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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: Hong Kong spider folklore

On July 28th 2016 (as I have done before)  I posted a question on the Hong History Forum Gwulo.com  to Andrew Suddaby.” Do you remember any stories of very rare or unexpected fauna whilst you were on Cheung Chau?

The day after he replied ,under the heading, Cheung Chau Fauna

Hello Richard,
Sorry Richard, my visits to Cheung Chau were always just for a day and I neither saw nor heard any fauna on the island.  I guess that I was usually too busy taking phortographs of places, things and, when allowed, of people.  In 1958 most adults out of the city centre did not want to be photographed and I tried to respect that.  Children were quite different and would clamour to have their pictures taken.  I always tried to reward them with a few coins, sweets or fruit such as bananas.  If you did that nowadays they'd arrest you, which just shows how sad a world we are living in now.
Anyway, intrigued by your comment, I looked Cheung Chau fauna up on Google.  The only snakes that I have ever seen in the whole of Hong Kong were:
1957/8 a cobra skeleton draped on a barbed wire fence at the top of the Little Sai Wan camp road junction with the Cape Collinson Road.
1957/8 a very dead but beautifully coloured python that some small children found brushing against their legs in the shallows at Shek O beach.  The life guard rushed down grabbed it and, I guess, took it home for his tea.  No doubt thos toddlers acquired an instant phoebia about snakes.
1957/8 a black and white krait that slithered across the path on the way down from the Temple oif 10,000 Buddhas in Shatin.
c2004 I saw a lovely little baby python on the path down at the Point at Little Sai Wan / Siu Sai Wan.  I took a photo of it, showed the snake to two ladies and one of them promptly ground it into the concrete as they departed gleefully up the path.  Is this what slaying the dragon is all about?
The same year, I think, I was scrambling up a narrow and rough path between our sunbathing rocks there and the Cape Collinson lighthouse path when a large centipede trundled across it.  I took its photograph - not realising that it would have given me a nasty bite if I'd tried to put it into a more easily photographed place.
On many occasions when I have been trying to find old pill boxes, etc., I have brushed through bamboo thickets and other thick vegetation often filming as I went and I now wonder how close I might inadvertently have come to becoming well-acquainted with a bamboo snake - but fortunately, as I was always alone in some quite remote places, it never happened.
Sorry, I cannot offer any real help.
best wishes.  Andrew

Also on July 29th Tung contributed: “Hello Richard,
I almost forgot this one......
Boys running around the outback on CC island of my time must understand the fun of hunting and keeping some harmless Spider. This tiny spider never construct any web at all. It scouts on everywhere, indoor & outdoor, on trees, shrubs, or house furniture like your desk. They are like  tiny lonewolfs, maybe in search of flea or other tiny bugs.
People consider they are the good and harmless, kids think they are so friendly and pet-able too!
Kids of age 5 to 8 years old would like to bring their spider pets to school and do all kinds of creative shows or fight. They keep them each in a tiny envelop made out of a leaf. The spider is about 0.5 to 1.0 cm long, and color in all black, white and black, biege or brown. It has no visible hair but very clean to touch. It never bite people at all.
And they are free to go after few days fun!!

July 29th. Old Timer.
Thanks Tung and Andrew for recalling our younger days.  This photo reminds me of the creek below the old Clear Water Bay Road about a mintue's walk below Good Hope School.  While the scenic settings were different, their countryside atmosphere gave us children joy and opportunity to explore.
At about the age of the tall boy in this photo, I sometimes hiked to Kowloon Reservoir to look for fighting spiders.  They, a loner, made their home a foot or two above ground by pulling together two leaves with their silk, and this made their location easy to spot.  Some are "Old Poke" (lo-dok - loose translation) because they use their two front arms to spear at their opponent.  When two of them meet, they fight as if they want to hug each other.  Another kind is the "Red Kid" named for their body colour. To catch them, I wrapped around the folded leaves with an opened flat tin box and next closed the lid.
And yes, we kept them in separate homes made of thorny leaves.  A fight took a few seconds and the loser quickly ran away so injuries were infrequent.  I set them free in our balcony garden after a few days.  Looking back, such were our boyish thinking and fun, but pity the poor little creacture who lost his natural home, and freedom albeit temporarily.  Regards,  Peter

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