As we gallop into the year of the horse, Essentials has noticed that jade rabbits seem to be breeding like, well… rabbits. There’s the news of China’s lunar rover Jade Rabbit coming back to life, and the opening of Hong Kong’s luxurious ‘fantasy-land’ Designer Hotel, Mira Moon – an artful creation that celebrates the story of Chang’e, the Chinese Moon Goddess, and her companion the jade rabbit. Jamie Durrant investigates more.
Chinese folklore tells – there are several versions – how Chang’e, a young palace servant who broke a precious porcelain jar, was banished from heaven for angering the Jade Emperor. Condemned to live on Earth, Chang’e found herself a member of a rich farming family. She grew up to become a beautiful young woman who caught the eye of Houyi, an expert archer from a nearby village.
When 10 suns unexpectedly rose in the sky, threatening to burn up the earth, Houyi saved the world by shooting down nine of the suns. For his efforts he became an overnight hero and, eventually, was made king. Of course, he married our heroine, Chang’e.
In a further twist of the parable, mortal greed and desperation took hold of Houyi, who sought immortality by ordering an elixir to be created to prolong his life. But Chang’e thwarted him by swallowing the single dose of the elixir, either accidentally or, in some versions, deliberately. Houyi, angered, chased his wife to catch and punish her. Chang’e, fearing for her safety, leapt from a window but instead of falling to her death she had become immortal and floated away to the moon, where she still lives with her only companion, a jade rabbit. The jade rabbit’s outline can be made out in the clusters of the moon’s craters.
Houyi tried to shoot Chang’e down with his arrows, but he had lost his touch and failed. Bereft and devastated, knowing his wife would live for eternity, he died alone.
Today, when Chinese folk celebrate the mid-autumn harvest moon festival late in September, it is customary to light lanterns at night so Chang’e can see them on the Earth.
In many cultures’ teachings on moral codes, human transgression attracts punishment that lasts for eternity. Moon worship is likewise a common thread in ancient times, even appearing in northern Australian Aboriginal dreamtime stories. Versions of such teachings from the ancient tales often surface in popular culture. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, for instance, recording the dramatic effects and influence of a magic potion and even introducing a rabbit into the mix, could be seen to have been influenced by the story of Chang’e.
Building on both ancient myth and modern story, the interior design of Hong Kong’s Mira Moon proves an equally enthralling magical mystery tour, intriguing in its luxuriant decadence and eccentricity. Painstakingly crafted by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders in conjunction with London’s yoo Studio, it features layer upon layer of decoration exploring a fantastical world painted in celebratory symbols arising from a fervently joyful and seamlessly inspired imagination.
Plush floral custom-designed carpets and shards of crystal offer unexpected prickly-textured visuals as you enter the semi-formal and very exclusive foyer. Shades of carrot, coffee and avocado highlight and warm an otherwise very limited palette of high-gloss white, chrome/silver and tulip red. Leave the hectic world outside as you check in and enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere. You may even find yourself teased into a smile at the sight of several highly glazed ceramic red rabbits with wings flying above the reception desk.
The hotel unashamedly describes the rooms as ‘unworldly’, ‘intergalactic’ and ‘modern’.
It’s worth taking a seat in this mad-hatter’s tea party of an entry lounge: it can take a little while to absorb and come to terms with the detail woven into its unconventional and super-playful surroundings.
Polished white marble floors are interspersed with kaleidoscopic carpet cutouts. A long wavering sofa winds its way around the room in an uncertain and confused direction. Other more formal seating areas seem like apparitions that have been teleported in from a child’s doll’s-house mind. Lights reflecting from mirrors lead the eye around a corner to a hidden, private champagne cocktail bar. The room, surrounded by crystal and mirrored glass, is so clear cut and fragile it seems to float in mid-air.
The richness of design continues to impress and astonish through the hotel’s 91 rooms. Decorated halls feature individually designed tapestry carpets, each worthy of an art gallery wall. At the far end, the eye is beguiled by moon-themed, back-lit timber-carved screens. The theme continues throughout… a plethora of companion jade rabbit motifs seem to spy on you every which way you turn. Rippling white-polished walls bend the mind just a little when you enter the rooms, categorised as half moon, full moon or new moon suites.
Soft furnishings provide the necessary comfort and luxury but, integrated as they are with such fantastically absurd fairy-tale styling, you have to wonder … will those visuals actually promote or enhance dreams? Will they even encourage slumber? The premier high-rise Victoria Harbour views and the symphony of lights dancing in the sky each night certainly lend the suites at Mira Moon a powerful waking energy.
The hotel unashamedly describes the rooms as ‘unworldly’, ‘intergalactic’ and ‘modern’. Guests, equipped with in-room wifi and ‘do everything’ flight controls, can virtually command their complete hotel experience from the convenience of bedside iPads. It must be said these opulent space capsules, equipped with touch-button high-tech convenience, are perhaps a flight of fancy designed for the fashion-conscious rather than the merely adventurous traveller.
But it’s not all rocket fuel and anti-gravity. You can come back to earth with a bang at the hotel’s Super Giant restaurant and bar. Here you’ll find a limousine-stretched indoor white-polished counter that continues through a plate-glass window and out to a rooftop evergreen garden. Inside, the dining room snaps to with a layout that is as clean and stylish as it masterful and bold. This is clearly no add-on afterthought.
Super Giant’s management say its aim is to become known as one of Hong Kong’s finest restaurants, and confidently promises to meet the highest standards. The international wine list, featuring hand-selected gems from Italy, France, Chili and Argentina, certainly does that.
The food, however, although well-balanced and cleverly created, does have just a little way to go. The themed Duck cigar, Havana style is a fun way to plate up an otherwise standard spring roll, but unfortunately failed to deliver any real flavour. The Beef tartare with beetroot, crisp parmesan and condiments, however, arrived on the palate brilliantly seasoned, delicately smooth in texture and satisfyingly more-ish. So too, the Fish veloute, which was as good as it gets, bursting with the clean-cut flavour of just-made fish stock, and comprising soft flesh bites that were delicate and inviting.
It was obvious that time-honoured Chinese culinary skills were being put to good use because the Crispy slow-cooked suckling pig was a stand-out calling card. So would I be back again? Yes, and very happily so because it is well worth a visit. But I’d suggest that, for the moment, Super Giant is more of an easygoing creature comfort than a culinary marvel. Not to be too harsh, it demonstrates the potential to live up to its aspirations.
Mira Moon is situated in the bustling Wang Chai district, within easy walking distance of Hong Kong’s brilliant metro system, and connects directly to the Airport Express. Its easy-to-get-to drop-in location makes Mira Moon an ideal escape for a night or two.
Like the Mira Hong Kong, its sister hotel in Kowloon, Mira Moon melds traditional Asian hospitality with technological wizardry that begs you to be hands-on. With its unlikely but intriguing mix of ancient Chinese myth and a dash of Ziggy Stardust meets Alice in Wonderland, it’s a truly unique place to catch a glimpse of the changing face of the city while connecting with like-minded souls.
388 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island, HK
Tel [Australia Toll Free] 1800 054 132