Dear Gentle Reader,
The Korean War was active from 1950 to 1953, but, it never really ended.
An armistice was signed in 1953 though peace was never declared.
Further, North Korea recently declared its withdrawal from that armistice on May 27, 2009.
But, this article is not about a home for peace, or war, on the Korean Peninsula, or anything on the Korean Peninsula.
It's not even about the Korean War, except tangentially.
This post is tangentially about the Korean War as the Korean War saw the first great growth of metalized containerisation for shipping.
The USA found that metal containers, instead of wood, once standardized, were harder to destroy, more difficult to pilfer from, and quicker to load, unload and transport.
With these insights, CONEX, the CONtainer EXpress project of the USA's Department of Defense, began and thus the Korean War marks the dawn of modern containerisation (as opposed to the twilight of (wooden) transport containerization which started in the late eighteenth century; it was a long twilight, baby).
Nineteen years after the start of CONEX, 1972, in turn, saw the dawn of containerisation in international, civil (as opposed to military) trade in Hong Kong.
In 1972, the first dedicated container ship to arrive in Hong Kong, the Tokyo Bay, docked in Kwai Chung.
By 1975/1976, container cargo was already accounting for 51% of the total dead weight tonnage of cargo exported or imported in the world (today more than 90% of non-bulk cargo is shipped via containers).
By 1980, Hong Kong had eclipsed Osaka, Japan, to become the third largest container port in the world.
By 1987, Hong Kong had eclipsed both Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and New York, USA, to become the number one container port in the world.
Of course, when those containers aren't being shipped out, they sit empty.
And land is not cheap in Hong Kong, as your humble scribe found out when looking for a container for his life, and the belongings of the Hero and the Heroine.
Containers that are not filled with goods to be shipped frequently end up in Tuen Mun, a suburb city of a half million people outside of Hong Kong.
Tuen Mun started off its days as defensive gate city (channel gate is what Tuen Mun translates to).
Tuen Mun formed a defensive channel to stop foreign threats; not that it was ever effective against non-Chinese threats, like the British...
But, now, all threats to Tuen Mun are contained...
For, you see, Tuen Mun is where many of the unused shipping containers sit.
Recently, China's export trade has dropped by over 26% in dollar terms. That represents a lot of containers.
This means that the number of containers sitting idle has grown...
So, some are used in novel ways.
Like this lovely house,
with a carport, and a covered garage/workshop (the landscaping, admittedly, leaves much to be desired, but it is low maintenance).
Some structures, of course are more downmarket.
Some structures are almost hillbilly market (or hillybilly, as the Heroine likes to say).
While others are more mid-market.
The flip side of reduced trade is, apparently, increased housing.
And I have long thought that much housing, in Hong Kong, is simply containerization of people.
Now, in Tuen Mun, my suspicions have been confirmed.
Speaking of containers, and Tuen Mun, my mysterious scholarly Buddhist reader (but never commentator?) in California would likely not forgive me if I didn't mention Pui To.
And, having seen the tools that Buddhism reserves to use against its enemies (go back into the archives...) ...I want to stay on the right side of Buddhists...
The great Buddhist missionary, Pui To, arrived in Tuen Mun in 428 AD in his own drinking cup, transformed into a vessel for travelling the drink (the waterways of the Pearl River Delta).
(In comparison, I drink and travel, or travel and drink, but rarely do I travel my drink. Your humble scribe is so déclassé...)
Pui To, however, did more than experiment with containers (drinking cups) and their efficacy as travelling objects.
Pui To, as a very devout Buddhist, would go to the local markets, buy live fish destined for the kitchens, and release those same live fish back into the water.
Further, the fish that never made it back to their watery homes, the dead ones, well, Pui To would inter these fish in specially constructed mausoleums... ...architectural containers to hold and memorialize the dead. (Why? Because Buddhists generally respect all life as sacred.)
So, Tuen Mun has not only had a long history, but has had a long relationship with containers transformed.