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長洲 1
Hong Kong's "Long Island"
  Home for over 20 years    (enlarge 2)                      
From December 1976 to January 2001 I lived on Cheung Chau island, on a hill overlooking Namtam Bay (Namtam Wan) and the South China Sea in one direction, towards a bustling fishing village in the other. The ferry ride from Central District of Hong Kong,3 which took one hour, provided a good opportunity to unwind, talk to friends, play Chinese chess (xiang qi), read or even do music transcriptions; perhaps most memorable, though, was sitting on the back deck of the ferry and watching the polluted skyline of Hong Kong fade, to be replaced by the blue skies of Cheung Chau. There were no cars on the island, and the quiet location on a hill was very conducive to my guqin work, whether doing the research, playing or doing recordings.

Some time in the mid-1990s high speed ferries began supplementing the regular ones, reducing travel time to 35 minutes. Those ferries were never as interesting as the standard ones; on the other hand, after 1998 as pollution from China increased, the blue skies over Cheung Chau became much more rare.

After I left in 2001 "Orchid Garden" (Lan Yuen 蘭苑), my home of over 20 years, remained briefly unoccupied. It then had a succession of tenants until 2012, when apparently it was sold to people who officially combined the upstairs and downstairs flats.
The view to the right looked straight out on the sea. Here, looking left down across the bay below, was a terrace (out of view) in front of a sleepy Tin Hau Temple (天后宮), then in the distance a peninsula with a Roman Catholic retreat. Cheung Chau had what was said to be the oldest continuously occupied community in the former colony area, but when the British took control most of the hill tops on the southern part of Cheung Chau were occupied by missionary establishments; one can still see stones on hill paths that marked the spots beyond which local people were not allowed without special permission.

Although for normal purposes the view over the water was peaceful, even idyllic, after I began recording at home I became more aware of the motors on passing fishing boats.

Because of the salt air content of the sea breezes it was generally not advisable actually to play qin on the back terrace; but contemplating nature here (outside of the heat of the day) was a pleasant occupation.

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Mandarin and Cantonese transliteration of select localities

Cheung Chau (長洲 Chángzhōu)
Nantam Wan (南氹灣; 氹 is officially "dàng", but in origin it was specifically a Cantonese word (17464: "俗字,粵人以蓄水之地 local expression; Cantonese people use it to refer to a place where water collects")
Siu Kwai Wan (小貴灣 Xiǎo Guì Wān: Small Valuable Bay); on old maps it is 小鬼灣 (Little Ghost Bay, same pronunciation)
Much further information on Cheung Chau is available through internet searches. Of particular note is that in 2014 Google maps introduced street view for Cheung Chau: drag the little orange person, e.g., from the ferry pier.

2. Cheung Chau satellite image
Made from Bing maps; in the enlarged version the labels are more clear.

2013 return Looking past Shek Wu Chau and Lantau towards Macau          
As of 2013 Suzanne and I have returned on a part time basis, now based on the north side of the island.


3. Ferry service
Until 2000 the ferries were operated by the Hong Kong and Yaumati Ferry Company (Hong Kong Ferry [Holdings] Co. Ltd website). Since 2000 they have been operated by First Ferry (website).

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