Dragons and Rabbits: Inside Hong Kong’s Lantern-Making Workshops

This article was first published in Zolima City Mag on 18 September 2019

The morning light refracts through a kaleidoscope of taut inflated plastic, striking rainbows from the lanterns hanging in the frontage of a Chai Wan toy shop. Here a plump airplane; there the insipid smiling gaze of Little Twin Stars. Soon these lanterns will be taken down and delivered into the eager hands of children, ready to celebrate on the eve of Mid-Autumn Festival. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”

The Immigrant Dragons of Bendigo Part I

Written by Billy Potts and Edited by Justina Chong

This is the fourth 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.

It’s a cool January afternoon and I’m waiting in a bus terminal at Yuen Long station. A blue minivan pulls up and I’m beckoned to jump in. Crammed in the back are Anita Jack, Managing Director of the Golden Dragon Museum, Daniel Beck, Vice President of the museum, and Ben Devanny, from the Bendigo City Council, along with their translator, Heidi Yeung. They have travelled from their homes in Australia and Taipei to the hamlet of Pak Sha Tsuen in search of a dragon maker. Continue reading “The Immigrant Dragons of Bendigo Part I”

The Mystery of the Art Deco Lions

The missing lions.

Written by Billy Potts and Justina Chong

Standing to attention behind a thicket of foliage, two lions wait, their geometric shoulders bunched powerfully, haunches tensed like clock springs. They share a grinning, mischievous countenance, their large lolling tongues framed by cubic teeth. The lions’ clean Art Deco lines cut striking figures, best appreciated from the safari vehicle of a tram negotiating the gentle curve on Des Voeux Road that skirts the grand Bank of China Building. Continue reading “The Mystery of the Art Deco Lions”