Eunuch-flogger’s spectacles on display

Mus-CD-gun

Here’s something you don’t see every day in Hong Kong…

Mus-CD-torpIt’s the torpedo station at Lei Yue Mun, which guarded Victoria Harbour in the 1890s. This is a replica, but the actual weapons were guided, and were powered in a forward direction by being pulled backwards. Freaky stuff.

The main reason to finally, at long last, visit the HK Museum of Coastal Defence was to see the exhibition on Puyi, China’s last emperor. During his time from 1906 to 1967 he was Qing ruler, the Republic’s deposed monarch, Japan’s puppet head of Manchukuo, enemy captive of the USSR and ultimately a war criminal-turned-propaganda pawn of Mao’s PRC.

I’ve never seen the epic movie, but this review accuses director Bertolucci of adding a load of love-and-sex excitement that never happened in real life. The reviewer notes that Puyi’s own memoirs indicate a murkier existence (“…by the age of 11, flogging a eunuch was a part of my daily routine.”) But he would have written the autobiography under the direction of Beijing officials anyway. China’s reverse-takeover of Manchu culture and history, and the lack (so far as I know) of any sort of Manchu diaspora or authorities-in-exile, mean we probably have no idea how much accounts of Puyi are semi-fabricated or distorted…

Puyi-exhib

The exhibition draws on material from Mainland institutions. In truth, there’s not a huge amount to see (and there’s always that nagging feeling with items out of Mainland museums that it’s all fake, anyway). The main problem is that the exhibits are crammed into the tiny cellar-like store-rooms of what used to be a British gun emplacement, making it hard to squeeze in alongside any other visitors – not one of the Leisure and Cultural Services Dept’s smarter decisions. Look at it as a good excuse to visit the Museum of Coastal Defence.

This is basically Hong Kong’s military museum. Along with the old fort, some old Brit armoured vehicles and a nice view of Lei Yue Mun, the place has a small permanent exhibit devoted to the UK forces’ historical local presence. Nothing very fascinating, but post-1997, this has to be matched with a parallel display about the PLA, which is predictably jarring…

Mus-CD-PLA

Like Puyi, perhaps, we are all being re-educated to become model citizens.

 

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12 Responses to Eunuch-flogger’s spectacles on display

  1. Chris Maden says:

    The book is “The Last Manchu,” translated by Paul Kramer. Out of print, but you can probably pick it up on Amazon.

  2. Regislea says:

    “…by the age of 11, flogging a eunuch was a part of my daily routine.”

    Apart from the eunuchs bit – although we did have our doubts about some of the teachers – much like the school I went to then.

  3. PD says:

    I tried — twice — to watch the Bertolucci production, but found it rather empty, although visually stunning. (Perhaps I was unduly influenced by knowing the tricks and traps of the biographical form “from the inside”?)

    Is it just me, but I feel increasingly drawn to the un-Han aspects of China — any escape from the mind-numbingly monolithic cookie-cutter-ism.

    Like the Macanese “Portuguese” of HK, the Manchus may have been hard for the untrained eye to distinguish (see Timothy Mo for an expose of the subtleties of the distinctions). But, retaining their language almost to the present day, they were above all perceived as foreign — like the French, I suppose, ruling medieval England without integrating unduly.

    Nous sommes tous des Manchu.

  4. War movies, newsreels, military history…there’s only family genealogy, graveyards and a world cruise after this.

    Aging is fun, isn’t it? As one cheese said to the other.

  5. Probably says:

    Is “flogging the eunuch” a new euphemism for onanism?

  6. old git says:

    If you carefully read the Museum’s Captain Collinson’s 1840-something letter replying to his mother, you will discover that it still takes 6 weeks for a letter from England to Hong Kong, by surface post.

  7. PD says:

    Unfortunately, surface/sea post has been abolished in many countries, including HK.

  8. Sorry, I thought you wrote old fart, not old fort in the last paragraph.

    And don’t forget, Hemlock readers, especially today’s commentators, to think about your gravestone inscription before Alzheimer’s really kicks in. Spike Milligan’s is the one to beat:

    “I TOLD YOU I WAS ILL”

  9. Laguna Lurker says:

    @old git & PD: For your amusement, it takes an air mail letter from Hong Kong more than one month to reach us here in Laguna, Philippines. Then the postman demands 20 pesos to hand it over. Just imagine if it had come by sea.

  10. Joe Blow says:

    I once mailed a postcard at an army commissary in the Peens. It was just from the corner of my eye that I noticed that the mail clerk tore off the stamp. Somehow the card never arrived. Spooky. Great moments in postal history.

  11. Hank Morgan says:

    After that movie can’t pee at night without fear of the cadres.

    Finally a reason to visit HK – Museum of Coastal Defense.

    Anything post 1941, is irrelevant.

  12. steve says:

    The Last Emperor is actually a rather good film. Like most of Bertolucci’s best work, it’s about a man of rather ordinary qualities getting swept up in large-scale historical events, and then failing to rise to the occasion. The Conformist is his masterpiece in this vein (and his best film, period), but TLE is very much worth your time.

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