Eddie Chau

One of my sweetest memories from Hong Kong was the day I met a wonderful Chinese artist named Eddie Chau. We met at the annual Christmas Fair at the Furama Hotel. We had booths adjacent to one another, and I watched as he would hold up these gorgeous works of art to potential customers. I went over and introduced myself. I later learned that Eddie was very active in the International church located in Repulse Bay. We lived in Repulse Bay, but I had never attended that church. He did all of the artwork and created greeting cards and the weekly programs for the church. He was planning on helping me get involved in the art for the church, when I learned that we would be returning to the States. I will always regret that I had not met Eddie earlier so that I would have had the pleasure of working with him and being introduced to the International Church.

He was an accomplished artist in mainland China. He came to live in Hong Kong with his daughter and wife and settled in a village near Deep Water Bay. After seeing his beautiful artwork, I invited him to visit me and my friends living in Burnside Estates in Repulse Bay. He returned the favor and invited me and my daughters to his studio. He gave me his address and we agreed on a time to meet.

I did not know what to expect, but nothing prepared me for what happened next. When I arrived I glanced at the hillside…Eddie lived in a squatters village. This was not what I had expected, but the spirit of adventure in Hong Kong made me feel flattered that he would invite us here. A squatter’s village in Hong Kong is comprised of hundreds of tiny tin roof cottages sitting next to one another very closely along steep hillsides. They have very little protection during the rainy season and are vulnerable to mud slides. They all have lovely clean laundry hanging from poles that jut out from the homes. Hundreds of people, otherwise homeless live in communities like the one in Deep Water Bay. Chickens run free and occasionally you will see a goat. I was so thrilled because people like me were not typically invited to enter this kind of community. We were considered outsiders and the save-face culture of the Hong Kong Chinese would forbid a Guillo from being welcomed here.

The girls being little didn’t give it a second thought and I was so pleased. I did not want to offend Eddie, and clearly he knew that he had been living in different circumstance when he lived in mainland China. When we arrived Eddie stood at the top of the hill waiting for our car to arrive. As we exited the car he stood as stately as an ambassador. Although we stood at the entrance of what was looked down upon by many, my sense of adventure and trust in Eddie smiled with approval. I was aware that Eddie had been a prominent artist in China. His work had been on exhibit in the art museum in Beijing. He did not belong here, but he stood as if he were escorting us into a mansion.

We carefully walked down the hill past many tin roof homes. When we entered his little abode it was immaculate. His daughter graciously offered us a glass of hot water and we accepted. My daughters had brought their friend Laura, a little neighbor from the UK. As we stood there, Eddie carefully pulled out this artwork portfolio from underneath the bunk bed. The three lived in the same amount of space as an American walk-in closet. By the joy in the rendering you can see how he loved his home. He told me how he would stay up late and paint while his wife and daughter slept.

His work was unbelievable. I felt privileged to have been invited, and more so that he would share his beautiful work with us. The girls were awe struck, and I remember Laura’s face beaming with delight. Her mother later told me how impressed Laura had been, being an aspiring artist herself. I often wonder if that day so inspired her that perhaps she is perusing art herself today.

I purchased two works from Eddie that day. He had a friend who was creating the most magnificent prints of his originals. Laura’s mum had bought a beautiful painting of a sunflower when Eddie had visited us in Burnside Estates. I bought one of his Repulse Bay renderings that showed where we were living at the time, I thought it a lovely keepsake, and I cherish it still. I have this painting hung over my bed. I also purchased this gorgeous rendering of his tin roof home, which lives in my art room. It is a constant statement of joy, a gentle reminder to be thankful for whatever my lot is in life.

I called the International church recently and asked if they knew where I could reach Eddie. They said that he had to leave the squatters village and had moved to New Territories, which is across Victoria Harbor and connected to mainland China.

I will never forget the thrill of being invited within a community of people I knew that under normal circumstance I would never have been allowed. We left Hong Kong in November 1997 just after the hand-over. I have heard difficult stories of how these people living on hillsides in tin roof houses were forced to leave their homes. Their hillsides have become home to the wealthy, squatter tin roof homes have been replaced by fancy high-rise apartment houses. I have heard of mud slides during Typhoon season that have left the squatters living on these hillsides homeless or dead. I know political circumstances put even more burdens on these people. Some have been hurt and even killed during protests. Because I was allowed into this hidden world, I feel connected by interest and compassion.

I will never forget that day, seeing Eddie so regal and his daughter so gracious. I pray that they are safe and that Eddie continues to create his magnificent artwork. I learned a wonderful lesson that day…it does not matter where we live, what our class, or what we have in life, but rather how proud we can stand when we know who we are in Christ. I don’t know whether Eddie’s religious beliefs caused him to flee to Hong Kong, but I do know that while he was there, he was a very loyal servant to the Church. Eddie was one of those people in life that are walking Bibles. I trust that when he gets to heaven he will have a mansion waiting for him.

JOHN 14:2. In My Father's house are many mansions
molly jean said...

Wonderful post, Karen!
I love the images it brought to mind

I once read an acount of how the school children emerged each day from the squalor of the muddy squaters' shanties in Hong Kong, clean and wearing fresh pressed school uniforms, ready to learn.

One of my students was born in China. You can pray for him. I can't say his name but Daniel. His mother has taken her three children to China to visit family. Dad can't go back because he is a prominent defender of Chinese Christians and was himself in prison.

She'sSewPretty said...

What wonderful paintings. the detail is amazing. How wonderful to meet a kindred spirit. I pray he is doing well and still painting glorious artwroks!