Tuesday, 16 February 2010

雍雅華章

歲晚時節,天氣突然轉冷,加上薄霧微雨,寒意更盛。可能因為勞累已甚,終於抵受不住有點感冒,頭昏腦脹的,甚麼也不想做。但不活動一下筋骨總不成,所以趁著假期,到香港歷史博物館參觀了「雍雅華章:漢代貴族生活」專題展覽,猶幸頗覺不虛此行。

這次展覽由香港歷史博物館籌劃、與湖南省博物館合辦,展出百多件馬王堆漢墓(即漢初長沙國相軑侯利蒼、夫人辛追及兩人兒子之墓)出土的文物,雖然年代久遠,大都保存完好,彌足珍貴。其中部分不易保存和運送的文物,例如漢墓帛畫、棺槨等則以造工精細的複製品代替。美中不足的是展品不算多,大約一小時即可全部看完,頗有意猶未盡之憾。

這些年來,一直沒想過要到湖南旅行,可是看完這個展覽之後,竟興起到長沙看博物館、看馬王堆、逛嶽麓書院的念頭。

一直以來,歷史博物館的專題展覽大都資料豐富,編排恰當,令人看得舒服,這次展覽也不例外。展覽以紅、黑兩色為主色,配合漢朝的流行色調。主辦當局在說明文字方面明顯花了心思,很多文物器皿的冷僻古字都註明了粵語讀音,方便香港市民學習和欣賞,值得一讚。以小孩為對象的互動學習設施也增加了不少,當局的良苦用心可見一斑。可惜漢朝年代久遠,湖南長沙國的知名度也比不上秦兵馬俑、唐陶三彩,加上歲晚時節,人人講究采頭,相信沒幾個家長會帶小孩去看那些精彩絕倫的陪葬品。

雖然展品大都是古墓出土的陪葬品,但基於漢朝「事死如生」的觀念,對於瞭解當時貴族生活頗有裨益。例如盛放酒菜的漆器內,都寫著「君幸食」、「君幸酒」等字,表示「請您晉餐」、「請您用酒」之意。參觀之前沒想到的是,原來陪葬的食盒裡都裝滿了如假包換的鮮肉、蔬菜、水果和米糧。事隔二千年,鮮肉早已腐朽,只剩下一堆枯骨;但經過化驗之後,我們就可以知道那是甚麼動物的骨頭、經過怎樣的烹調,從而瞭解當時貴族飲食的口味。另外,宣傳海報上用的圖片是軑侯夫人辛追的陪葬品梳妝漆盒,裡面有九件形狀、大小各不相同的小漆盒,用作存放胭脂、首飾等物,其實還有一個與大漆盒相配的蓋子,收納起來就整齊得多。至於最有趣的展品,可算是一張「吐納圖」,畫滿了不同動作的人形,有的雙臂橫伸如大鵬展翅、有的屈膝前俯如猛虎靜臥,看上去彷彿一張漢代的健身圖,甚至是武林秘笈。據說漢代貴族很注重健康,追求長生不老,漢末華佗發明的「五禽戲」流傳至今,可算是其來有自了。

差點忘記了,兩漢合計四百餘年(西漢公元前202年至公元9年,東漢公元25年至220年),繼周代以後歷來享國最久的朝代,就連號稱盛世的唐朝(公元681至918年,合計238年)也比不上。漢唐並稱中華盛世,然而為甚麼漢朝享國比唐朝長久?即使海外的華僑多數自稱「唐人」,聚居的地方叫「唐人街」,但我們總是自稱「漢族」、「漢人」,寫的是「漢字」,說的是「漢語」,為甚麼?難道我們心底裡更認同漢朝?這當中的因由,似乎也值得好好研究。

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Old Wine in New Bottle

Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng hosted the first "online forum" of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region yesterday morning.

Regrettably, the so-called online forum was by no means anything close to what we usually understand. It was little more than a web-cast – the new feature being the dedicated Facebook page where netizens could post their questions to the Government in real time. However, there was no immediate response to the excited but sceptical crowd. To date, the Government has yet to publish its response to any of the comments and questions except a self-serving news report on its portal.

More than 2,000 wall posts were collected within three hours – the three hours during which the Facebook page was opened for wall posts. At a first glance, few Facebook users appreciated the Government's initiative. This is not surprising at all, because the senior officials and their in-house communication advisers do not seem to understand what social media is all about. They did it wrong from the first step and were doomed to fail.

Marshall McLuhan famously puts it, "The medium is the message." Choosing to communicate through the online media implies an acceptance of the rule of the game of being responsive in a very efficient manner. As we know, people used to communicate online are extremely impatient. They are very responsive to what happens around them and expect the authorities to do the same. Asking people to write on the Facebook wall without a single word in response throughout the three hours of account opening is simply unacceptable.

As a social networking platform, Facebook was designed to help people maintain and strengthen their relationship with friends or acquaintances. Adding or removing a friend is a de facto declaration of relationship. Indeed, relationship is a long-term commitment that may extend throughout one's lifetime, which is essentially what underlies the extreme popularity of Facebook. Yet the Government's Facebook page was only opened for three hours on Saturday morning and there was no intention to build relationship with netizens by accepting their requests as "a friend". For the netizens, the Government showed no interest to listen to its grumbling people on an ongoing basis. Rather, it was seen as taking a piecemeal approach of communicating and engaging people only when there is an outbreak of opposition and resentment. Any engagement thereafter can only be seen as an anxious response to prevent further embarrassment. No wonder the Saturday web-cast was dismissed as being "insincere" and "a political show".

Genuineness is yet another important attribute of online engagement that the senior officials have yet to master. However, it is more than a communication issue between the Government and the public. More importantly, it indicates a prevalent lack of respect and trust in the Government among the people of Hong Kong, many of whom are being excessively sceptical of what the Government says and does. To rectify the situation, however, the Government needs to work harder not only in communicating with and engaging its people but living up to its words and expectations of the people.

After watching the Saturday web-cast for about half an hour, what really worries me is the Government's lack of a strategic approach in exploring new and effective ways of communicating with and engaging its people. While some may see the web-cast as an encouraging initiative, the way that the Government has done it wrong convinces me of the absence of a clear understanding among the senior officials of what social media is and what it can do, let alone any well-thought strategy of leveraging it effectively and meaningfully. I am not even convinced that the senior officials are ready to embrace this new technology, which requires some extent of mindset change and admission of one's ignorance.

Having said that, I do hope this blunder would not prevent the Government from stopping to explore and use social media as an increasingly important communication platform. The reason is simple: From the demolition of Star Ferry Pier and Queen's Pier three years ago to the budget approval of the Express Rail Link, the Government has repeated the same mistakes for twice and it can no longer afford another one.