The Spirit of Hong Kong

On Saturday 20th July 2013, I spent my last day in Hong Kong visiting the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin in northeast Kowloon. This museum was not on my bucket list, but I saw it in a brochure given to me by a hotelier that a Bruce Lee exhibition was opening on my last day in the city.

I jumped on the opportunity and took the MTR to Che Kung Temple after I checked out of the hotel. The journey there was such a pleasant surprise as I began to see the rolling hills of Sha Tin forming outside my train window. As the carriages moved away from busy Tsim Sha Tsui, so did the chaos and grime of the past five days of Hong Kong life.

Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin

The museum is located inside a beautiful building designed in a Taoist temple style. It reminded me of the Che Hoon Khor Moral Uplifting Society in Penang, but a much bigger and yellower version. The walk from the MTR took only five minutes, across a footbridge over a river that reflected the tree-lined avenues and the beautiful museum roofs in its waters.

The two figures that inspired me were of course, Bruce Lee and Hong Kong fashion designer Eddie Lau. Both are regarded as legends and are upholded as personifying “The Spirit of Hong Kong” by the museum curators. I spent about 40 minutes in Eddie Lau’s exhibition first, where a large selection of his dresses designed for celebrity songstress Anita Mui were on display.

Anita Mui’s dresses designed by Eddie Lau on display

But what I enjoyed most was reading about his childhood and the time he spent as a student in London’s Central Saint Martins. Watching his interview (in Cantonese with English subtitles), he spoke about how London as a city widened his perceptions of design and presented him with opportunities to experiment.

What amazed me was his diligence, passion and refusal to complain about the industry or his life circumstances. To me, he really embodies the Galatians 6:4 verse which I love so much: “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone.”

He spoke about having strong foundations, and how important basic cutting skills are to a fashion designer. He also said that if he could draw a design, he could most definitely actualise the design. That to me, is the difference between a dreamer and a doer.

Way of the Dragon (1972) movie still

In similar fashion, Bruce Lee was a romantic, yet he was a ruthless worker. He was creative, yet he was conscientious. On display were poems that he wrote about Seattle, handwritten letters to his wife, Linda and his thoughts on the movie industry. Yet there were step-by-step martial arts choreography for Way of the Dragon (1972) with Chuck Norris, his daily training and diet regime, and his detailed study and drawings of the human physique.

Both these legendary figures embody The Spirit of Hong Kong, which is passion that is complemented by lots and lots of perseverance. No amount of love for an art, nor natural talent, can be sustained without hard work and perseverance. And it’s this importance of diligence and discipline which I find is so lacking in my generation – the generation of instant coffee, and instant noodles, and instant photos and instant results.

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