[FEATURE] Ten Years Later: Leslie Cheung’s Memorial Exhibitions
Note: To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Leslie Cheung’s passing, this is the second of two feature articles written by JayneStars’ Contributing Writer, dd, to celebrate the great music and film legend.
Hong Kong has been abuzz over the last few days with people from Asia arriving to see the exhibitions and events for Leslie Cheung’s (張國榮) 10th year death anniversary. They didn’t come to mourn – they came to celebrate his life and achievements. It’s a pilgrimage for Leslie’s fans to come together once more. I’d like to share my experience after attending the Causeway Bay Times Square exhibit, the Candlelight Vigil at the Jardine House, The Art of Leslie Cheung’s Movie Images Exhibition, and the flower presentation at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Before I start, I must apologize to everyone for blowing the camera budget granted to me by Jayne on my debilitating horseracing gambling addiction. But don’t you worry – I’m in rehab already and I’ve been clean for the past three days (and counting!). In fact, I had to dig into my meager food budget to buy a cheap Samsung digital camera in order to take these pictures.
2 Million Cranes – Causeway Bay Times Square Exhibition
According to Japanese legend, if you fold a thousand paper cranes, then a crane will come down from the heavens and grant you one wish. Of course, there are certain terms and conditions attached to this process, such as cranes being non-transferable, and assuming the crane does appear then you can’t ask for more wishes. So I pose to you the question: what does 2 million cranes do? Do you get 2,000 wishes?
I don’t know the answer, but if you have ever wondered how 2 million paper cranes are folded then here it is:
Her name is “Ah Fei”. She sits by herself continuously folding, surrounded by Leslie memorabilia and boxes of already folded paper cranes. When the mall opens, she’s the first to arrive. When it closes, she is the last to leave. In fact, some say that she doesn’t leave the mall at all. Her parents bring her food and homemade soup along with words of encouragement like, “Hang in there!” and….alright I’m just kidding.
The area was cordoned off by divider panels on the ground floor of the shopping center complex. Leslie’s bust was covered by a red curtain. This was the case when I came in on March 29, since it was supposed to be unveiled that day. The Guinness staff didn’t finish counting yet, so it afforded them an extra day to fold. I poked my head in and chatted with a few of the ladies who were folding and asked if I could join in. No go.
Apparently the Guinness regulations regarding the record crane-folding attempt were stringent on the number of people they started with must be preserved throughout the attempt, or the attempt would be voided. Makes sense. As for the girl sitting by herself, I guess when it came to crunch time she didn’t want to be surrounded by gossiping aunties and just wanted to fold her cranes.
The exhibition was absolutely packed on Saturday night. I arrived at 6:30 PM because I rushed from Yuen Long to try to make it on time. I missed the unveiling and Daffy Tong’s (唐鶴德) speech. On display were Leslie’s costumes he wore at concerts and in his movies. There was also a box where you can put your own cranes in, but they wouldn’t be counted in the attempt. When I took a picture of the bust, a man was talking to his wife, saying that it didn’t look like Leslie. I don’t know, what do you think?
There was also a display outside with movie posters and a small hut with an LCD display of his concerts played on loop. If you plan to visit, keep your umbrella open inside since it leaks when it rains.
Flowers at the Mandarin Oriental
Every year starting from March 31, fans of Leslie leave their tributes at the side of the Mandarin Oriental–the site of his suicidal jump in 2003–to show that they still miss him. There were many flowers this year. I talked to one of the attendants, and they told me some flowers arrived early on March 30. I planned to walk through the tributes while filming, but the line wouldn’t move so I only got a few minutes of footage.
Candlelight Vigil – Jardine House
For the entire week, Hong Kong weather was marked by showers. By some miracle, the rain eased up on Monday afternoon which gave the green-light to the candlelight vigil. Knowing Leslie fans, they would have done it anyway under umbrella-cover.
I didn’t get a good spot because I made a detour to the piers and the Central Government Complex down at Admiralty. Being a Hong Kong movie geek, it’s my interest to visit filming locations. Also, my apologies with the low-angle shots. I saw a girl walk while recording a video on her phone, and I realized how silly you look when you walk while looking at the screen on your camera so I had it by my chest.
At 6:41 PM, a minute of silence was observed. They should’ve made this announcement in Mandarin as well, because some mainland Chinese women were still jabbering. The candles were made of paper coffee cups and candlesticks. Afterwards, an excerpt from one of Leslie’s concerts was played and a message in Cantonese, Mandarin and English was given. I looked around; most of the crowd were women, and I felt really out of place. It makes sense, most of Leslie’s fans are women and the men who watched movies would rather watch them for the actresses. Then again, I did see a CCTV reporter crying while filming a news tidbit. He kept making mistakes because he couldn’t finish his sentences. I also bumped into a camera while they were filming an interview with a fan, so I may have gotten on television for all the wrong reasons. TVB, if it was you, then you know where to send my check.
A lot of people were from China, but I saw some Japanese tourists as well. In fact, I do believe that many Chinese tourist companies made this site a tour-stop since I saw many tour guides holding flags, which were cashing in on Leslie’s death a bit. The mood was very somber, and the crowd was slow to disperse. Not much conversation either. I’ve never seen so many women around me crying, other than the time everyone found out I wasn’t single anymore. I say this in jest.
The Art of Leslie Cheung’s Movie Images Exhibition
The “The Art of Leslie Cheung’s Movie Images Exhibition”, which was held at the Hong Kong Central Library Exhibition Hall, was my favorite because they had replicated many sets from Leslie’s movies, such as The Days of Being Wild <阿飛正傳>, Happy Together <春光乍洩>, Rouge <胭脂扣>, and Shanghai Grand <新上海灘>.
I spoke to two girls who came from China who wanted me to take a picture for them. When I asked how long they were staying, they told me they took sick leave from work and were leaving that night and only came to Hong Kong to see the cranes, lay flowers at the Mandarin Oriental and to see this exhibition. On display were many of Leslie’s movies with the DVD jackets in different languages; it really drives the point home that his popularity transcended language barriers.
The Commercialization of Leslie Cheung’s Death
I’m glad we were given the chance to commemorate Leslie’s life through these exhibitions. It means a lot to me that this person, whom I looked up to since I was a young kid who didn’t know better, can have his life put on display for people to remember him once more and for people who don’t know him to learn all about him. But I’m 50/50 on the almost crass commercialism in exploiting his death.
I visited a bookshop in Central and there are many books on Leslie and memorabilia-like photo albums, cups, stickers, etc. And his manager, Florence Chan (陳淑芬), screwing the pooch on us all with the special message “from Leslie”; it’s not the first time she’s done this. I understand what she does and what her position is. She’s a manager, and managers take care of things that their employees shouldn’t have to worry about in order for them to work at their full potential. They are middlemen in-between employee and client and they take a cut from the profits in the end. It is what it is. Leslie’s still her client, and she still has a job to do.
If you’re in Hong Kong or you’re planning to visit, do check out the 1.9 million crane exhibition (which ends on May 1 ) and the Movie Images Exhibition (should be up for another month or two). Also if you’re an avid photographer, then I advise you to walk the exhibition twice (once with your camera and once without) to soak in the atmosphere and the exhibits. When you take photos, your world is limited to what you see through your camera’s viewfinder. I would often see people take a photo and just leave, instead of thinking about what they’re looking at. At the recreated set of the mahjong scene in All’s Well Ends Well, I must have spent 5 minutes just remembering the scene from the movie in my head.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my articles on Leslie Cheung. I’d like to thank Jayne for giving me the green light on these articles and everyone for giving me such great feedback. I did this for you, the readers, the fans of Leslie Cheung and the fans of Hong Kong cinema in general. Perhaps I was able to help you remember Leslie Cheung as a professional actor, amazing singer and most importantly, an incredible person.
This is the second of a two-part feature commemorating Leslie Cheung’s 10th year death anniversary. Part one, Ten Years Later, a Leslie Cheung Introspective, was published on March 28, 2013.
Causeway Bay Times Square Exhibition
Flowers at the Mandarin Oriental
The Art of Leslie Cheung’s Movie Images Exhibition
This original feature article is written by dd, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com. All photos and videos are by dd.