Hong Kong Culture

Hong Kong Culture

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Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

Hong Kong

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  • 3 hrs 30 mins
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Early Bird
  • 10 hrs
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TurboJET Ferry

Hong Kong

  • 1 hr

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Archaeological research indicates Hong Kong was first inhabited 35,000 years ago. Its modern history effectively began in the 1840s after the First Opium War. The Qing Empire lost the battle and the British army settled in Hong Kong Island. The British officially took over Hong Kong the following year and it became something of a sanctuary over the next few decades for Chinese people fleeing troubles in their hometowns.

Britain developed Hong Kong’s infrastructure and built grandiose structures including the French Mission Building, St John's Cathedral and Government House which still exist to the present day and are part of the former colony’s premium tourism sites. Hong Kong’s culture and festivals derive from its rich history and range from the Lunar New Year to the time-honoured tradition of the Noon Day Gun salute at Causeway Bay every day.

Hong Kong festivals are varied with some celebrating ancient customs and others paying homage to the performing arts industries. Cheung Chau Bun Festival in May is highly recommended and dates from a period in history when islanders beseeched the gods to put an end to a deadly plague. The seven-day festival features colourful parades, lion dances and the building of a huge tower of buns.

Tin Hau’s Birthday and the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races are other flagships on the annual calendar. Of the less visual festivals, the Hungry Ghost is a peerless reflection of Chinese heritage. Residents typically place offerings near where they work or live or at their local temple to ensure the ghosts that descend to earth for the celebrations go back to heaven when their earthly sojourn is over.

During some festivals, audiences are treated to traditional Chinese operatic performances. Theatre companies typically erect bamboo stages for the shows and these can be on land or water. The sight of graceful performers on the decorative stages is one that is not easily forgotten.

Hong Kong’s museum collection is the other primary source for visitors to gain insights into local and regional heritage. The Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin is the best place to start. It has six permanent galleries plus another six for revolving exhibitions. Three of the permanent ones are themed on the New Territories, Cantonese opera and Chinese Art. The TT Tsui Hall contains a fine collection of pottery, sculptures and Tibetan artefacts.

The Hong Kong Museum of History takes visitors on a kaleidoscope of heritage spanning the period from prehistory of 400 million years ago to the day that Hong Kong was reunited with China in 1997. The eight-gallery facility is home to 4,000 exhibits and almost 1,000 displays.

The Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb is believed to be 2,000 years old and was built during the Eastern Han Dynasty. Access to the tomb itself is blocked off, but a big glass window allows visitors to view the interior with ease. A gallery beside the tomb has a collection of pottery and bronze articles retrieved from it.

One of the quirkier museums is the Sheung Yiu Folk Centre in beautiful Sai Kung Country Park. This village was built 200 years ago with defensive walls to keep out marauders and bandits. Furniture, household items and other ephemera perfectly illustrate the lifestyles of the Hakka people.