百年老店与人类文明/Century-Old Business and Human Civilization
Updated: Jul 11
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大学坐落在市中心，违反了马克思爷爷所说的“地租原理”，但是却遵循了人类文明的准则：“产权不可侵犯”。在香港，或许早有无数人、无数“部门”想过要将理工大学从这块价值连城的宝地上迁走。但是，在这里，人们相信“产权不可侵犯”的原则。另外，这地方也不是“领导说了算”。也就不可能有无良开发商半夜开着推土机、不顾人的性命安危、连事先通知都没有就把楼推到的事情发生了。起初，我并不能充分理解，为什么回归了那么久，香港人在国外介绍自己时还总是说："Hi, I am from Hong Kong.” 这一年间，在香港的媒体上，看到许多有关大陆无良开发商暴力推楼、武装打人的新闻，单凭这一点，就很容易理解港人这样的自我介绍了。
One day last year, my wife and I were having dinner at a noodle shop on Baker Street in Hung Hom. Since it happened to be mealtime, there were many people, so we both sat at the same table with an old lady in her sixties. The old lady was very hospitable, and when she heard us speaking Mandarin, she asked us where we were from in mainland China in very rusty Mandarin. Perhaps our Cantonese is too bad, and the old lady's Mandarin is also bad, so we did not chat much. When the old lady saw that we were about to finish eating, she asked us how we thought of the noodles here. We all smiled and nodded our heads to say it was very good. Then she told us that she had eaten noodles at this noodle shop when she was a little girl, and it has been 50 or 60 years.
It was an ordinary noodle shop, with only 6 small round tables and a dining area of only 20 square meters, but the menu said "Hung Hom's 80-year-old noodle shop". So I asked the old lady, "Is this restaurant really 80 years old?" She kept nodding her head and said yes. She said her mother used to eat noodles here all the time. Has this store never stopped since it first opened? She said yes. She answered calmly, as an old customer complimenting the store naturally. I instantly felt the greatness of time and persistence. This noodle place with only 20 square meters can even have such a long history.
Indeed, it should not be surprising that there are century-old brands in the vast land of China with a history of 5,000 years. Wuliangye, Tongrentang, Goubuli, Wanglaoji, Quanjude, Wangzhihe...there are countless time-honored brands that we are familiar with, but these are still very different from that noodle restaurant. First of all, that noodle restaurant does not have a so-called well-known trademark; secondly, the above-mentioned time-honored Chinese brands have more or less been interrupted or changed their names during the Land Reform, the Great Leap Forward Movement, the Cultural Revolution, and many other special periods. For example, an old-fashioned noodle restaurant in Changsha, Yang Yuxing, was interrupted during the Cultural Revolution, and was later renamed Eastern Restaurant before it was reopened. Moreover, that noodle restaurant has no branches and no group operation and has always maintained the model of a family business, passed on from generation to generation.
How difficult is it for such a purely family-owned small shop to become a century-old store? This store has not suffered from the Land Reform, the Great Leap Forward Movement, the Cultural Revolution, Fraud, Urban Management Bureau, demolition teams, etc for nearly 100 years. It is surprising that it has not been subjected to any harm from taxation, industrial and commercial law enforcement, or health inspection. Not to mention not suffering from scandals like poisonous additives, poisonous milk powder, gutter oil, dead pork, chemical tableware, formalin seafood, etc. You know, any abovementioned factors are able to make a small family business immediately bankrupt. Some time ago, even a research institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences was inexplicably razed to the ground by a demolition team, not to mention a minuscule noodle shop.
This reminds me of something I talked about with a Taiwanese friend at Taiwan University the other day. This Taiwanese friend studies economics and often travels across the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and has a very thorough understanding of the two sides of the Strait. The point he mentioned made me think very deeply. Generally speaking, universities are built in relatively remote locations, except for some very early established schools. New schools are located in suburban or rural areas in order to save land costs and to be away from the hustle and bustle. In Hong Kong, where every inch of land is so valuable, this is also largely true. The University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the Hong Kong Institute of Education are in the suburbs, while the City University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Baptist University are in non-central locations of urban areas. Only the Hong Kong Polytechnic University is really unique. It is located on the north shore of Victoria Harbour, adjacent to the Hung Hom Stadium and the Hung Hom Tunnel. Sitting in many classrooms at the Polytechnic University, I can see the ocean, which are really five-star "Victoria Harbour sea view classrooms".
The university is located in the center of the city, which violates Marx's "Land Rent Theory", but follows the code of human civilization: "inviolability of property rights". In Hong Kong, there may have been countless people and departments who wanted to move Polytechnic University away from this valuable piece of land. But here, people believe in the principle of "inviolability of property rights". In addition, this place is not at the discretion of the political or business leaders. It is not possible for an unscrupulous developer to drive a bulldozer in the middle of the night and push the building to the ground without any prior notice, regardless of people's lives. At first, I could not fully understand why, after so long since the handover, Hong Kong people still always say "I am from Hong Kong" when introducing themselves abroad. This year from Hong Kong's mass media, I saw so many news stories about unscrupulous real estate developers in mainland China pushing buildings down violently and beating people with armed forces. Just with this, I can totally understand why Hongkongers are still introducing themselves in that way.
Now, I am also a regular customer of that noodle shop. Of course, it's not because of that store's nearly 100-year history. After all, to eat noodles is to eat noodles, just to fill your stomach, not to eat any hundred-year history. I became a regular customer simply because of the texture and taste of the noodles themselves. Many people, for such simple reasons, have been eating for decades, right? A hundred-year-old store is possible because countless ordinary customers eat there one by one, right? In an environment of no "violent demolition" and other disturbances, and under the condition to ensure that "every bite is delicious", the century-old restaurant was born "naturally", with is both easy and not easy.