Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 55 — enjoying last September’s crop

We were in a comparatively happy space last September, pre-Delta Variant! I was still shopping freely and going to the clubs three times a week. On the blog I reposted a lot of pictures — go there to see them all. Today I select a few just as a nice break from the past few rather heavy posts.

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Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 54 — more from 20 years ago

This time from October 2001.

02 Oct 2001

Despite what I said…breaking my silence

It has taken something really good (for a change!) to make me interrupt my break from this diary.

1. My nephew, who in an immaculate piece of historical research has demonstrated his descent on his mother’s side from Bungaree, who sailed with the explorer Matthew Flinders almost 200 years ago, has been honoured by having some of his research displayed in a Matthew Flinders exhibition at the State Library of NSW. He has also been interviewed on video, and that interview, along with some other things, will become part of the exhibit at the Museum of Sydney devoted to evidence of continuity of Aboriginal presence in the Sydney Region since European settlement.

2. Cafe Max was particularly lovely this afternoon….

04 Oct 2001 and site

M got into tidying yesterday, and became a bit…well…

Today I am on my way to coaching and called into Global Gossip Internet Cafe (of which I am now a member) in order to start the process of deleting the archives (except one or two) on Diary-X. (Internet Cafe saves hassles, is cheap, and makes a nice outing.)

I do this purge on Diary-X every few months, but in some ways it was nice to delete September! However, you can still read it on the Angelfire archive. That gives you September, but all the rest back to late 1999 can be found on that archive, for which see Diary Key below.

Really looking forward to after coaching. I have a book complete with proclamation (correctly spelt) 😉 Max is wonderful….

05 Oct 2001

…but I’ll rave quietly 😉

Our Prime Minister has called an election for November 10, nothing to do (of course) with his popularity going through the roof right now due to one rather dishonourable set of circumstances, and one other–the international situation. It’s not too hard to see the second one, but what of the first? I refer to a series of carefully targetted policy backflips, the cynicism of which even some of his supporters have noted. I also refer to the exquisitely absurd Tampa crisis, a mobilisation of moral panic and xenophobia which is simply breathtaking. In cost terms, we may as well have hired the QE2 and sent all the asylum seekers on a long cruise, but people really don’t seem to care. I’ve argued this one before (see September 2001 diary) and others have argued it better. So I’ll leave it there right now. Except to say I think Malcolm Fraser (ex-Prime Minister and Liberal Party one at that) has generally been quite right in his criticism of his ideological successor over the past few years.

J W Howard won’t be getting my vote–but I guess you knew that; then, neither will the Opposition unless they look a whole lot better. Yes, I will vote: it is compulsory to do so, but I will be studying the alternatives very carefully.

06 Oct 2001

A petition signed by many eminent Australians

In The Australian today there appeared a petition signed by two broadsheet pages worth of eminent and less well-known Australians, including a number I know, such as Nicholas Jose, William Yang, Helmut Bakaitis, Professor Ros Arnold of Sydney University, and of course Malcolm Fraser, ex-Prime Minister (same party as the present one). M. and I agreed we would have signed it ourselves had we had the chance, so here it is:

Australia and the Refugee Crisis

In today’s world, left shaken and uncertain by the terrorist acts of 11 September, it is more imperative than ever that Australia find just and humanitarian ways to respond to the growing refugee crisis.

We are outraged and ashamed at this country’s contemptible treatment of men, women and children seeking asylum in Australia, a country which has given a new home and new life to countless thousands of immigrants.

We are outraged and ashamed that our hard-won international reputation as a decent and tolerant democracy has been severely damaged.

We must not allow the events of 11 September and their aftermath to erode the principles of humanitarianism and justice that underpin our society. Rather, we must reaffirm those principles as essential to our democracy.

Confronted by a situation that is challenging for community and government alike, we call for Australia to abide by both the spirit and the letter of its international treaty obligations in offering sanctuary to victims of persecution who have fled the tyranny of their governments.

We call for a multi-partisan approach to address the global refugee crisis. We call for Australia to show regional and international leadership in developing a worldwide and long-term solution to this problem. This is one way Australia can act constructively in this volatile time.

Finally, we call for all Australians to draw strength and direction from the rich humanitarian heritage of our country, especially the value of the fair go.

I would sign that gladly, and I add that one reason I will not vote for either major party is that the current government has cynically manipulated the situation for supposed electoral advantage (that is, winning the One Nation vote for itself) and the Labor Party has connived in an unprincipled manner for the same purpose. Both stink, in my view, at least on this issue.

The 2000+ people who signed the above petition are not just ratbags, radicals or trendies, but include some of the most eminent and respected in the land.

I had an interesting discussion tonight with a military man who before long will be a lot closer to the action overseas than I am, and he agreed with this assessment of the current government’s handling of the so-called “queue-jumpers” 100%, I am pleased to say.

For further reading, see Peter Mares, Borderline, UNSW Press 2001. This book is excellent, and actually quite charitable towards Mr Ruddock, the current Immigration Minister, but gives inconvenient fact after inconvenient fact to expose the hollowness of the government line, made even worse by the manipulation since the book was written of the so-called crisis over the Tampa. (See September diary for more.)

But I promised not to rave too much…

[What follows] is from “Spectrum” in The Sydney Morning Herald 6 October 2001:

Barely-human nature


By Ruth Wajnryb

Be honest. Can anyone truly look at a picture of a refugee family from the Tampa and still see these people as people? I can’t. I now see them in the terms in which they have been newly constructed in the language.

I try not to. I remind myself: these are people. They’re not refugees or asylum seekers or desperadoes or illegals or queuejumpers or boat people. They’re not cargo or contraband or human flotsam or victims of people-trading. They’re not part of a flood or a deluge that needs to be contained. They’re people.

It’s not easy. Over the past few weeks they’ve been languaged – packaged and presented up to us. Sometimes as deserving objects of our compassion. Sometimes as targets of our contempt. Somehow, along the way, they stopped being people.

They are the new dark hordes, a not-too-distant cousin of the yellow variety. They’re Middle Eastern, Afghans, Muslims (variously pronounced Mozlem, Muzlem, Moozlem. I am reminded that Churchill persistently mispronounced “Nazis” as “Narzies”. This allowed him to drag out the first vowel – one can only speculate why. I suspect that talkback radio’s “Moozlem” serves a similar purpose.)

How do you make a villain? Insanely, it helps to equate those-who-flee with the government-being-fled – a formula that would turn Einstein into a Nazi. It’s a peculiar way of thinking that serves only the one making the equation.

And what about us? We’ve constructed ourselves into a land on the brink of being deluged. Overcome by a tidal wave, a plague, disease. We have no will or power of our own; the pestilence will happen to us because illegal asylum-seekers will cause it to happen. Unless we act decisively, close the floodgates, send in the SAS. Make ourselves Tampa-proof. This is what we’ve been told.

This crisis seemed to be about 460 people, a ship, an island, a continent and a prime minister. But it’s not. It’s about language. The language we use to talk about these people has started to construct our attitude towards them. When and how and why did these people stop being people? How and when did these people become “illegals”? How did “illegals” come into the language as a plural countable noun? These are not people who have done, or might have done, or have yet to have it proved that they have done, illegal things. All these categories have been collapsed into one: “illegals”. Their entire identity – a wailing baby, an exhausted mother, a father trying to hold it all together, where they’ve come from, their memories, what fears they’ve had and still have, what hopes they hardly dare to have – all of this has been leaked out of the picture. Now they’re three illegals.

So it’s no longer possible to look at a picture of a refugee family without thinking: aren’t you just an illegal alien, a queuejumper, an economic refugee? Those clothes don’t look too bad. That haircut looks recent. Under the new rhetoric, there’s no neutral term for who they are.

The spotlight turned the people-who-have-been-smuggled into contraband. They’re like drugs, or weapons. They’re cargo. Stop the people transporting the cargo. Stop the governments making life such hell that people willingly become illegal cargo. Now they’re illegal cargo. They’re illegals.

Humankind has a long and colourful history of demonising, of stripping the other of their humanity, seeing them as animals or objects or vermin. (We needed a song, remember, to remind us that the Russians love their children.) Historian Colin Tatz says that atrocious acts such as genocide can happen only because the pathways to extermination have been made possible through language. Step 1 is to create “the other”. Step 2 places that other outside the human membrane. That’s what we’re up to.

I know they’ve been languaged because it has worked on me.

07 Oct 2001

More food for thought

The column above expresses some ideas that I have some sympathy with, in a mode I relate to professionally.

Ruth Wajnryb is an ESL teacher with considerable expertise in migration and cross-cultural communication.

Her analysis of the discourse in which controversy over “illegal immigrants” occurs is well worth noting.

Please consider it carefully. It is very sound linguistically.

Meanwhile today was quite delightful.

Yum Cha at the Emperor’s Garden was attended by the Empress, Sirdan, Malcolm, Mitchell and myself. Food was good, and conversation that continued in two other places was really good.

Mitchell got to hear Sirdan speak Afrikaans, and both Mitchell and I learned more about Sirdan than we had known before. His is an interesting story, from Zimbabwe to South Africa to London to New Zealand to Australia.

Malcolm and the Empress went to see a recent Australian film, The Bank, and loved it so much that they propose seeing it again at 11.45 next Sunday! I, and perhaps Mitchell (who is invited) may join them.

Conversation resumed with Sirdan, the Empress, Malcolm and myself at the Albury (where my drinking was modest and not all alcoholic–so I did know the way to Surry Hills!).

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The Albury

It should be added that a slight poetic licence may apply to Malcolm’s stories; I really did know the way home.

More food for thought

This link to an article in The Atlantic Monthly is worth a look. Harking back to Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies, originally written during World War II, the writer, from a moderate conservative perspective, brings us back to core problems confronting the existence of liberal democracy when faced with closed minds or societies both within and without. I find the ideas presented must be taken into account when thinking of the current world situation.

There has been a disturbing report of the latest boatload of asylum seekers, turned back to Indonesia by the Australian Navy–in itself arguably the right or wrong thing to do. The report claims that some of the people on the boat began to throw their children over the side. This is very emotive stuff. You know my interest in the topic, and I now include a link to Robert Manne’s latest column on it. I share his perception that public debate on issues such as multiculturalism has soured, and fear too that the present major parties–both of them–have contributed to this display of Hansonism.

“Children overboard” was, it turned out, a lie and a national disgrace.

I said to Ian Smith last night that I suspect my core ideas are actually Dickensian, by which I mean that the spirit in which Dickens viewed both religion and society is congenial to me. In fact I suspect I imbibed it at my grandfather’s knee–the same grandfather who counselled me when young to watch for the knife concealed behind the back when you saw people praying!

2021: See also In Remembrance: Ruth Wajnryb, Ph.D. (1948-2012).

13 Oct 2001

No politics today

However, that does not mean I won’t get on my soap box at some stage in the future.

While I was at the doctor’s surgery the other day I picked up a little book called Brief encounters: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Associated Therapies for General Practitioners by Alex Tahmindjis, and was interested having had a little experience in this area, directly as a client, and indirectly with others.

The book gave a good summary of depression, anxiety disorders, seretonin levels, and so on.

Improving one’s seretonin levels is one element in treating depression and anxiety. Tahmindjis discusses the role of such medication as Zoloft (which did not work well for me), exercise (which I should do more of), cognitive behaviour therapy (which I have had some experience of), setting achievable tasks (which I sometimes have problems with!) and touching.

“Holding hands boosts feelings of comfort and happiness. If you have a partner, start touching more… No partner? Well, how about friends…” True, isn’t it? Also, one can in such a situation hug in the mind, if you know what I mean; the book does not say so, but I suspect thinking about such a person probably affects seretonin levels too.

Now isn’t it nicer sometimes to think of things like this instead of politics, world problems and matters of intellect? It could be that such a grounding for oneself actually helps when it comes to dealing with other things. What do you think?

Much nicer than politics or the state of the world.

18 Oct 2001

Empress sends naked men…and other mysteries and ruminations

A few days ago the Empress, whose hard disk must be rather like a nudist colony, sent me some not unattractive images (three in fact) that purport to be Ian Thorpe in the nude, and in varying degrees of excitement. The other variation is in his body, which either is very changeable, or the images are fakes. I await the chance to have them authenticated by someone who may know 😉

Our friend A., a sailor, is among those going off to war. At first I wondered how he knew this two weeks ago, but probably he is on the ship that was going to the Gulf anyway to replace one that is coming home. The deployment of Australian forces in the War on Terrorism has bipartisan support here, although two of the minor parties, the Greens and the Democrats, have reservations. Some military experts also question the open-ended nature of the commitment, given that the Australian Defence Forces, while very good, are also very small. The question then is how long we can maintain a commitment, how many can be spared (given the Government still continues its rather odd policy on asylum seekers, the true cost of which is now emerging), and whether (though all deny it) conscription is further down the track.

Naturally we wish the men and women who go all the best and hope they all come back. Unlike the USA, it should be noted, gay men and women are officially among those serving–A. is one of them, and an outspoken one at that.

University exams loom. At the same stage, when I was seventeen and three months, I was a nervous wreck, absolutely convinced I would fail Ancient History (I didn’t) and having completed less than the whole of my Latin course. I passed Latin, but was told if the rest of my paper had been the same standard as my Horace, I most certainly would not have. I did not achieve the Distinction level in English I had hoped for, despite my tutor having encouraged me to consider Honours. I almost gave up on the idea, and was very flattered when the tutor rang me at home after the results came out, telling me to ignore them and do Honours anyway. I did–and got through.

At nineteen and three months (being born in July) I was in Third Year, doing the Honours English Course (I got a Distinction) and, despite again being convinced I would fail (Asian) History, I actually came first! Much to my surprise.

The following year I spent working in an Insurance Company, due to family finances going belly-up. But that’s another story.

Martin Place Sydney 1962 — I worked here in 1963

What a conservative, straight young man I was in those years. I would have run a mile from someone like me if I had ever met such a person. Not that I had much idea such people existed. I just alternated wanking, working and praying and hoped for the best, finding solace with my Christian friends at university and at church, questioning very little politically, and reading my Bible every day. I was a sweet, if naive, young person: cute too? Well, I’m not so sure about that…

Oh my –the things I put online twenty years ago, eh!

Update: on Children Overboard and the 2001 Election.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 37 — the death of yum cha?

Anyone reading my blogs from 2000 to the present will have seen what a significant place yum cha has had in my life and those of my friends. For example: Back to August 2001 — yum cha ruled! and How David Bowie took me to yum cha in Chinatown….

Not just me, but many of us rejoiced in Sydney’s yum cha offerings — James O’Brien for example: “I had THE best Peking Duck last night at Sydney’s East Ocean restaurant.”

Peking Duck at East Ocean — James O’Brien 2016

Now it appears that COVID and the lockdowns are taking their toll.

Take the Golden Century for example. In 2019 SBS told us about its “small business secrets.”

And now SBS News reports: Farewell to Sydney Chinatown’s most iconic restaurant.

Late-night dining, heart-warming hospitality and the freshest of seafood are what we’ll remember about Sydney Chinatown’s most celebrated eatery, Golden Century, which went into administration this week after 30 years of service.

It comes as Sydney marks nearly two months of lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 disease, which requires restaurants to pause their dine-in service. 

Over the years, owners Eric and Linda Wong have been revered for the traditional Cantonese cuisine they served to families, city hustlers and overseas notables alike. Their restaurant was known as much for its encyclopaedic menu as it was for its list of high-profile guests, including Australian prime ministers, Lady Gaga, former US president George HW Bush and the Princess of Tonga.

So sad!

Zilver is one Micheal Xu has favoured in recent years — and we have been here quite often. Way back in Sydney’s Olympic Year of 2000 the crew around Ian Smith (the late Dowager Empress of Hong Kong) also gathered here more than once — though I seem to recall it was “Silver” then.

The Gong does not have a full-on yum cha restaurant — that needs a much greater turnover of customers than Wollongong has to offer. But we do have the nearest thing — and sometimes the offerings more than match Chinatown’s — in Ziggy’s House of Nomms! They are struggling on through lockdown with take-aways and a very active presence on Facebook.

Steen and Kevin from Ziggy’s

How David Bowie took me to yum cha in Chinatown….

Not literally. But look at this video.

OK, now did you see him tossing the rice in the air?

Observe the name of the restaurant behind him — and I am indebted to Robbie Czajka on Old Sydney Album for this. When I shared to my Facebook I commented: “The Nine Dragons was one of our Yum Cha spots back in the day — I mean roughly the early 2000s — Ian Smith, Sirdan, Bruce Part and many more. Many a great Sunday.”

The early 2000s! I have a post I did some time ago which rescued from various platforms a few of my very earliest blog entries.

2 January 2000: …Yum Cha was a success this morning. [ABC Andrew] turned up and was fascinated by the Y2K problem in the computer BIOS. Ian came up with the theory that it may have defaulted to the chip’s year of manufacture, and indeed when I rang G later today he agreed it was possible, as the chip was manufactured in 1994. So the BIOS was ready to change 1999 to 20 something, but became confused; it kept the 20, but defaulted to 94. A. rang later and came back over about 5.30. He had been online at work to the company (Phoenix Technology) who now have the rights to Award Software, the manufacturers of the BIOS. He downloaded a patch onto a floppy disk, brought it over, and we installed it. While the BIOS still thinks it is 2094, the patch enables it to boot the computer to 2000, obviating the need to buy a new motherboard or a new computer just yet. Next step is the modem and signing up to an ISP.

11 January 2000: Since last entry I have joined Telstra Bigpond and have been using up my 100 free hours, since they expire on February 4. Wow! I have made two cyberfriends, one a Thai girl who wants to study in Australia (got me through Dave’s ESL Cafe). The other, Johnny Wu (Wushuboy) is a 32-years-old Wushu master in Cleveland Ohio. He is a fascinating study in multiculturalism ( a word I recently contributed to the Cambridge English Dictionary Online!). He is a fount of family tradition, balancing that against being gay and thereby (in his eyes) terminating 3000 years of Wu family history–and he knows the whole 3000 years! He responded to my email thanking him for his website, and we’ve been “nattering on the Net” as Dale Spender says ever since.

Also, an email from M: he’s been attending classes with the Dalai Lama! Today he goes to Calcutta, then to Rajastan.

My nephew visited on Saturday. He had very impressive documentation to back up his story … and it turns out his mother was a lineal descendant of Bungaree who sailed with Flinders in 1803!

4 January 2004: … I, in the meantime, went to Yum Cha at the Marigold with the Empress, Sirdan, Malcolm, James, a new person named Andy (not the sailor) and eventually Antony. Excellent duck….

The crowd around Central on their way to the Cricket reminded me of the 2000 Olympics. Now I’m off to keep an eye on the game by TV and radio. (I prefer to listen to the ABC radio commentary with the TV on Channel 9 at least some of the time.)

So way back! And I have another set called Blogging Sydney’s Olympic Year.

Sunday, September 3 2000: 12 days to the Olympics

They say Moore Park will be finished before the Olympics, but they are finding it difficult as there are not enough graders available to do the job. Meantime Belmore Park, near Central Station, is now carpeted–not with bright flowers, or fresh green grass, but with daggy green carpet! Very tasteful. There was a bomb scare at Kirrawee Railway Station south of the city last week; apparently emergency personnel were misdirected to Canterbury Station (some distance away and on quite another line) due to a “pronunciation problem”! However, Central Station refurbishment has been completed–well almost.

Extra police on the streets and quite a few foreign visitors are already apparent in the city. The athletes, of course, have started moving into the Olympic Village.

Today was Yum Cha again–for the unitiated this is Cantonese for “drink tea” and is essentially an endless supply of delicacies (steamed buns, dumplings, chicken feet, etc) washed down by tea. One can if one chooses have a 24 course breakfast–or more. There were ten people today–PK, Ian Smith, J***s, Sirdan, ABC Andrew, Clive, a guy from Houston Texas, a lesbian Olympic volunteer official from NZ (a friend of Sirdan), Bruce from the Albury, and me. Rabbit sent his hugs to all but was otherwise engaged today. Sad news is that John Wilkinson, who was there last time, an old friend of M, is critically ill in hospital: M has just gone to visit him.

Good news (9.30 pm): John Wilkinson is much better than he was yesterday.

Sunday, September 17 2000

Another glorious Olympic day in Sydney. The shirtless cuties are about again.

Having announced today’s Yum Cha (Chinese brunch) would be held at the Golden Harbour at 10 am, I turned up expecting crowds, and indeed quite a lot of foreigners were about. Presumably the restaurant owners read these pages (who doesn’t?) so we were delayed twenty minutes while the staff cleaned up, went out for extra provisions, and put tables in the street to cope with the overflow. At last we were ushered to our select table, and the Dowager Empress enthroned herself beside Clive, with PK on Clive’s right, Sirdan and James on my left. People were too shy to identify themselves, but as the restaurant filled with people I could but be impressed by the drawing power of these humble pages. As was fitting all these people pretended they did not know us, respectful of our privacy. A very pleasant meal. It is unfortunate, however, that some rituals associated with the NSW Department of Education prevented some honoured guests from attending; their apologies were duly given and accepted.

Sunday October 1 2000

Well, what a Yum Cha! [At Silver Spring.] Frankly, I was not feeling well this morning, but Yum Cha soon changed that. A record attendance on this last day of the Olympic Games. Seventeen people–so I won’t list them all, but one Indonesian Olympic visitor, the regulars (PK, James, Ian Smith, Sirdan, Bruce, Clive) plus Simon H (a friend and ex-student of mine, whose friendship now goes back over 20 years), Tim K (a person I met about 14 years ago) whose personal odyssey is fascinating, and most pleasing of all Mr R and Delenio. A lovely way to spend Sunday morning.

The day went on and I went with the flow. After Simon, The Rabbit and Delenio had gone, I followed Ian to the Beauchamp and then the Albury–the Marathon went past us hardly noticed!–and it was a slightly drunken afternoon but one essentially of good fellowship. The drink was really incidental to the kind of friendship that Denis Altman talks of in his novel. Surprise: Ian knew Denis Altman way back when I was in the closet known as Wollongong! (Or it was to me a closet!)


And the Olympics Closing Ceremony is in progress as I write….

And a sample of other yum cha days:

Marigold Citymark, Sydney, Sydney Restaurant Review – Eatability

29 JAN 2006

We were disappointed, but not as much as this patron:

Food 2 Ambience 2 Service 2 Value 3

I went to the Marigold with some work colleagues for yum char. They had lost our reservation so they put us on a table next to the toilet. They place smelt awful, I think they must have just painted it or have a large smelly dog. The food itself I think was probably that frozen stuff that you get from the freezer and put straight into the fryer or steamer – yuck! The waiters were rude too. Never ever going there again!!

M, Sirdan and myself made it this morning; Lord Malcolm had trouble finding a parking place close enough so could not come. He didn’t miss much, except for the chance of meeting M properly.

Admittedly the place was overcrowded because of Chinese New Year, but the service even so was awful (2), the food very ordinary if not old, and the ambience, well, factory-like. Of course we had our vouchers so the price was right, but M made sure in both Mandarin and English that the staff knew what he felt and ostentatiously offered a five cent tip.

We won’t be going back. We will try the Regal next time we want to use our vouchers; last time we were there it was pretty good.

M tells us the Silver Spring (now Zilver) is much better again, having new owners apparently. So we might give that a go later on. “Zilver has reopened after a $3 million makeover from its former identity as the well-established Silver Spring restaurant. The cuisine is now modern Chinese with Jack Ng, the award-winning Hong-Kong born executive chef, at the reins.”

We liked the Regal, and Nine Dragons, and Golden Harbour, and the East Ocean… So many on so many Sundays for ten years!

I followed this 2018 walk through Sydney’s Chinatown, saying however on Facebook: “Paths I once frequently took. Now it all looks rather daunting, but 10, 20 years ago — no worries!” So true! The 2021 version of me lacks energy and endurance compared with the 2000 one, or even the 2010! No hiding from the march of time eh!

But The Gong in 2021 has many a good Chinese restaurant, and today’s proposed lunch with Chris T is at Taste of Xi’an.


Revisiting Sydney’s Chinatown again…

Via my archive, not physically.

The Chinese Garden:

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And here is a video from someone who visited the garden just a couple of weeks ago:

Now a bit more about Sky, the busker I shared in yesterday’s post. He has a Facebook page where, I note, in March he announced that he is retiring.

I am Sky. I am a Japanese Chinese. I come to Australia at 2007. I have 8 CDs and 1 DVD. I wish everyone could support me continually and my dream is that bring my beautiful music to the world.

Here he is with an abridged version of The Butterfly Lovers. Michael Xu and I bought the CD this is on, having heard him play this in Chinatown one day when we had been shopping at Paddy’s Market.

And here is his story: