“Ontological Basis” – Asian Cha Issue 38 Editorial

Urban Buddha

“Urban Buddha” by Tammy Ho

The first issue of Cha
was published ten years ago in November 2007. It was also ten years after Hong Kong’s handover to China. These two facts are not coincidental.


Since the beginning of Cha, I have completed my PhD studies abroad, got a dream job in my native city, moved house several times, camped on the street with my students, become a three-time aunt obsessed with her sweet, smart, adorably chubby niece and nephews. Amidst all this, Cha has been a concrete constant, despite its virtual nature. There has not been one day over the last ten years that I have not worked on the journal, written or talked to my co-editor Jeff Zroback or to our reviews editor Eddie Tay about a trivial or important matter for Cha, or worried about the journal’s website disappearing without a trace one day, either through unforgivable human error or design.


Having a phobia of disappearance is a condition from which I suffer, and I am not only talking about Cha. Ironically, it is this fear of things vanishing in front of our eyes that defines the urgent existence of many of my fellow Hongkongers. We must be vigilant, watch out for signs of things (or increasingly even people) vanishing. And we must keep working to ensure that things we have built live on.


Cha is a constant in my life, but it cannot remain unevolved. Publishing a literary journal is like steering a humble boat against the current. If we don’t actively move forward, we risk lagging behind, becoming irrelevant. We plan to publish more editions focusing on specific Asian locales. We are taking the journal out into the physical world through readings and discussions in various places in the city. We are starting an initiative to provide workshops on poetry, translation and writing for school children and underprivileged groups. These may only be small gestures, but we refuse to do nothing.


Pablo Neruda visited Hong Kong briefly.* He wrote: “Hong Kong, vast, dark, and glittering as a newly harpooned whale, alive with sound, with mysterious exhalations, with incredible whistlings.” He continued: “[O]ne finds oneself in the midst of a swarming city of tall gray walls, with no hint of China other than advertisements in that inscrutable alphabet[.]” Dear Neruda, if you were to visit Hong Kong again today, you would not be able to feign ignorance of the visible markings of China. More things are becoming inscrutable not only to visitors, but also to Hongkongers. But we are adapting, against the current. We are refusing to do nothing. We will not disappear.

Tammy Ho Lai-Ming / Co-editor
24 December 2017

*Pablo Neruda, Passions and Impressions (translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden), pp. 40-43.

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