Saturday, April 24, 2010

Addiction (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Considering how I tend to think of Hong Kong as a bastion of law and order (where, on a personal level, I am able to be regularly out and about in the city on my own late at night), it's ironic to realize that it came to have the position it does in the world in large part due to a substance banned all over the world because of its ability to lead people into serious addiction. More specifically, Hong Kong Island was ceded by the Chinese Qing government to imperial Britain as one consequence of the former losing the First Opium War (1839-1842) against the latter; with the rest of the territories that now make up Hong Kong also coming under imperial British rule before the 19th century came to an end -- and all of it only being returned to China in 1997.

The last opium den in Hong Kong closed down in the 1970s -- and these days, the major addiction that the authorities are waging war against is that involving nicotine, not opium. (Therefore, we can safely assume that when they put up signs that say "Smoking can kill" (as can be seen in this Photo Hunt entry's lower photo), they mean the kind of cigarettes associated with such as the Marlboro Man.)

Although he was originally condemned on the grounds that his actions were a major catalyst for the First Opium War, Lin Zexu (1785-1850), the incorruptible Chinese scholar-official who sought to wage war against opium, has since come to be viewed as a Chinese hero. Among the monuments erected in his honor are a Lin Zexu Memorial Museum and a 3 meter high statue of the man in the grounds of the Lin Fung Temple where he stayed at on an official visit to Macau in 1839. Also, June 3rd, the day that Lin confiscated crates of opium in his campaign against the drug, is commemorated as Anti-Smoking Day in Taiwan!


Anonymous said...

what an informative post.

eastcoastlife said...

When I saw the Lin Zexu statue, I got excited because I thought there is still an opium den in HK. Almost anything is possible in HK, right? :P

MaR said...

How interesting. I would have love to visit an opium den, just out of curiosity. Imagine a blog post! yes, my addiction is not reduced to several cups of coffee a day :)

Happy PH and happy weekend!


Anonymous said...

Yes, thanks for the informative post, YTSL!

Speaking of anti-smoking messages, I really dig those morbid pictures put on the cigarette packets in Hong Kong. The first time I saw them was in Singapore, and I had to resist the urge to buy a pack just for the box. ;)

Seriously though, as much as I think smoking can look pretty sexy on the silver screen, it's good to see its use being discouraged in countries all over the world.

Kingwho? said...

Great post. I wonder if they will erect a statue to whomever comes forward and ends HK film piracy? haha

I have a few old cigarette add prints featured on my latest blog post. They sell them all over NYC Chinatown. I'm with duriandave. Smoking does look sexy on the silver screen though.

Eden said...

That is such a post with substance! ( I visited Hong Kong the past summer so I have a few posts on the visit. )

Mine is up here too.

ipanema said...

very informative indeed.

Rach said...

I love learning new things when doing PH :-)

YTSL said...

Hi ewok1993 --

Thanks! :)

Hi EastCoastLife --

No Lin Zexu statue but also no opium den. Much is possible in Hong Kong but an opium den sporting a statue of Lin Zexu? Sorry, that's too much of an ask I think! :D

Hi Mar --

So... you are willing to risk life and limb to get good blog content? ;DDD

Hi duriandave --

Yes, smoking may look nice but -- sorry, smokers -- it is bad for you *and* smells awful too!

Hi Kingwho? --

Heheh re your suggestion -- and have to tell you though one sight I've been happy to see is two undercover cops arresting a pirate video seller. Firstly, yay re that action. Secondly, being a movie fan, among my first reactions was -- did I walk into the filming of a movie? :DDD

Hi Eden --

Thanks for reading as well as looking. :)

Hi Ipanema --

Thank you.

Hi Rachel --

Photo Hunting is cool in so many ways, isn't it? :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post - love how you took the theme in a very different direction.

magiceye said...

wonderful take on the theme!

Carver said...

This was such an interesting post and well photographed too. Happy Weekend.

Ladykli said...

Very interesting. Smoking is nasty and I'm sure smokers feel like us non smokers are out to get them Both of my parents smoke and I tried to get them to stop. They both finally quit later in life but they both had to be on oxygen and died from complications related to it.

TorAa said...

Thanks for sharing these historical facts - great post;)

LifeRamblings said...

that is very informative indeed. smoking is bad and i don't like smoke of any kind. the stench is unbearable.

Sreisaat Adventures said...

Hi YTSL! I'm glad it's all been gone. Otherwise, it pains me to think how much worse the situation can get (much worser than what we have currently) in terms of the effects of addiction in today's generation.

YTSL said...

Hi JDeQ --

Thanks -- and to be honest, I'm surprised that most other Photo Hunters seem to have gone for a lighter approach to this theme than me! :)

Hi magiceye --

Thanks for your appreciation. :)

Hi Carver --

Thanks for visiting, looking and reading once again. :)

Hi Ladykli --

I'm sorry to read about what happened with your parents. Hope smokers who read what you wrote will see a cautionary tale in there.

Hi TorAa --

Thanks for reading and appreciating. :)

Hi Life Ramblings --

Lemme guess: you really hate cigarette smoke? ;b

Hi Sreisaat Adventures --

There will always be some drug addiction in the world, it seems. It's just that the hope is that people will be addicted to less harmful substances (e.g., caffeine) than the really nasty ones.

Marta said...

I also love how you interpreted the theme and the information on opium's role in the history of Hong Kong.

Noel Morata said...


i like your own interpretation of addiction , very interesting history on the opium in your country.

come and check out my addiction on my sari blog, come join if you feel inspired.

A. said...

I've been reading your links, I haven't yet gone around them all, because it's a period of history I know little about. It seems to me that Lin Zexu was very far seeing, and well ahead of his time. I wonder in the long run just how different things might have been.

Gattina said...

I read about that, very interesting !

Susan Demeter said...

Very interesting! I believe opium, and nicotine are very highly addictive substances that should be banned. Interesting about the opium dens and how the street are safe to walk now. Great post, and thanks for visiting :)

YTSL said...

Hi Marta --

Thank you -- for your appreciation as well as reading and looking. :)

Hi Noel --

Thanks, but: a) Hong Kong is not a country; and b) I'm actually Malaysian (though currently residing in Hong Kong and loving it a lot)! ;S

Hi A. --

I think things would have been so very different indeed -- exactly how, though, we'll never know!

Hi Gattina --

Cool that you find it interesting. :)

Hi Sue --

Reading comments like yours has me wondering whether there are any smokers among us Photo Hunters... ;)

Unknown said...

brave man--he deserves to be called a hero. very interesting post.

Diana said...

There is a statue of Lin Zexu in NY's Chinatown. Someone told me an interesting story of why it was put up but sadly I don't remember it well enough to repeat. Perhaps someone else knows it.

It amazes me how many people still smoke here in the US after decades of anti-smoking campaigns. But then again, my brother just quit about 2 years ago-the last holdout in my family.

Mirage said...

It takes a brave soul to stand against what is wrong. Opium claimed many lives in many countries...and until now as you mentioned, nicotine or amphetamine does too...great entry, thanks for the input!

Anna said...

A lovely take on the theme...a significant man to change a trend (addiction). Happy weekend!

YTSL said...

Hi Luna Miranda --

An incorruptible official sounds heroic in any age and land, doesn't it? :)

Hi Diana --

If you ever remember this story, do come back and share it, please! :)

Hi Mirage --

It's not just claiming lives but also wrecking so many others that is the problem with a lot of drugs... :S

Hi Anna --

Glad you like the entry -- and more than BTW, love your maiden foray into Photo Hunting. :)

jams o donnell said...

Thank you for such an informative post. The way Britain effectively forced opium on China was one of many disgraceful events in the history of the British Empire.

Interestingly there is a local churchyard with a grave to a person who was involved with the Bengal Opium board... I am sure he thought he was doing a great job!

Diana said...

Well this isn't as colorful of a story as I remember it being told (and maybe that isn't a bad thing)but the NY Times wrote an article when the statue was erected:

Diana said...


Chinatown's Fujianese Get a Statue
Pub: Nov 20, 1997

The bronze statue of Confucius has dominated the landscape in Manhattan's Chinatown since 1984, casting a learned and paternal look toward Mott Street, the World Trade Center and the world beyond.

Yesterday, Confucius got some company: a statue of a Qing Dynasty official from Fujian Province, whose appearance in Chinatown may have less to do with his role in 19th-century history than with politics in the late 20th century. The new statue is of Lin Zexu, who helped to ignite the Opium War by banning the drug, to the chagrin of British officials.

Those who brought the Lin statue to Chatham Square say they did so to deliver a strong anti-drug message. But the statue carries a strong political message as well: it underscores the ascending power in Chinatown of immigrants from mainland China, particularly the Fujianese. They are quickly gaining political strength, at the expense of the pro-Taiwan Cantonese who settled earlier in Chinatown.

''Confucius is for all Chinese,'' said Zheng Dezhang, 36, who immigrated to New York City from Fujian Province in 1989. ''But Lin Zexu is from Fujian, and that is very meaningful for those of us from Fujian, because there are more of us now in New York.''

James Lee, English secretary for the Consolidated Chinese Benevolent Association, whose organization played a major role in building the Confucius statue more than 10 years ago, suspects politics may have been a factor: Lin, after all, fought against the British. And Hong Kong is a British colony that was recently returned to a triumphant China.

''There are many heroes in Chinese history,'' Mr. Lee said. ''Why did they have to pick Lin Zexu?''

The reason, maintains Steven Wong, chairman of the Lin Zexu Foundation of U.S.A., is inscribed in English and Chinese at the statue's hexagonal red-bean-colored base: ''Say No to Drugs.''

''There's a stereotype that only Fujianese sell drugs, and we need to set an example,'' said Mr. Wong, whose business card indicates that he is a director of or consultant to 11 other Chinese-American organizations.

The statue cost $200,000 and was financed by individuals and civic associations, particularly those with Fujianese ties, Mr. Wong said. And the placement of the statue was carefully planned: Lin faces northeast and East Broadway, which some people call ''Fuzhou Street'' because of the prevalence of Fujianese. His back is to One Police Plaza and the Manhattan Detention Complex.

The Confucius statue, by comparison, is on the Bowery and Division Street and faces south -- where Lin Zexu is part of a backdrop that includes the World Trade Center. It was financed primarily by money from Taiwan's Nationalist Government.

The list goes on: the green marble base of Confucius was mined in Taiwan; the red granite one of Lin Zexu in Xiamen, a major Fujianese city. And Lin Zexu, at 18 feet 5 inches, is taller than Confucius's 16 feet, said T. C. Ho, the architect of both statues. But he says one should not read too much into Confucius's smaller stature.

Yesterday's event was not the official unveiling of the Lin Zexu statue; that will come at some later date, for which organizers hope to recruit Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and other officials.

But that did not stop a steady stream of Chinese from gawking at the latest addition to the neighborhood.

''Confucius is good, of course, but Li Zexu is special because I am from Fujian,'' said Cheng Hoi, 54, who immigrated from Fuzhou, Lin Zexu's hometown, 20 years ago. Then, cocking his head toward the heavens, he invoked a famous poem by Li Bai, the Tang Dynasty poet, about how the moonlight makes one think of one's hometown.

''For me,'' Mr. Cheng smiled, ''the statue of Lin Zexu is my moonlight.''

Annie said...

Fascinating! I really enjoy learning more about Hong Kong from your blog.

Have a great week.

YTSL said...

Hi jams --

Yeah, that Bengal Opium board member probably thought he was doing something honorable! :S

Hi Diana --

Thanks for getting back with that New York Times article reference (and more!). And while it may not be as colorful as you thought, it still is interesting to me. :)

Hi Annie --

Thanks -- and hope you have great week (too). :)