20 September 2009

Parallel Universe

According to the many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum physics, the only way to reconcile paradoxes found in the observer effect and the uncertainty principle is to believe in the existence of parallel universes. Here on Lantau Island we have one such example.

If you take a map of Lantau, place a spot of wet ink on Wang Tong Village, fold the map along the north-south axis of the island, then open it again, the ink would have made a stain on the opposite fold. Approximately at that point is Wang Tong Village. The other Wang Tong, that is.

To get to the other Wang Tong, you need to walk between 45 and 60 minutes westward along the coast, past an abandoned village and two apparently feral banana plantations. Situated on a tiny cove, it's a collection of seven houses, of which only three appear to be occupied. Yesterday when I was there the entrance to the last house was barricaded by a belligerent-looking Chinese god and an enormous (and real, living) spider.

How to explain two identically-named villages (yes, the Chinese characters are the same) within short walking distance of each other? Were the denizens of this other Wang Tong the offspring of colonists from the original village? Were they exiles, pushed out by an invading clan, who trekked into the wilderness and, clinging to their heritage, established a New Wang Tong?

The man who briefly poked his head out the door of the first house didn't look at all friendly, so I was hesitant to knock on his door to ask questions. I searched elsewhere for clues.

Unlike my Wang Tong Village, this other one had an official government sign. Did that imply that this was the original and I lived in a knock-off version of Wang Tong? As I searched further I noticed a name plate on the village's single electricity pole. It identified the pole as belonging to Wang Tong Tsai, which literally translates as "Son of Wang Tong", but idiomatically means "Little Wang Tong". Either way, it answers part of the question.

But why the same name? What's the connection? Is the duplicate name just a coincidence, a friendly homage, or the result of bitter exile? Or had I really walked through a space-time continuum into an alternate Wang Tong universe? Next time I'll come prepared with a bottle of cognac to ensure a friendlier reception and, I hope, a drop of enlightenment.


  1. Hmm... makes me wonder about the alternate Ah-Po. Do you suppose she might be an organic farmer?
    Glad to see you back by the way. :-)

  2. Great post! But be careful if you do see an alternate Ah-Po! It could just be the beginning of a whole village full of Wang Tong doppelgangers, and judging from the sci-fi treatments I've seen of this sort of thing, it never ends well!