Copyright © 2011 - Jeff Loh. All rights reserved
1 In Blessed Earth Lane.
My dear friends! Canton’s Lun Mun Chui’s prestige and fame is as thick as people and horses crowding into a city. There is no one who does not know him. You may not have seen a white crane but I am sure you must have seen a pile of shit before [This is how well known Lun Mun Chui is in
I heard many stories from neighbouring second uncle7 and from foot-bound eighth auntie8. Mostly from unofficial sources. I read many writings of the old describing the life of Lun Mun Chui that not many people know. I shall now recount these events in detail as stories. No more idle talk and let me delve right into the topic.
During his lifetime and after, Lun Mun Chui was known for his uncanny wit. Why was he so demon-witted? You ask. Well, this is because he was the reincarnation of a big-headed ghost9. Before he was born, neighours of Blessed Earth Lane had been seeing a ghost every night – one with a big head with a small body. While walking in the night when people came across it, it would simply open its large mouth and grin at them idiotically. It was not afraid of people10. My friends please don’t say it’s not a frightening scene at all! When one person sees it, two more will come forth and claim that they too had seen it. As all descriptions were very similar even skeptics began to wonder if the stories were true. Very soon everyone was afraid to walk outside at night; all except for Night Watcher Six11 who had not witnessed such apparitions.
Some people reasoned that if there was indeed a big-headed ghost in the vicinity, why wouldn’t Night Watcher Six be afraid?
“I beat my gongs each night, going through Blessed Earth Lane back and forth at least twelve times12 never have I witnessed such a thing before,” claimed Night Watcher Six.
“This proves that those claiming that they saw the apparitition they were merely firing off their big cannons13!. I’ll believe when I see it.”
So Night Watcher Six continued with his job, sounding the times for the night. When he reached Blessed Earth Lane, he would open his golden pupils and fiery eyes14 to look around purposefully and even pause for a while before leaving the area. Still he did not find anything strange.
One night, after having two cups of wine, his eyes became blurry; beating on his bamboo plaque and copper gong15 as he went about his business on the third watch. Just when he came to house number fifteen he saw a black shadow.
“Oi! Who’s out there! This late in the night; must be some thief at work.”
Quickly Night Watcher Six went for a closer look. Wah! What a big-headed ghost it was! Head as big as a keg, a skinny vine-like body and a hideous face to match. It stared at Night Watcher Six and gave its signature idiotic grin when it suddenly dodged into house number thirteen where Old Lun Eight lived. Now Night Watcher Six was really courageous and was not a bit least frightened. Quickly he ran up to house thirteen and banged on the door shouting,
“Old Eight Lun! Wake up! I need to talk to you! I’m Night Watcher Six.”
Mrs. Lun Eight was already walking out of the hall. So ugly she looked in her undergarments with her three delicates bouncing up and down! Hey! Wait a minute! Women have two protrusions. How come there are three on her? Well, that is because Auntie Eight was in her full eighth month of pregnancy. Mrs. Eight said to her husband,
“I was almost frightened to death. I had a dream. In it was this big-headed ghost. I could see its head but not its body. It approached me and with a twist, it pierced into my belly through the trousers leg. At once I struggled and woke myself up. Now the little piggy16 is causing me some pain.”
Oh my! This is getting strange. Night Watcher Six began to wonder about everything he had seen and heard. But before her story ended, Mrs. Lun started experiencing great pains in her stomach.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Edited by the Jimbo
1. In Cantonese a big-headed ghost is slang for a rich man or boss by the virtue of his wealth.
2. At Sea Pearl in Canton, there is still a street named ’First Scholar Selection’. The character ‘擢' means to select or to promote. ’甲' means first. In imperial times, it also meant to be first in the imperial exams. According to one story, there were indeed a few Number One Scholars that came from this innocuous looking lane, including Ming Dynasty’s demon-witted Lun Mun Chui. During the Southern Sung Dynasty, there lived a Mr. Wong, a carpenter who came to Canton for work. He had two sons, the elder named Pun and the younger Hei. However the father worked so hard he died of exhaustion before he could see his sons grow up. As the family was poor, the older brother worked and self-studied. In the meantime, he supported and enrolled the younger brother in a private school studio. A few years later the older brother succeeded in the preliminary examinations and became a scholar and the number one scholar at the finals. The younger brother also passed the exams and became the next number one scholar. With two number one scholars coming from the same family, it had a great impact on Canton. Local officials erected a new residence for them and named the street “First Scholar Selection”.
Another story describes this place where Lun Mun Chui was born. Most importantly not only did this place produce the Number One Scholar (狀元); of his two sons, the elder one became the Number Three Scholar (探花) during the reign of Emperor Cheng Te and nine years later, his younger son became the Number Two Scholar (榜眼). Hence the place was named the “Blessed Earth”.
3. Arch-nemesis of our hero. We shall encounter him later.
4. See preface.
5. A kind of song popular in Canton. It has nothing to do with the Dragon Boat race or the festival. The street singer carries a small “dragon boat” with a gong and drum going through the neighbourhood to sell his vocal talents. For more details see the video explanation at
6. Chinese love to speak in the 3rd person. This is to show one’s humility.
7. In Cantonese slang, the second younger brother of one’s father is a pawnbroker. Because of his profession, he is said to be very experienced and knowledgeable, knowing minutiae that others may not know.
8. Auntie Eight is a derogatory euphemism for a gossipy or fearsome crone. In adding the phrase bound foot (the ancient fetish of Chinese males binding their womenfolk’s feet) implies that she is really old since foot binding was no longer practised during the time of the author (but one could still see such remnants of the old dynasty). The practice was finally stopped by the communist regime. Various reigns of the Ch’ing Dynasty had tried to stamp out this barbaric practice but to no avail since later emperors themselves succumbed to this fetish.
9. In Cantonese slang, a big-headed ghost is a rich person. Because of his wealth he is often the boss or chief.
10. In popular belief, ghosts are supposed to be afraid of the living. This comes from the adage, 人怕鬼三分, 鬼怕人七分. Man is afraid of ghosts by 30% while ghosts are afraid of human being by 70%. Thus an upright person has no fear of them; only guilty ones have.
|A nightwatchman. The character means to patrol|
15. The watchman would clap on the hollow bamboo stick twice before striking the copper gong twice, with sounds of “duk duk chang chang”. The hour is indicated by the number of beats.
16. Cantonese call their sons little piggy 猪仔as a term of affection because pigs are precious commodities in the old days. Also amongst the illiterate classes it was common to give their sons names or nick names like亞狗 (dog), 亞羊 (goat). Girls on the other hand may not even possess a name!
1. Prestigious, famous, big shot or ‘cool’.
2. Equivalent to 不.
3. Counting word for a pile.
4. Equivalent to 是.
5. Same as 那, just the tones are different.
6. Extending the meaning of ‘to twist’. 扭計 is ‘to twist the plan’ meaning to kick up a fuss or to play a prank. 扭擰 is ‘to twist and turn’ i.e. to be wishy washy or indecisive.
7. same as 子.
8. See Note #6.
9. See Note #7.
10. A final particle,
a. questioning emphasis: 點知呢? how do you know?!
b. Reflecting the question back to the questioner: 事情有誰不知呢? for this matter isn’t there anyone who doesn’t know?
c. To emphasize the accuracy of the statement: 佢地都要求我呢 they must seek my help!
d. Indicating continuous tense: 現在學習呢 at this moment they are still learning.
e. Pause indicator functioning like a comma, 現在呢事不同往日 Now, things is not the same as before.
f. This or that as in, 呢個, this time, that time, 呢陣.
11. Same as 不 don’t.
12. See Note #13.
13. Where 邊處, who 邊個.
14. A thing or an object.
15. The ancient (classical) meaning of走which Cantonese retain means ‘to run’. The meaning in modern standard Chinese is ‘to walk’. Cantonese walk is 行.
16. What. 乜嘢 or乜野 means ‘what things’. 做乜野’ means ‘what are you doing?’
17. So ugly or hideous that one’s flesh turns sour (i.e. to become pickled by frightening to death).
18. Why點解, how點樣, how do you know, 點知 (short for 點樣知道), how do you say點講 (short for 點樣講).
19. Same as 鑽 to piece or drill into.
20. See note #16.