Seasonal Almanac

Major cold: vulture flies stern and swift (2 of 5)

January 27th, 2009

Major cold 7 of 15My grandfather decided to start the year by visiting my late grandmother’s place of rest – where her ashes are kept. We caught bus no. 170 to the Shatin terminus and walked to a nearby hill called Po Fu Shan. The short walk took us through an old village that was entirely made up of traditional southern Chinese architecture. The buildings were one or two stories high; some have stone fences and tile-roofed ‘gateways’. When you looked through the entrance halls you could to see courtyards that lead to living quarters. Over the years, roads, flyovers, a major train station, a huge shopping complex, and high rises sprung up and grew around this little village, making it very much out of place.

People still live there. One household opened up an antique store whilst two other families set up businesses selling incense, joss paper, effigies and related paraphenelia, aimed at visitors to the nearby Po Fu Shan – the buddhist/ taoist ‘temple’ where my grandmothers ashes are kept. My grandmother didn’t belong to any organised religion so my mother simply bought some flowers. Other visitors though were browsing for gifts for their loved ones who inhabit the underworld. These gifts – worldly possession in paper form, are sent by burning.

When I was a child I used to get spooked out by these paper versions of houses, cars, and even servant boys and girls. Nowadays though these paper gifts are much more practical. The shop sold all different kind of trendy footware, smart shirts, dunas, mobile phones, digital cameras, play stations, stereo hi-fi, and mahjong sets. There was also a lot of choice food and drinks on offer: steamed chicken, dim sum, Congnac, and Ferrero Roche.

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