Hong Kong is a city that has a long entangled heritage between China and the west, which inevitably leads to its current vastly diversified culture.

Starting as a fishing port, Hong Kong had since become an important trading hub and then an international financial center in the past few hundreds of years. Before 1841, the city used to be dominated by the traditional Han ethnic culture, yet, after the British had taken over Hong Kong, the city was injected with Western culture as part of its underlying genes! As Hong Kong’s economy took flight in the 80s, more and more of the now well-known skyscrapers started to appear.

Affected by diverse cultures during different periods, the city contains a varied style of buildings. Below are a few significant types of buildings that can be found in the city!

1. Punti, Hakka Culture and Walled Villages

If you spend time traveling around the New Territories in Hong Kong, you will notice villages that are surrounded by brick walls. These are walled villages that were built by both the Punti and Hakka from mainland China more than a hundred years ago.

Back in the Ming and Qing dynasties, Hong Kong used to be a place that has winding shores and hilly islands that were an excellent hideout for pirates. Therefore, they built stone walls to defend themselves from pirates.

Today, the remnants of around 70 walled villages remain in the city. Some typical examples are Sam Tung Uk, Kat Hing Wai, Shui Tau Tsuen, Fanling Wai, etc. While some have been demolished and converted to villa houses, some still exist with brick walls and traditional tiled roofs.

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Walled village ©www.read01.com

2. The Fishing industry and Pang Uk

Hong Kong was once a fishing port in the 70-80s, where most people earn for their livings by trading fish-related products. Fishing villages were pretty common during the period, yet most of them were demolished due to urban development.

One existing and well-preserved fishing village today locates at Tai O, where Pang Uks, a type of house tailor-made for fishers can be found. It is known that Pang Uks were built to facilitate the daily fishing lives of fishers. The house is constructed on stilts above the water or on small beaches, where fishers can park their boat underneath their house. Besides Tai O, Pang Uks can also be found in the Lei Yue Mun Village and Ma San Tsuen.

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Pang Uks in Tai O ©www.discoverhongkong.com

British Colonial Rule and British Architecture

There were many signs of influences of Western cultures, such as British architecture, which can be seen throughout Hong Kong due to its past British colonial history. Buildings that were built during the colonial period are usually supported by large columns, have porticos, and are repetitive in terms of their structure.

These buildings used to be government buildings, yet due to the rocketing development of the tourist industry after Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997, the buildings have been renovated.

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1881 Heritage ©Kevin Mak

A great example of this would be 1881 heritage, a neoclassical compound which can be dated back to 1880 when it was first established as the land-based headquarters for Hong Kong’s marine police. This historic building has since been converted into Hullett House, a boutique hotel, while the stable block, signal tower, and old fire station are being changed into F&B and retail outlets.

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The Murray House ©Hank Terrebrood

There are also other examples of British Architecture in Hong Kong, such as the Murray House, which originally served as officers’ quarters of the Murray Barracks, the command center by the Japanese military police, and government office during different periods back in time. It has now been renovated and become a commercial building that consists of boutiques and restaurants.

Multiple Religions and Religious Buildings

Hong Kong is an international city that has a diversity of religions and philosophical beliefs. In Hong Kong, 22% of people believed in Buddha, 12% are Christian, and about 2-3% are Muslim.

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St Andrews Church ©ilovehongkong.org

Because of the diversity of religion in Hong Kong, you can see temples for Buddhists, chapels for Christians, and mosques for Muslims. You will also be able to see some of the rarest scenes that cannot be seen elsewhere in the world. Sometimes, within the matrix of high-rising commercial buildings, Muslim mosques or traditional Chinese temples can be found next to Christian churches, such as St. Andrews Church and the Kowloon Mosque that is just 390 meters apart!

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Kowloon Mosque ©Shafak Thaika

Economic Development and the Rise of Commercial Skyscrapers

After China’s economic reform in the 80s, foreign traders discovered Hong Kong has high economic freedom and a well-established legal system, so they started investing. The city is usually voted the “Best Business City in the World” in the annual readers’ poll organized by Business Traveller Asia Pacific magazine. In 2017, Hong Kong was ranked the world’s richest city with the most billionaires in the world per capita. It is also rated tops in the 2019 Economic Freedom Index, which ranked regions or countries by their degree of economic freedom.

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Skyscrapers at Victoria Harbour ©SCMP

Being a business city, the city’s skyline is filled with high-rising skyscrapers to fulfill Hong Kong’s economic development. Landmarks such as the International Finance Centre and the International Commerce Centre resembling the city’s status of being the center of finance and commerce of Asia. No wonder, Hong Kong’s skyline shows the degree of economic development of this city!

Reference:

Gao, S. (10AD). A Brief History of Hong Kong’s Walled Villages. Retrieved from https://theculturetrip.com/asia/china/hong-kong/articles/a-brief-history-of-hong-kongs-walled-villages/

About 1881 Heritage. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.1881heritage.com/about.php

Tsz Kiu Pun
Author

Josephine Pun is a student who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Architectural Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Being a storyteller, journal and photography are channels that she uses to express her unique perception of architecture. Read her articles and experience architecture without leaving your couch!

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