Saturday, 7 September 2013

Dragon100 Forum Part 2: Culture and crazy awesomeness

Part 1

Day 3: Temples and temperatures

The day started off with a couple of slightly hungover people and several more sensible, not-hungover people (I was actually in the latter category, having mainly had energy drinks rather than alcohol the night before) being subjected to the heat and humidity that comes with being outside on a mid-summer, sunny Hong Kong day.  Whilst the weather was certainly nice and warm, my eyes were definitely protesting the sunlight and of course I forgot my hat and sunglasses. 

It was hot. Very hot.

Of course this had a cultural purpose to it, this being experiencing Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden. This complex is an undertaking on an epic multi-million-dollar scale, and perfectly replicates the Tang Dynasty style of garden and temple. Something that I just can’t get used to (being, of course, from New Zealand) is the backdrop of high-rise buildings outside this peaceful oasis.

Every time I look at this picture it confuses me.
I will let the pictures speak for themselves as this place is much more spectacular than any words could describe.
An exhibit explaining traditional wooden architecture in the garden. Apparently these hold up to earthquakes just as well as the modern earthquake stabilisers; they're built on platforms so don't have underground foundations

Second view of the Golden Pavilion from the top of the stairs. It is entirely coated in real gold, and closed off to the public. Even most staff members are not allowed in it.

Chi Lin nunnery, built using the traditional methods. No close up photos of the temple complex were really allowed since it is supposed to be a place for worship rather than tourism...

 The afternoon was spent at the Yuen Yuen Institute (actually, if you want to visit, look at this link) which is a complex which initially confused me because it is dedicated to multiple religions and so the variety of temples and places you can worship at is almost like the variety of street food you can get. This is something I couldn't imagine really having in New Zealand, although having a church, mosque and temple all within a stone's throw from each other would look pretty cool. We were provided with an amazing vegetarian lunch, the opportunity to explore the huge complex and offer our respects in whichever way we chose, and treated to an exhibition of Tai Chi as well as hearing about some of the crazy awesome projects other delegates are involved with. Again, pictures.
Lunch! Vegetarian lunch, even - the variety of mushrooms was amazing.
One of many places of worship

I was actually trying to get a picture of the giant albino carp that was at least a couple of feet long - that's just the top of it's head and mouth visible to the left of the orange was HUGE
That evening was spent wandering around the Hong Kong waterfront, taking MANY photos and just being generally touristy.
Ridiculously clear evening...

Further support of my hypothesis that no matter where you go, the Irish pub will always be called Murphy's

At this point I seriously wanted to jump in - it was BOILING!

Lights at night and someone's hand

Day 4: Enter the Dragon

Our final day in Hong Kong started at a quite reasonable hour of the morning with a trip to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. Not only was this exciting due to my love of museums, but also because the first thing we saw as we got out of the bus was a poster for the special exhibit about Bruce Lee! So naturally there were many attempts at replicating the pose of the giant statue that greeted us as we entered the museum – my best attempt is displayed below.
How I wish my side kick was actually as high as the statue...

The Bruce Lee exhibition itself was an overview of not just his adult movie career and martial arts skill (which is what most people remember him for) but his whole life, covering everything from his early days as a child actor, dancing skills, personality, and career as an adult movie maker. Unfortunately it was strictly no photos allowed (and policed fairly vigilantly) so I don’t have any illustrative aids, however the exhibit was well laid out and absolutely crammed full of personal items, images, and films of Bruce Lee, including of course his movie costumes and notes about martial arts as well as personal letters and a portion of his library of martial arts books. According to the exhibition information, it includes the largest amount of items ever loaned to a museum by the Bruce Lee Foundation. This is a special exhibit which according to the website will be up for a number of years – so if you’re in Hong Kong before 2018, take the time to visit the Heritage museum, and for this exhibit give yourself a good hour. I could’ve spent two hours here easily, but most people seemed to be done at about the one-hour mark.

We also toured one of the permanent exhibitions about Cantonese opera, a subject about which I previously knew absolutely nothing apart from what the title inferred, and also looked at the movie adaptations of some of the Cantonese operas. The skill, costumes, and presentation are just breathtaking - especially since martial arts often feature in the opera, so performers must be particularly acrobatic and talented as well as being able to sing and act. One particular movie clip featured a performer spinning her ponytail around her head during a martial arts display, and I’m just going to say – Willow Smith whipping her hair has NOTHING on her!

We spent the afternoon at the School of Creative Media which is an incredible facility somewhere in Hong Kong (I was well and truly lost in terms of my sense of direction by this stage) and has this amazing 3-D room. Again, it wasn't super appropriate to take photos here, but wow. The room. We were shown the Mogao caves in a way that you can't even experience in person (as some are sealed off now). According to the guide, they were painstakingly photographed, laser scanned, and adapted into this format so you can essentially be inside and experience the caves. The current feature exhibit is Pure Land which has taken one of the murals in the sealed-off caves and made it come to life - you can see the "restored" original colours of the mural, hear what the music in the temples sound like, and even see the dancers which have been animated. Very, very cool.
Photo courtesy of the School of Creative Media