on its shape five thousand years ago, locus for ascetic buddhism of the shinto blend, standing alone in the center of the country, source of artistic inspiration since the 11th century, Mount Fuji’s conic silhouette has been copied by Japanese potters down through history and in due course has left blueprints on mid-century kitchen gadget design, chockful with its ergonomic effortlessness and sensuous surfaces. The designation by UNESCO of this mountain as the 2013 Sacred Space Recipient consists of 25 properties including the mountain itself, shinto shrines, five lakes, and a haunted forest.
Shinto has been practised in Japan since at least the 7th century, and its cosmos is populated by a kami (diety) living in every imaginable natural formation unto a blade of grass. Mount Fuji’s kami is the Princess Konohana-sakuya, the shinto embodiment of nature, and you will know of her presence by the sight of cherry blossoms on the way up a very attractive mountain. The fujiko school of shinto adds a soul and believes the mountain to be a being. While all this bonding is going on, the buddhists sit back and regard the mountain as a gateway to another world. The crater is ringed w/ eight peaks and a walk all around takes a couple of hours, could this be what the buddhists had in mind?
The area around Fujisan-konohana-sakuahime (“Fuji causing the blossom to brightly bloom”) also contains other mystical marvels. Five lakes, the Fuji-goko, ring the mountain.
The northwest quadrant is a 14-square mile pine forest, the Aoki-ga-hara-jukai (Sea of Trees), which can be alarmingly dark during the day, forming a half moon around the base. This forest is home to goblins, demons, ghosts, and has been a destination suicide spot for many years.
It has come to pass and for as long as anyone can remember, there is and always has been a choice of only four trails leading pilgrims to the summit. All things here being of a magical quality, these four paths might very well allude to the Four Elements in a cosmic setting: rarefied Air at the summit, plentiful fresh Water within reach, Earth in its proudest seasonal garbs are all visited by the fire goddess Fuchi once a year, taking off her buddhist beads for a powwow w/ the princess. This takes place end of summer at a trail stop in the village of Yoshida, rife w/ rustic rumors insisting on a peculiar religiousity shared by fire festivals everywhere including the most famous, Burning Man,
although it must be noted that the Yoshida Fire Festival is done and over with in a night and the following day, involving ceremonies to conclude the climbing season.
Sunrise as seen at the summit by all-night climbers has its own dedicated name, goraiko, as in “my goraiko was obscured by clouds with rain blotting out the horizon.” For the fortunate ones, though, words like "awesome" and "bright red" and "a figure" readily roll off their tongues when recalling the alpine sight of the sun peeking over a watery horizon, the shedding of darkness around the self, the wonderment that immortals are hovering nearby, a palpable sense of alignment with gravity again, maybe even new eyes for the descent. It has been likened to something we all know happens regularly and “see” but not see; kind of shinto. It is one of Japan’s three Holy Mountains, together with Mount Haku and Mount Tate, and is on the island of Honshu.
Fuji is an active and relatively young volcano 62 miles south-west of Tokyo.
It sits on a “triple junction” radiating techtonically down to the Filipino Plate, west to the Eurasian Plate, and east towards the North American Plate, the Okhotsk. It has erupted 21 times, the last was on October 26, 1707 (an 8.4), and destroyed 72 houses and three buddhist temples. It was powerful enough to blow a scoop out at the tip, becoming an actual new crater on the eastern flank. On February 4, 2013, a metereological ticker tape came through the wires:
The volcano remains calm. However, an increased number of small quakes near and under Mt Fuji are visible on our latest data plot of nearby earthquakes (within 30 km radius). While all of these are very small and the number is certainly not alarming, the volcano remains interesting to watch….
MT FUJI FOOTNOTES —
Four views of Mt. Fuji.
The Princess Konohana-sakuya is patiently gazing around wondering what is taking so long for her date Fuchi forever to arrive.
(top left) The Sea of Trees.
Four photographs taken from the summit at sunrise – a goraiko; anime of a sun goddess by Jayne Aw.
Mt Fuji in fact and fiction.
| Fujisan (富士山). Names of the five lakes: Kawaguchi, Motosu, Sai, Shoji, Yamanaka. The four trails are Yoshidaguchi, Subashiri, Gotemba, Fujinomiya. Photos by Brian Chu, Daisaku Ikeda + screen captures.
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