“Born in the later part of 1997, I never got to experience Lai Yuen. For me, it is a place constructed by words and stories. … I would hear bits and pieces about the park and, somehow, it became part of my own childhood, part of my own memory.” 「我出生於1997年的下半年,從未經驗過荔園遊樂場是怎樣的。它是個由別人的字詞和故事合成的一個地方。一點一滴的聽著,荔園好像就是我自己的童年,是我個人的記憶。」

2021.06.19 4-6pm | “Fresh videos, in-depth transformation: 3 thoughtfully crafted journeys of the selves #3

 

On Years Flow Like Water 《日落照》
PUN Tsz-wai 潘子懷
(2021.05) 14’07”

**BEST WORK, D-Normal/V-Essay #3: “Presencing … Becoming” [to view video on video zine]

 

I moved back to Hong Kong after 5 years of living abroad. As I was on a bus ride in Shatin, a small plastic playground in Lik Yuen caught my eye. Towered by neighboring buildings, its bright obnoxious colors glimmered in the distance. In the emptiness of this playground, I imagined the laughter of children who once played there. It is a space where the past still exists.

Opened in 1949, Lai Yuen Amusement Park became the setting of many people’s childhood memories up till the early 1990s. After almost 50 years of operation, it closed its doors in 1997, the same year I was born. With an ending came a new beginning and that year marked a period of transition. Being born in the later part of 1997, I never got to experience Lai Yuen. For me, it is a place constructed by words and stories. Growing up, I would hear bits and pieces about the park and, somehow, it became part of my own childhood, part of my own memory.

“I didn’t have much of a childhood,” Anita Mui leaned on the fence of a rotating boat ride in Lai Yuen as she said these words quoted in a TV show. Before she became a Canto-pop icon, Anita sang in the park’s auditorium every night when she was a child. Whilst others were forming their childhood, hers was being taken away by the realities of the adult world. My knowledge and recollection of her began with her passing in 2003, which was preceded by the death of another pop icon and the SARS outbreak. As a child, I remember watching these events unfolding on TV, not really understanding the magnitude and hysteria surrounding it. It was 10 years later when I finally started to listen to her music, after watching the concert commemorating the 10th anniversary of her death.

 

 

Perhaps Anita is a time traveller. In two of my favourite songs of hers, 《似⽔流年》 (Years Flow Like Water) and 《⼣陽之歌》 (Song of the Setting Sun), she reflects on the passing of time for the sadness and beauty it invokes. As the years flow by like water, I try to hold onto the past in the cup of my hands, yet pools of yesterday stream down my fingers. Reflected in these waves is the setting sun, moving closer to meet its image. Soon it will be dark, but for now, let’s admire the changing hues projected in the sky. In the last concert before the death she anticipated, Anita expressed the sentiment, 「⼣陽無限 好,只是近⿈昏」 (the sunset is only beautiful near dusk), reflecting on the beauty of the passing moment. As she walked up those stairs in her bridal gown, the sun began to set. She reached the top of the staircase and, with a waved goodbye, she disappeared forever.

 

If an elephant never forgets, would it also yearn for the past that is gone? 如果大象擁有記憶,他會否忘記,甚至會懷念那不能留住的昨天嗎?

 

Tino, the elephant, arrived in Lai Yuen in 1958. Like Anita, he watched others forming their childhood memories whilst being held captive, standing in the same place for decades. The only stories I have heard about Tino were ones where he was ill-treated and malnourished. He worked until his death in 1989, when he was euthanized and buried in a landfill. Once a gigantic and sturdy animal, Tino now only exists in my mind as an ambiguous and elusive figure.

Both Tino and Anita are remnants of the past, existing today in memories from a time before mine. Much like in the folktale, “The Blind Men and the Elephant,” I try to feel and conceptualize this elephant. Yet my understanding is limited by subjective accounts of a collective memory. Whenever I try to grasp the past, it disappears in the palm of my hand. Perhaps Tino does not want to be caught again.