Chan Kwok-yuen: Cantonese Opera Headdress Maker

Written by Billy Potts

This article was originally published in Zolima City Mag on 4 September 2019

The scene opens on Temple Street with a backdrop of low hanging clouds and the steady pneumatic beat of roadwork. The neighbourhood’s usual players make their entrances and exits. Overhead, banners decorated with the flags of China and Hong Kong twist languidly in the tepid air. A discrete entrance sandwiched between fishmongers signals a scene change. 

Continue reading “Chan Kwok-yuen: Cantonese Opera Headdress Maker”

A Master Puppeter Gives an Ancient Art a 21st Century Update

Written by Billy Potts

A version of this article first appeared in Zolima City Mag on 22 May 2019

The room has been thrown into complete disarray, the floor strewn with spent bottles and jars of rice wine. Zhong Kui is the figure at the centre of it all, a crimson faced mess howling pitifully as he seizes another flagon and drains it. Throwing the vessel aside and stumbling across the room, he collapses in a heap, his fitful sleep punctuated by boisterous snores.

Continue reading “A Master Puppeter Gives an Ancient Art a 21st Century Update”

The Immigrant Dragons Part IV: Generations United in Bendigo

Written by Billy Potts

This is the eleventh in a series of articles in which I explore the cryptozoology of Hong Kong. This article was published in a shorter form in Zolima City Mag.

The clangour of cymbals and drums splits the air as lions prowl, pounce and tower vertiginously above the gathered crowd. An azure sky frames their acrobatics on this Holy Saturday as Bendigo’s dragons lie dormant, waiting to rise. Lion teams, from across Australia, have converged to grace these Easter celebrations in Bendigo, a city of 95,000 people about 150 kilometres northwest of Melbourne – a city with a surprising Chinese heritage.

Continue reading “The Immigrant Dragons Part IV: Generations United in Bendigo”

Mak Kam-sang – Minibus Sign Maker

Written by Billy Potts

A version of this article was first published in Zolima City Mag

A short walk from Jordan station, down roads where neon signs still hang low and old men play Chinese chess, we come to a procession of the city’s iconic red minibuses forming a line by the side of Battery Street. Each is emblazoned with white, red and blue acrylic signs announcing their fares and destinations. Alongside this ramshackle motorcade is a series of workshops making plastic signage.

Continue reading “Mak Kam-sang – Minibus Sign Maker”

The Cryptozoology of Hong Kong: Pei Yau

Written by Billy Potts

This is the tenth in a series of articles in which we explore the imaginary creatures of Hong Kong, their makers and those that take part in their culture. The tenth cryptid in our fantastic menagerie is the much maligned Pei Yau, known for his rapacity and avarice. This article was first published in Zolima City Mag

As night descends on Tung Chung, a breeze whistles through the tenebrous playgrounds of HKFEW Wong Cho Bau Secondary School. Dark shapes hulk in pools of shadow. Among them is Chan Hon-kit, who roams the labyrinthine halls, explaining the story behind an unusual and elusive creature – the pei yau (pei4 jau1 貔貅).

Continue reading “The Cryptozoology of Hong Kong: Pei Yau”

The Cryptozoology of Hong Kong: Dragons

Written by Billy Potts

This is the ninth in a series of articles in which we explore the imaginary creatures of Hong Kong, their makers and those that take part in their culture. The ninth cryptid in our fantastic menagerie is arguably the king of Hong Kong’s mythical beasts, the dragon. This article was first published in Zolima City Mag

In the distance Bing saw eight peaks over the peninsula. Having fled the Mongols from his home in Lin’an (present-day Hangzhou), Hong Kong’s alien landscape set the seven year old’s imagination racing. In his eyes the eight peaks took the form of eight enormous dragons and he, the last emperor of Song, was the ninth. Henceforth, he decreed, the peninsula would be known as Kowloon (gau2 lung4 九龍) – Nine Dragons.

Continue reading “The Cryptozoology of Hong Kong: Dragons”

The Cryptozoology of Hong Kong: Lions

Written by Billy Potts

This is the eighth in a series of articles in which we explore the imaginary creatures of Hong Kong, their makers and those that take part in their culture. The eighth cryptid in our fantastic menagerie, the lion, is the most commonly seen around the territory. This article was first published in Zolima City Mag

The heavy scent of lilies rolls down Cooke Street like a black ribbon. It is late afternoon in Hung Hom. The air is still and walking through hearse-lined streets causes the head to pound from drubbing heat. This is death’s precinct.

Continue reading “The Cryptozoology of Hong Kong: Lions”

The Cryptozoology of Hong Kong: Qilins

Written by Billy Potts

This is the seventh in a series of articles in which we explore the imaginary creatures of Hong Kong, their makers and those that take part in their culture. The seventh cryptid in our fantastic menagerie is the ferocious-looking yet gentle-natured qilin, also known as the Chinese unicorn. This article was first published in Zolima City Mag

Ships strain at their moorings as storm clouds scud across the sky. Rain lashes across the window of a fast ferry battling towards the safe harbour of Peng Chau. On the island, the tree lined square in front of the ferry pier is quiet, free of the usual hubbub. Walking casually through the torrent, a lone figure garbed in loose grey clothing and yellow Crocs appears in the distance. This is Master Ringo Leung, revered paper craftsman. He has agreed to be a guide to the island’s cryptozoological fauna.

Continue reading “The Cryptozoology of Hong Kong: Qilins”

The Immigrant Dragons of Bendigo Part III: A 21st Century Dragon

Written by Billy Potts

This is the sixth in a series of articles in which I explore the cryptozoology of Hong Kong. This article was published in a shorter form in Zolima City Mag.

Under a busy flyover, where the Island Eastern Corridor becomes Chai Wan Road, sits an unassuming shopping arcade. A mezzanine corridor strewn with paper lanterns, plastic flowers and a wild array of funereal offerings leads to the venerable paper crafts workshop, Hung C Lau (雄獅樓). A large paper car leans haphazardly against a wall while paper servants stand guard at the door. Amidst this melange we find Anita Jack and Dan Beck of the Golden Dragon Museum.

Continue reading “The Immigrant Dragons of Bendigo Part III: A 21st Century Dragon”

The Immigrant Dragons of Bendigo Part II: The Dragon Maker

Written by Billy Potts

For 126 years, the small Australian city of Bendigo has embraced Chinese dragons. This year their dragon, Sun Loong, is retiring and the city is hunting for a new craftsman who can build their third dragon, Dai Gum Loong. A long search has brought Anita Jack, general manager of the Golden Dragon Museum and Dan Beck, vice president of the museum, to Hong Kong. Their quest has finally yielded a suitable candidate: Master Hui Ka-hung of the Hung C Lau (雄獅摟) workshop. Continue reading “The Immigrant Dragons of Bendigo Part II: The Dragon Maker”