What happens when chi meets photography?

A fellow student at the school, Anthony Feoutis, is an avid photographer. A collection of Anthony’s photos are shown below to give some idea of life at the school, the quality speaks for itself. He can be found at:

http://tony-f-photography.tumblr.com/

The School

China Hill Xifu

Clemens Clint Grading  Quentin and Bob  Bob boxer copie Luke Bloody

Power Stretching (Post here)

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pain Dave 4 with logo pain bob 2 with logo diapo Oli

Fortune tellers

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Locals

vieil hombre cigarette 2 copie riskshaw 132 copie vieil hombre copie kids on the car copie  cartes 2 copiefish copie cook copie gamine happy copie

Death by horse stance

Training becomes the thread of your life. Wake up at 6, Tai Chi or meditation before breakfast at 7. Then soon enough the training schedule begins taking chunks out of your stamina and replacing it with chi.
But it’s so rewarding, it becomes an addiction. You can’t wait to go to sleep so another day of practicing staff form, sparring and stretching can begin. The weekends are welcomed as a chance to let your body rest, but by sunday morning you become restless and await the whistle of a training session impatiently.
The aching continues…temporary pockets of muscles within your body feel it at times, but there seems to be a permanent hold on the hip joints, which constantly need a good clicking. This ‘need to click’ feeling can persist for days, but similar to how a cow would feel with an itch on it’s back, you just can’t get to it. When the great CLUNK finally arrives there is an almost celestial pleasure and relief. These aches can feel as though they limit your flexibility temporarily but a more pliable future is promised.
The master walks around the training hall swinging about something akin to a medieval mace, elegantly practicing a form, while we stretch. After the training session he points out a few aspects: “Pay attention to the details of the form”, “If your body hurts, just insist!”
One weekend there was an open bar party nearby and among the rampant debauchery a couple of guys vomitted on the floor of the school when we got back. As a punishment they had to do horse stance and plank (supporting your horizontal body with just your toes and forearms) for half an hour each. They also had to help the cleaning team for three days.
Someone previous to my arrival was also sick in the school, he had to do 1000 press ups. After pushing through 250 in two hours under the master’s steady watch he was stopped at a sudden bout of mercy from the headmaster.
All of this becomes a big talking point in the school and makes for solid entertainment. But underneath that it does embed the school’s ambition to provide a focussed environment, and the students respect the managers for persevering with the discipline.
My own experience of punishment is as follows: As I arrived at my group for line up in front of the master, he had a look of sheer grim anger on his face, like he wanted to eat a child. Never had I seen him that angry. We were scheduled to clean the training hall that day.
Me and two others explained we did not know it was our turn. “Horse stance” he shouted and pointed to the side, thrusting a four foot broadsword to gesture. We crouched in to horse stance in a row facing him. “Flat!” He stabbed the sword in our direction as he roared at us. We didn’t know how long we would be down, but when he shouted “I will not say it again… Flat!” we went as low as our lactic-infused muscles would allow.
We got our horse stance flat and waited for him to call to get up. “You can stop when your sweat hits the ground.” All of our legs shook within three minutes and it became impossible to stay flat. The rest of our group still lined up waiting for us to finish, waiting for the sweat to drop. His look had been fierce and I fought the temptation to look up at him, I could feel the glare burning a hole through my skull, aware that he was still thrusting his sword at us.
Lactic acid seared through the muscles. I felt a first-rate tit and was glad I wasn’t doing it alone. The master said that he had “told the other masters our group would be the best! Only four people cleaned. You have let your group down. You have let me down.”
Twelve minutes we did the horse stance, all the while trying to blow sweat off our upper lip so that it would hit the floor.
The discipline here is important. One of the founders explained to us that most prospective students ask if they are allowed to drink and smoke on site. My own policy of no drink or drugs (except more than a bit of caffeine) is to try and ensure focus while I’m here. One thing I can say for sure is that punishment through horse stance is as effective as it is painful.
Ben, pictured, practicing sword form for grading.
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Unadulterated killing machine

A short note on the masters: whenever they show you anything they exert such explosive power, it’s alarming. Every one of them is of a small wiry build, their muscles must be the only known location of neutron stars on this planet. My master weighs about 60kg, but he moves gracefully, swiftly, and with lightning speed. When he took my wrist, during a demonstration, and swept my foot he moved like a snake, I could only see the start and end position. He and the other masters are dressed in orange Shaolin robes with bands tightening the lower leg.
His resembles the wiriest of strengths. You would walk past him on the street and just think him a particularly handsome Chinese guy, not an unadulterated killing machine. They are to the fighting world what Nairo Quintana is to the cycling world: a human anomaly of sheer force. In a wrestle they may well get beaten by some of the more experienced students, but if they kept their distance they would be capable of inflicting a lot of pain rapidly.
The style of the Shaolin training regime ensures lower body mass: strength training using body weight exercises with lots of repetitions, training everyday, eating minimally; very different to a bodybuilding schedule. His strength is in every sinew, every ligament, it seems to reach down to his very bones. They smile knowingly when they warn us to drink less and play table tennis relentlessly. Two masters share a motorbike and speed out of the school everyday helmet-less, their robes billowing in the wind.
Visiting Shaolin shows are popular around the world, and you can see why. It’s watching someone with the elegance of a dancer worthy of a Swan Lake production, the strength of Mike Tyson and the enlightenment of the Buddha!

In the afternoons we warm up in the same way as the mornings (stretching and the indescribably dreaded two-minute horse stance) and then start Sanda, Chinese kickboxing. Kung fu seems to be split in to two components: forms (previously mentioned) and sanda. Sanda, translated as ‘free fighting’, gives the impresion of being a more operative fighting style. It incorporates sweeps, wrestling, takedowns, throws and kick catches and was developed by the military to test soldier’s realistic fighting ability, derived from traditional styles of training.

Contrary to the kung fu forms and the associated punches and kicks, sanda-style strikes are practical and feel more applicable during sparring. The kung fu kicks, for instance, would find a rare place in an actual fight, the key difference being a maintained straight leg. They seem designed to improve flexibility and range, as well as garner discipline in the practicer. Sanda uses power as the main motivator for technique and we pair up, punching and kicking pads held by your partner in relay, improving technique and force. The master, as with the basic kung fu and forms, looks for ways in which we can improve and illustrates this on students.
During the practice of forms, aesthetic is paramount, and there are Wushu competitions in which the winner is judged solely on that. Sanda is about power and how it will affect the opponent. During sanda the maintenance of the guard is pivotal in ensuring the master is satisfied with your style and delivery. This is not aesthetic, the only question being ‘Can your opponent hit you?’
Although sanda causes pain, it is not designed to inflict serious injury; forms practice aims to disable an opponent quickly by using a palm strike to the throat or a spear stab. Where sanda would hurt, forms practice is what is referred to when the master says “this is the art of killing”. This is why it is practiced against an imaginary opponent.
We regularly spar after training finishes, but as soon as you put on the gloves and start trying to smash your opponent’s face in all training seems to be resolutely thrown out the window and instinct kicks in. While you try to look for gaps in their guard and inflict some power in a punch, the sweat trickles down your forehead and a focus on the present moment develops that most Buddhist monks would envy.
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Ever wanted to eat a chicken head?

We sit in a restaurant, fans whiz above us and a sign on the wall proclaims this establishment class ‘C’, out of three classes. As we wait for our meal there is some speculation about what we have ordered. A friend asks for the wifi password so he can search for a picture of sweet and sour pork online, to show the chef. The standard of ordering in a Chinese restaurant goes by pointing at random at Chinese characters on the menu, then hoping we haven’t ordered tofu.
The first meal arrives…what looks like lumps of straw, in fact cold tofu with green peppers interspersed. The second: tofu again. This is a worthy punishment for our lack of Mandarin knowledge: they should have called us lazy tourists and relieved themselves in our soup, but we got the tofu instead.
The next two meals arrive: dumplings and noodle soup. Delicious examples of Chinese cooking which leave us ordering more. The couple who serve us are friendly and curious, typically charming people who want a picture with us before we leave.
One Chinese restaurant menu has the English words ‘Bowl of Mess’ to describe a meal.
It’s not uncommon to get a diversity of chicken limbs on a plate of rice: feet, head, perhaps a windpipe. And locals say it’s easy to find fried grasshoppers or scorpions in the food market in the summer. One restaurant we visited had a crocodile in a cage outside, unexpectedly waiting for the chop. Many restaurants keep their food fresh, ie. alive, and you can choose your doomed chicken, turtle or fish from a cage or tank. The chef will then stop smiling and butcher it there in front of you, as nonchalantly as if he had just peeled a carrot! Being a meat-eater becomes a much more genuine experience, seeing what is needed to conjure the plate in front of you.
Supermarkets are another excuse for a natural history museum: abundant live fish and crabs in tanks, pig trotters, whole dried ducks, cricket-ball sized apples. The staff there are so helpful, weighing your fruit and offering tastes of the mountains of dried mushrooms.
The food in China is spicy. Even the lowest category of spice has you wishing you could dive in the sea to cool off. One local dish I tried was a one foot whole fish on a bed of spinach, cabbage, garlic, mushrooms, potato wafers, and broth. Served in a gas-heated metal dish, we each had small bowls of rice to munch away with chopsticks.
The mushrooms come in a variety of unusual shapes and sizes: long and pencil-thin; stalk-shaped like celery; wide disc-headed. They are all tastier than English mushrooms, often tangy and spongy. The combination with chicken makes all-time matches like cheese and crackers look mediocre!
The food in the school is delicious: a chicken dish with mushrooms in oyster sauce; a second chicken dish with aubergine or bean shoots in soy; egg with spring onions or tomatoes; rice. Athough there is as much variation as the survey results of a Communist’s favourite colour, these dishes remain wholesome and tasty, most students wait expectantly outside the dining room before meals.
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Horses, chopstick forms and sunsets

It feels the right time to give an overview of our schedule.

There are three training sessions per day, two in the morning and one in the afternoon. Each training session starts with a 1km run, followed by stretching and warm up.

The schedule below details each of the three daily sessions.

Monday: basics; practicing forms; sanda.
Tuesday: basics/forms; jumps and rolls; sanda/ wrestling or takedowns
Wednesday: basics; forms; wing chun
Thursday: qi gong/ conditioning; free training; power training
Friday: basics/forms; power stretching; free training

Tai Chi runs every morning at 6am. There are also mandarin classes after dinner each evening.

A quick note on stances. Kung-fu stances form a fundamental part of the martial art, demonstrating stability and protection. There are five stances in kung-fu, from what I’ve seen the most frequently used is horse stance (in the position of a horse-rider).

drunkenmaster

To stand in horse stance, pictured, the toes point forward and the feet lie outside shoulder width, then the knees are bent to right angles and the back stays straight. Some masters do not allow their students to practice any form until they can hold horse stance for five minutes.

We hold horse stance for two minutes twice a day, during which the master will poke your hips with a 5-foot spear if you’re not low enough. By the end of these painful minutes the legs involuntarily shake like a tap dancer. Simply dreading it consumes a significant part of my attention, but as with everything else the benefits are illustrated by the more experienced student’s abilities in the training hall.

Most mornings involve practicing the basics: straight kicks, rotating outside and rotating inside kicks; side kicks; the five stances combined with punches; sweeps and fast kicks. As we practice these in shuttle runs within the training hall the master observes us and dictates corrections. He then takes beginners aside to instruct on aspects of movements: pointed toe, raised palm or steady fist. These basic moves provide the ingredients for “forms”, the set patterns of movements described in a previous post.

Practicing forms provides the core of our training. They are elegantly performed by other students, a bit like a violent dance. We learn one form, one pattern, at a time: learning a few steps per day and trying to perfect them before being taught the next step. The form a student learns gives a good indication of their experience as forms are taught in a progression from easy sequences to harder; from short basic fist forms to longer more complex weapon forms using increased flexibility and knowledge.

There are no belts in kung-fu so the form someone learns is the clearest sign of their ability. There are around 700 Shaolin forms, including Monkey and Eagle style; the weapon forms can vary from chopstick to sword to fan to dagger. Most students here have time to learn staff form.

Sanda (Chinese kickboxing) sessions involve practicing all punches: straight, hook and uppercut; and all kicks: low (knees), middle (waist) and high (head). Then working with the pads to increase power and technique. If we’re lucky the master will get us sparring.

Jumps and rolls allows practice of backflips, frontflips, flying kicks, aerials and kick-ups.

Power training, power stretching and conditioning have been described in previous posts so I won’t go in to detail here. But asking our master he explained that in the Shaolin temple they are inflicted with power training every day and power stretching four times per week.

The schedule is tiring in the best way, practicing something this physical every day is satisfying, your hands are dirty and you feel you deserve an evening meal. There are times when all you want to do is rest but it is apparent that what you put in to the training you will get out and there’s enough free time to focus on the aspects you find most interesting.

My favourite time of the day is sunset. As the training schedule finishes and the smog amplifies the size of the fading orange fireball that is the sun, students practice Tai Chi or a sword form in the training area outside. There is an atmosphere of quiet concentration, each person tuned in to their own movement. Some do pull-ups and others spar in the training hall, and it is this focused environment that I will miss most when I’m gone.

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Stretch Armstrong

If there’s one thing which drives me to excruciating agony in this place, it’s the stretching. ‘Power Stretching’ takes place on Fridays. We divide in to groups of three and take turns to stretch each other in different positions. The person being stretched simply relaxes and lets the others position his limbs.

stretch armstrong

One of the positions involves laying down while the other two take on the role of terrorists for two minutes. During which they raise your straight leg upward (as though kicking a football straight) as far as it will go. If you touch the stretched muscle at this point it feels hard as ice, your leg becomes numb and tingly, and screams can be heard throughout the training hall. This stretch is held, pushing further every thirty seconds, for two minutes. The last ten seconds provide particular trauma as the muscle is pulled towards your pain threshold and fierce breathing is required to stop you passing out. As a stretcher you can feel the limit of the muscle, like an elastic band that is ready to break.

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All this pain isn’t just for the fun of those pulling the limbs, although that is a bonus. It emphasises the importance of flexibility in kung-fu. When we watch the master do any sweep, no-handed cartwheel or flying kick it becomes clear that the most limiting factor denying us is our flexibilty. But a pliable body can also allow much more subtle movements, the elongation of a stance or lowering of a crouch, to be perfected. If a leg can reach head height it can replace a punch, and a kick will always outpower a punch.

When the master exhibits his skills, he conjures the same respect as would an esteemed dancer. The practise of decades has allowed him to perform each movement in such a controlled and elegant way that they have exact precision. Images come to mind of factory consistency: lines of identical products and the reams of Quality Control documents to produce them. Even the most meticulously regulated procedure could not adhere to such Quality Control standards as a Shaolin master.

Alongside the weekly Power Stretching session we must stretch for about an hour per day, spread across our three training sessions. These are led by one of the students and remain rigorous routines stretching everything from the ankles to the neck. Muscles in the hamstring area always receive particular attention and there seems to be multiple stances to pull these. Perhaps contrary to a fighting style such as boxing, the stretching targets the hip joints: the junction holding tendons, ligaments and cartillage receives a constant battering, from almost every stretch we perform.

Another student explained, “Strength and fitness are easy to attain, it’s flexibility which requires the hard graft.” Most students here can kick above their head.

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The whistle and the damage done

The whistle sounds. We wake. Today the sky is clear. The smog is kept at bay in the cool morning and perhaps the season has decided to change. Another bowl of porridge behind me, another few clumps of soya powder in my wake. Now to get in to the training!
The morning has flowed well. Early morning starts deliver laconic students to the training hall in a half-moon lit dawn. Not many speak. We line up. The master counts us. We bow, “xie xie xifu” (thank you master) and depart quietly.
I nurse my chi by meditating between half six and seven every morning but it seems clear that meditation isn’t the main focus at the school.
We start our training proper with a 1km run. A road circuit around the school covers “Baby Shop” with it’s namesake (a two year-old girl) outside shouting “hello!”, a lake with water polluted enough to sear the skin off any mammal that enters it, and the route of a bus which steams past within inches. The best part about this morning gallop is the feeling of our steps being in time as we re-enter the school, “1, 2, 1,” we call and the simultaneous pattering of feet approaches the master once more. Even he looks pleased.
Young Master Wei now trains us as my previous master for two days, Han, has left. He is more patient and gentle than Han, smiles more and made conversation. Han was known as the hardest among the masters, getting results.
Master Han told a story of his time training as a young man at the Shaolin Temple. His master had been stretching him to the point where his thigh muscle was at its limit. This alone would have been agony. His master then said: “I’m going to stretch you now until I break your tendon.” He did. Han couldn’t train for three months due to the injury and while it repaired he stretched it in ways that would enable it to grow back more effective for the martial art. He still walks slightly bow-legged.
Traditional kung-fu training is based around “forms”, sequences of punches, kicks and stances designed to defend and attack against an imagined aggressor. Similar to “katas” in karate or judo, the forms allow you to learn the specific blocks and attacks in a dynamic way, improving balance and technique. The idea is that the practitioner will one day execute these techniques in a reflex-like manner.
The forms, especially the more advanced, involve weapons and will soon allow me to prance about waving a staff or a sword. Whilst repeating your own routine, a nod from the master can produce the effect of a double espresso, followed by a scolding at my infernal vanity. Practicing these forms means improving the way it looks and feels: extending that stance, raising that punch, until it resembles anything close to the master.
Young Master Wei declared that there was only ever one winner and one loser: the winner is he who practises persistently to the correct form. To practise kung-fu, he outlined, was to practise “the art of killing”. The final message he delivered was clear: take kung-fu seriously, it’s not just a sport. He explained that the Shaolin Temple train about 200 students per year, but there are many more branches of the tradition that turn out thousands of kung-fu specialists annually: destined to become masters, soldiers or bodyguards.
No small portion of people I’ve met have finished, or are about to join, military service. Over 10% of the people that I know of.
Room inspections are ongoing, one semblance of military life, and I must have performed ok as there’s been no hint of press-ups. My white walls display fourteen different dirt-caked shoe sole prints, each surrounding a flattened mosquito, evidence of the previous tennant’s persistence. I only hope I can apply the same level of persistence to the forms.

Fair conditioning

So visa in hand I manage to sweep through the Hong Kong-China border and get my train headed for the kung-fu school. This time I have a bed. I am looking forward to seeing another side to China, a poorer side no doubt, to align better with my visa-ridden financial state of affairs.

A freight train sits on some rails opposite our carriage, still and dusty, as though it’s never been used. But the wheel rims show life: they are shiny, just like the Chinese state coffers. Another freight train rolls by with over 100 carriages, just a small piece of the puzzle leading to the bright lights of Shenzhen and the economic masterclass they represent!
Our day in the kung-fu school starts with a whistle. We walk like zombies towards the training hall at 6am, the moon is still out and the sky is clear. Some stars resist the oncoming light of the Sun and remain visible. People shake out the aches and pains of the day before. We line up in front of the master after he blows his whistle and bow. Ready for the day ahead.
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So now I’m in the school and have been through my first day of training. I have never practised kung-fu before. Whenever anyone new joins the school every student lines up in front of the masters and translators. The new student makes introductions, is asked to bow to the master one at a time. Then left to make up his own mind about how to greet the translators, this usually becomes a sort of semi-curtsy.
‘Line-up’ forms the beginning and end of each training session. We are assigned to groups containing 10-15 students and line up in front of our appointed masters, paying respect by bowing and allowing them to give feedback on the session.
The morning session contained Qi Gong and ‘Conditioning’. Conditioning is central to kung-fu: stretching, building strengh, changing the shape of your body. But specifically this session refers to muscle conditioning: we choose a partner and punch the shoulders, hit forearm to forearm, kick the inside and outside of the thigh and punch the abs. We did finger push ups and leant no-handed with our forehead against a wall. It’s common to see students punching a wall or fist chopping a brick repeatedly to build firm muscles and tough skin.
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One student new to the school turned up at training the next day with an apple-sized bruise on his forearm, his experienced conditioning partner had no sign of pain despite the forearm-forearm strike being identical.
The story goes that Chuck Norris kicked a little-known stunt actor in his early career too hard during the filming of a scene and when Norris approached to apologise, the unknown stuntman said ‘Thanks for the conditioning!’. They became good friends and the stunt actor went on to become Bruce Lee.
The conditioning followed Qi Gong, a meditative form of aligned movement and breathing techniques designed to enhance the focus of the mind.
In the afternoon the session was ‘power training’: most people talked of it being tough, it’s designed to test your endurance. We ran up a mountain. Almost 1000 steps on a stone path led through a forest, reaching a pagoda at the top. Then we crawled down a section of steps on all fours, watching droplets of sweat land on the mud-crusted rock in front of you.
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Two new Australians, who arrived here last week, were a great boost to morale and spoke of how much they had enjoyed their first week. They ‘ditched shit jobs and booked the trip the morning after seeing the website’. After a brief night out in Shanghai they avoided the minefield of Chinese symbols and came straight here, ‘we didn’t go anywhere else cos we knew we’d die!’
And after a long day it all leads to this…the eventual tired but determined annihilation of a noisy insect buzzing about your room! Or shall I sweep the little fiend under the door and preserve my karma for another day at least!?
So far the school has remained physically challenging and, observing the other students, promises to improve the strength, flexibility and posture of the body.2014-10-28 06.09.48

Protests and deportation

It’s about 9pm, and the sky is dark. I’m sitting on the harbour-side opposite Hong Kong Island, some peace after a manic two days. The skyscrapers sit over the water jostling for attention with their neon-branded signs illuminating small clouds of haze at the varied heights at which they perch. The laser show from the top of the skyscrapers has just finished. Tourists mill around the ‘Avenue of Stars’, a section of cobbles devoted to Chinese film stars such as Chow Yun-fat. Two girls have set up a beatbox and perform a rehearsed dance routine, they’re impressively synchronised.
What a 36 hours it’s been! A generous Frenchman saved me from the clutches of the notoriously seedy Wan Chai clubbing quarter of Hong Kong. I had been stuck in the city with no money, no bed and no permit for China where 90% of my belongings and an air-conditioned mattress lay waiting for me.
I had aimed to come to Hong Kong for a day trip. But on coming in I had invalidated my Chinese visa and as I travelled back to the border at 1am the gates were closing and I was informed that I could not enter China. “Where will I sleep?” I thought aloud, the two officials looked at me as if they cared more about the chemical properties of paint, “That’s your problem”. I would have to travel back to Hong Kong Central, a 90-minute trip, and apply for a new visa tomorrow.
The situation was the bureaucratic equivalent of stubbing your toe. But I felt a strange sense of liberation at being free in the city so late! The financial catastrophe of my new visa was yet to hit me and I was determined to see the positives of the situation: the thrill of spending the night in Hong Kong, even if it did mean sleeping on the ‘Avenue of Stars’.
Similar to a bankrupted man who has the relief of only being able to get wealthier, at least my practical situation could get no worse! I would go clubbing until late, negating a need for a bed until the early hours where the bricks of the harbour-side would welcome me.
I embarked upon this night by throwing myself in to the excitement of uncertainty: talking to everyone I saw knowing that to avoid the pavement crib I must be open to meeting anyone. As I ate noodles in a Vietnamese restaurant I met a French/German business intern, we chatted over a beer and he asked if I wanted to stay at his. My feeling remains that every Frenchman I meet travelling is something of a gem.
Visa bull…I mean bureaucracy… aside Hong Kong has been a truly unique city. It benefits both from having a huge multi-national population and British heritage, and being now part of China and within miles of China’s prosperous Guangdong province. I had heard it described as ‘having the mountains and coastline of Rio, with the skyscrapers of New York’.
As I walked through the centre hundreds of Philippine women clung in groups at the foot of the world’s largest banks. They danced cheerfully and sang in troupes to the backdrop of skyscrapers, or played cards on the ground.
Hong Kong joined China in 1997 as the British 99-year lease ended. Beijing promised to secure the Hong Kong way of life until 2047 and to deliver a democratic election of the local Chief Executive in 2017. This latter promise has been kept, but the election is among candidates chosen by the Chinese government. This explains the current protests throughout the city, started by university students and academics, being termed the ‘Umbrella Revolution’.
 Lecture Painting the protests
My experience of the protests… An enormous motorway through the city was barricaded and the protesters were friendly, helping people over the central reservation, “Be Careful”. The atmosphere was one of a festival with a crowd gathered around a founding lecturer of the movement and another huddle watching a painter at work on an easel; there were even students diligently continuing their homework on the tarmac.
As I walked past a 15m-high pedestrian bridge a man had climbed on top of it and spoke to the large congregation beneath. He was up there for over three hours and the fire department had set up inflatable landing pads for him to land on. His message was to the protesters: go home as it was disrupting the city and he could not pick up his children from school.
 View of man addressing crowd from bridge View of Connaught Road from the West
The government had set a deadline of closure for the day I walked through the city and there was an edge of nervousness. But the signs I saw: “How many ears does it take to hear a man cry” and “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one” showed some alignment with Western culture, not the thoughts of Confucius or Chairman Mao.
 Message wall (a similar one in Beijing was banned)
As one of the most densely populated places on earth, with just about every nationality under the sun; it has one of the highest inequality ratings in the world and it’s centre reels in the biggest names of international finance; Hong Kong will remain at the centre of international interest, drawn between two futures. Maybe the will of the people will decide that, maybe not. What I saw was a unique city with a craving for an identity of its own.
HSBC building (designed by Norman Foster of Gherkin fame)