Friday, October 10, 2008

Chung Yeung in Hong Kong

Hong Kong celebrated Chung Yeung this week with a public holiday and a day off from school and work. This holiday exemplifies some great aspects Hong Kong, including strong family ties and scenic hiking trails. Chung Yeung, celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, is a holiday where families journey to grave sites to perform cleansing rituals of the site and to pay respect to their ancestors. Back in the Han Dynasty (BC 202-AD 220), the legend arose that a certain villager was warned to take his family to a high place. He did and by doing so, saved his family from being destroyed in a flood. Based on this, families today often hike up Hong Kong’s many mountains on Chung Yeung as well as visit cemeteries.

Despite its reputation as an urban jungle, there is real jungle here on Hong Kong Island. We live a few minutes via taxi or bus from great hiking trails. Most of the trails have a good chunk of asphalt (mainly steps upwards) but packed dirt trails abound. I can hike up any series of hills, with great names like The Twins, Violet Hill, Jardine’s Lookout and Dragon’s Back, from a central trailhead very near our home. This main trailhead is part of the Wilson Trail which cuts across most of Hong Kong, over 100 kilometers long. Most trails cut through some dense jungle like vegetation but quickly get you on the ridge of the hill, looking down at the South China Sea on either side of you.

In the jungle parts of the hikes, things can get a bit odd. Once I was bombarded by hundreds of frogs leaping downhill in a sudden rainstorm. I commonly see wolf spiders as big as my hand. But more worrisome are the snakes. I once saw a huge green python snake and ran for at least a mile in the opposite direction. As the trails are a bit wild, I usually hike with a friend. My most aptly matched hiking partner is also the mother of a 7 year old boy and 5 year old twins. We both know we have to hurry and have both been called off the trails by phone calls from school. And while it is slightly amusing to think of twins’ mothers hiking The Twins hill, what really makes us laugh is thinking about how hard it would be to drag our own sets of twins up that hill. So, we celebrated Chung Yeung by hiking uphill and laughing about our families. It might not officially count as paying respects, but I know my Dad would approve.


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