Passing in the Middle Kingdom Reading & Writing

Passing in the Middle Kingdom: The Rape of Pink Lily

When I lived in Luk Tei Tong, one day I looked out onto the green bog and saw this perfect lily: a Red Oriental Lily.

It struck me as so strange. Someone had dumped a plant into this bog–the fallow rice fields, and it had grown. So there it was, defiant, glorious, no matter what had happened to it. It had refused to yield. People threw all kinds of stuff in the bog and there was sewage run-off and snakes and whatever else is dumped into a village green space. Drunken Brits falling into the bog. Plastic toys. Trash. Yet it remained a glorious green. The paths wound around it. In the summer, bugs and more bugs, mosquitos and lots of itchy things, so you spent a lot of time scratching (or at least I did!). Beauty is powerful.

I note I am writing in the past tense about this–but I no longer live there, so it exists in memory. Anyway, this lily was truly something. I don’t believe I ever took photo, so this poem would have to do. I lived in this village before the high rises began coming up–yes, prior to the arrival of Starbucks.

The village had old land laws that were put in place by the British colonial government to quell unrest and Communist leanings. They didn’t want the locals so figured out a way to dole out the land. Boys were allowed to inherit land. The village headman would divvy it up. The girls were not entitled to land–this was in place until quite recently–I think 2019? In order for houses to come up, multiple men would combine their small pieces of land and a developer (village headman) would put up a house to sell. Each house was a maximum of 2100 square feet, not including balconies or rooftops. People bought, sold, and rented 3 story block buildings: 1, 2, or 3 floors. For many, the only way you could access these properties was through the paths that cut through the bogs. Everyone was on a bicycle, some on foot, no cars allowed. I cannot say that the homes or the design of the village was particularly beautiful, what was truly compelling was the open green space, so rare in Hong Kong. I would get off the ferry and the chaos of the city in relief.

There was, of course, another type of chaos happening in my home. But this was an interior matter. But I do think that it colored my appraisal of whatever was beautiful–including the lily. There are always stories behind what appears to be an ideal.


The Rape of Pink Lily


Ravished by typhoon beatings,

shackled by oven coils,

Pink Lily arches over barbed wire,

fights insects that mount her limbs.

A hothouse lovely

dogs piss on her face.

She grasps mud for solace,

refuses to plead,

dreams of bees beyond tingling moss.

A loyal flower seasoned by silence

stricken by dollars,

she floats songs of ginger pathos.


The pornography of acquisition

sucks lucky money envelopes.

Suits snap in creased time,

the auction begins.

Men salivate. Towers rise.

Steal a kidney. Jail a poet.

Force foreheads to the ground.

Powdered beauties model rodent furs,

tongues drag along a spine,

capes crack the air.

Pink Lily guards fallow fields for sons.

She multiples.




Flower rapes: necessity.

Earth begs for memory’s dirt.

Rats await.

How many of her stalks will line our nests?

Belief and Philosophy Blog Educators Gods and Pineapples Reading Reading & Writing Teachers

Gods and Pineapples: The Original 1.5 Generation Korean Americans

Gods and Pineapples. These two ideas and objects defined my family and many others for a century. This is from a decades long project of mine and so I’ll be posting on this too…

You feel alone and isolated. You feel like you are doing what no Korean has ever done before. You feel trapped between cultures. You feel like your parents don’t understand you. You say, this is because I am a 1.5 Korean American! You don’t get it! These teenagers from 1923 might have understood what you are talking about.

My grandmother Salome Choi Han is the third from the right in the first row. These were the children of the first wave of Korean immigration from 1903-5. The then Reverend Syngmun Rhee selected the students from some of the earliest immigrant families to do a homeland heritage tour of Korea in 1923. My grandmother went and played the flute. My grandfather, Hank Han or Kee Chan Han, not depicted here, was part of the demonstration baseball team. He was a pitcher for Mid-Pac Institute. Apparently the Koreans were very surprised to see these English speaking Koreans from Hawai’i and followed them down the street and pinched them.

Always remember that there are others who might have been there too. You are the first in your family perhaps, to feel what you feel, but hey, there were other 1.5 ers also! Korean Americans have been in the US for many years. I’m really looking forward to delivering lectures and workshops for the young professionals program for the Council of Korean Americans at the end of the month.