What’s On? Things to do this May in Hong Kong

As the Hong Kong begins to return to a sense of semi-normalcy, and public venues open their doors to visitors once again, prompting a sigh of relief from Hongkongers in time for Art Month. From the highly anticipated Art Basel to the annual Le French May and much, much more, see our round up of exciting happenings for the month of May.

Art Basel
27-29 May

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Photo courtesy of Art Basel

Although the city’s biggest art fair arrives two months later than usual due to Covid-19 social distancing and flight restrictions, it has nonetheless pulled out all the stops to present an astonishingly diverse showcase of modern and contemporary works from established and emerging artists around the world. Get ready to browse the collections of some 130 participating galleries and institutions across Asia and beyond, as well as visit online viewing rooms catering to exhibitors unable to attend the fair in person.

Price: From HK$150
Location: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Wan Chai
For more information:  artbasel.com/hong-kong

Art Central
26-29 May

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Photo courtesy of Art Central

In this art-filled month, the seventh edition of Art Central will run alongside its larger cousin, Art Basel Hong Kong. This year’s dynamic showing will encompass more than 40 innovative galleries among other content, such as Gok Dou Live presented by Asia Society Hong Kong Center. Within an expanded programme, the latter includes talks, artist interviews and new initiatives designed to excite a public starved of in-person, real-time art appreciation.

Price: From HK$150
Location: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Wan Chai
For more information:  artcentralhongkong.com

Le French May
Until Jun

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Photo courtesy of Le French May

One of the largest cultural and art festival in Asia, the annual celebration that is Le French May returns in time for Art Month to offer the city a month and more of French-inspired heritage. Featuring emerging Hong Kong-based visual and dramatic artists, theatrical performers, dancers and filmmakers, the festival will showcase the cultural synergies that connect Hong Kong to France through more than 100 programmes. From musical shows and performance arts to exhibitions and culinary offerings, prepare to be artfully fed and enlightened by this highly anticipated event.

Location: Various Locations
For more information: frenchmay.com


Instead of an Afterwards
Until 14 May

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Photo courtesy of PMQ

Korean Cultural Center in Hong Kong asks art lovers to ponder about the concept of time and timeliness through the works of five South Korean artists. The exhibition, curated by Choe Nowk, reframes what it means to be present. Featuring art by Jaekyung Jung, Daniel Schine Lee, Hyejoo Jun, Suyon Huh and Rong Bao, Instead of an Afterwards seeks to draw out a deeper meaning than what meets the eye, prompting us to reconsider what we view as important.

Price: Free entry
Location: Korean Cultural Center, PMQ, Central
For more information:  pmq.org.hk

Looking East: St Ives Artists and Buddhism
Until 31 May

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Photo courtesy of 3812 Gallery

Central-based 3812 Gallery turns its spotlight on the St Ives school with an exhibition on how Eastern influences, particularly Buddhist philosophy, influenced post-war British artists in the southwestern Cornish town. Works by famed ceramicist Bernard Leach and Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki feature among a multimedia display spanning stoneware, oil painting and collage that illustrates the spirituality underlying Western art in that era.

Price: Free entry
Location: 3812 Gallery, 26/F, Wyndham Place, Wyndham Street, Central
For more information: 3812gallery.com


Also Read: Places to visit to see vibrant street art in Hong Kong

Recovery, Resilience, Resurgence
Until 6 Jun

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Photo courtesy of Asia Society

Asia Society invites the public to rediscover the compelling history of Hong Kong through beautifully captured photographs that illustrate 30 years of heritage, change and development. From the post-war period into the ’50s, ’60s and the onset of the ’70s, the lenses of the late acclaimed photographers Hedda Morrison, Lee Fook Chee and Brian Brake each reveal a distinctive take on the rise of this modern Asian city.

Price: Free entry
Location: Asia Society Hong Kong Center, 9 Justice Drive, Admiralty
For more information: asiasociety.org/hong-kong

Spinning East Asia Series II: A Net (Dis)entangled
Until 7 Aug

What’s On Things to do this May in Hong Kong gafencu spinning east asia series II a net (dis)entagled
Photo courtesy of The Mills

Non-profit art institution Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile (Chat) presents an exhibition held both virtually and in situ at former textiles factory The Mills. Underscoring the diversity of East Asian history and culture, contemporary works by 16 prominent artists and groups from across the region will be showcased. The affair joins the likes of guided tours, online discussion forums, talks and performances on Chat’s illuminating Spring Programme 2022. 

Price: Free entry
Location: 3/F, The Mills, Tsuen Wan
For more information: mill6chat.org

Bonart Terrarium Workshops

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Photo courtesy of Bon-Art HK

You don’t have to step outdoors to exercise your green thumb. Explore the extent to which plant life can elevate your home at one of Bonart’s terrarium workshops. The botanical concept store in Tai Kwun combines art and nature in a variety of two-hour sessions in which participants can learn how to build a miniature eco-system, while also picking up some practical gardening skills and tips to better care for home greenery. Participants can take home their terrariums to admire afterwards.

Price: From HK$380
Location:  Shop 03-204A, Tai Kwun, Central
For more information:  bonart-hk.com

Online Singing Bowl: A Self-Healing Journey with Anita Cheung

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Photo courtesy of iLiving Hong Kong

Keen to relieve stress in the comfort and safety of your own living room? Join award-winning transformative healer Anita Cheung in a soothing sound bath to relax, heal and tap into a deeper connection with the mind. Discover your inner self, find your balance, and gain a new level of wisdom through this 60-minute virtual sound-healing journey. Cheung’s ongoing sessions offer a different experience to devotees each time.

Price: HK$128 (pay what you want)
Location: Online access
For more information:  ilivingacademy.com


Also Read: Unique attractions to see and do in Hong Kong

Tai Chi: Understanding the health benefits of this ancient martial arts

As the dawn breaks over the vertical city, before the roar of the traffic and the chaos of the commute become all-encompassing, playgrounds sprinkled all over Hong Kong come alive to the pulse of rhythmic, graceful movement. Groups of (mainly) pensioners sway in unison to the centuries-old practice of tai chi chuan, breathing in with open palms and stretching postures to absorb vital energy and let it flow through the body.

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This mesmerising motion is replicated across Hong Kong and China, where hundreds of elderly people exercise together, taking advantage of colourful local park equipment like ellipticals and pull-up bars to engage in what is being hailed as the ‘new yoga’. The term seems ironic here, since tai chi, though younger than yoga’s many thousands of years of history, has a distinctly senior demographic and a long prominence in East Asia.

The benefits of tai chi are also well established. Recent medical studies validate its contribution in boosting balance, flexibility and mobility, reducing stress and easing symptoms of arthritis, among others. Many call it a martial art; some term it as a sport; and others see it as meditation or mindful movement set around a series of slow and effective moves.

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Energy for Life
Linda Fung, a Hong Kong-based former ballet dancer who studied at the famed Royal Ballet School in London and The Juilliard School in New York, has dedicated her life to relentlessly practising and teaching tai chi. “There are so many ways to define tai chi, yet not a single precise way to describe it,” she says. The world will pull you in different directions but tai chi, according to Fung, “instils calmness and allows you to get back to the centre. Breathing in with open palms is symbolic of drawing energy from heaven and absorbing it from Earth.”

Fung’s own holistic journey with tai chi started as a means to self-heal after enduring multiple injuries in her years as a ballerina. She saw its health benefits in healing her body and mind. “When I started doing it, I thought ‘this is phenomenal.’” From her perspective, martial arts do not always have to signify aggression – the idea is to connect the heart, mind and body with the universal source of energy, or chi.


Also Read: Cupping Therapy: The different types, which to go for and where?


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Tai chi involves drills with weapons (sword and spear) as well as bare hands, along with breathing and awareness exercises. It falls under the Wudang classification of Chinese martial arts that focus on one’s internal power – focusing the mind to control the body – rather than the hard or external styles popularised by the Shaolin monks of wuxia fame.

“The world will pull you in different directions but tai chi, according to Fung, “instils calmness and allows you to get back to the centre. Breathing in with open palms is symbolic of drawing energy from heaven and absorbing it from Earth.”

Yin and Yang
Tai chi chuan is believed to have originated more than 400 years ago during the Ming Dynasty as a discipline for Taoist monks to find inner peace. However, its conception has also been attributed to the famed ascetic Zhang Sanfeng, who was born in about 1270 and is said to have lived for more than 200 years. Legend has it that Zhang once witnessed an intense fight between a snake and a sparrow and was so impressed by each creature’s motions that he harmonised them to invent his own wing of martial arts.

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Incorporating techniques from various fighting styles with the yin-yang dichotomy – the idea that everything in our lives is made up of opposing forces that synchronise to create a perfect whole – and drawing on the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, he devised mian chuan (cotton fist) that would evolve into modern-day tai chi. According to folklore, the monk, all of seven feet tall with the bones of a crane and the posture of a pine tree, remained undefeated throughout his exceptionally long life – with credit for the latter going to his mythical stature and/or his prowess in tai chi.

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Moving beyond the Taoist fables and hermits who fled the cities to remote, rugged mountains to find peace, tai chi has travelled a long way. Practised in more than 150 countries and regions – from supermodel Gisele Bündchen and her NFL-star husband Tom Brady to Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Jet Li and the neighbourhood tai tais – the popularity and philosophy of tai chi resonates with some 100 million followers worldwide. UNESCO has officially recognised its international popularity after more than 10 years of applications and red tape, including it in its cultural heritage list.

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Urban Longevity
The morning ritual of tai chi, yum cha and lots of laughter over mahjong could well be the reason why Hongkongers are the longest-living people on Earth. Beating other ‘blue zones’ (regions of great longevity) like Japan and Italy, local men in the city live up to an average of 81.3 years and women surpass them at 87.8 years.

To a passer-by, tai chi appears effortless. Gliding from one movement to the other emanates a zen-like calmness, but behind the gentle fluidity is a soft yet explosive, delicate yet robust presence that has proven scientific benefits in improving mental and cardiovascular health and relieving chronic pain, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis and fatigue. Advocates also cite that it reduces falls among the elderly and can even help to ease symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

“Gliding from one movement to the other emanates a zen-like calmness, but behind the gentle fluidity is a soft yet explosive, delicate yet robust presence that has proven scientific benefits in improving mental and cardiovascular health and relieving chronic pain, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis and fatigue.”

Perhaps tai chi’s crowning achievement is, in Fung’s words, the ability to “change a person’s character, their disposition and bring out the kindness, gentleness in their persona”. Her advice is to practise it daily even if just for 10 minutes, since if performed intermittently the concentration required to reap tai chi’s many benefits fails to become second nature.

To someone observing from the side lines, the gentle circular movements might look vague and undefinable. As the balancing motion is akin to floating, it reveals little of the combative aspect of the art, but mastering the practice requires an intimate knowledge of martial skills, healing and the human body – its strengths and its weaknesses. Tai chi could well attract a new, younger audience and join the growing list of therapies like yoga and sound baths that allow you to be present in the moment, slow down and counter the stress of urban living.


Also Read: Health and wellness trends that will define 2022


(Text: Nikita Mishra)

Places to visit to see vibrant street art in Hong Kong

Hong Kong — home to inspiring architecture, major international art fairs, Asia’s first Digital Art Fair and more… this city has time and again reinforced itself as the region’s international art hub. And the burgeoning sub-culture of street art over the years, is no exception — firmly marking its place in the city and garnering the support and appreciation of business owners, fellow art enthusiasts, and neophiliac Instagrammers alike.

From chromatic graffiti art tucked into alleyways and across shop entrances to murals that stretch as high as the buildings they are painted on, take a pause from the bustle of the city and stroll the streets of SoHo, Kowloon and Sai Kung to appreciate the dynamic sub-culture of street art. We spotlight the best spots to take your camera and for a shot of some of the city’s most beautifil graffiti and mural paintings.

Sai Kung

Explore Hong Kong's many street art sai kung gafencu
(Whale #4 by Bo Law; Photo courtesy of HKWalls)

After the cancellation of the 2020 HK Walls street art festival, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the collaborative project by the non-profit organisation returned last spring with its 2021 edition, choosing the famous fishing seaside town of Sai Kung as its wide-scale canvas.

The festival, which aims to create opportunities for local and international artists to showcase their talents in Hong Kong through street art, graffiti and muralism, invited 22 local male and female artists to decorate the town with murals, giving this hip town and even fresher look.

A cluster of art works can be found around the Sai Kung Market and Sai Kung Garden blocks.

Wong Chuk Hang

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(Mural SeeNaeMe and Messy Desk, aka Jane Lee; Photo courtesy of Ovolo Hotel)

Over on the far south, the hip and trending town of Wong Chuk Hang makes for a fun weekend trip with friends and family. With a slew of new dining hotspots and a vibrant new coat of murals and street are to appreciate, the area serves up long stretches of art works located along Heung Yip Road, where One Island South is situated, and Wong Chuk Hang Road, the stretch of road on which Ovolo Southside sits. Make sure to also make a stop next to the Wong Chuk Hang Playground and Yip Fat Street. These Instagrammable spots are sure to be a hit with the kids and liven up your social media feed.

Wan Chai

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(Outside of Morrison Hill Swimming Pool by Kwan Clan; Photo courtesy of HKWalls)

While you’re down south, stop over at Wan Chai for some wide-scale and psychedelic murals. Starting from Morrison Hill Swimming Pool on Oi Kwan Road, you’ll find a long stretch of oriental-style graffiti work by group Kwan Clan, a collaborative effort among five Chinese artists.

Then, continue down the road and you will find several more creative pieces marking various buildings along the way, including the famous animal mural outside of the SPCA Building. And if you’re willing to stretch your legs farther, check out the realist art piece titled The Huskey by Yopey on Kennedy Street as well.


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(Old Townhouses by Alex Croft; Photo courtesy of discoverhongkong.com)

Making your way in and out of the streets of the city’s shopping and dining hotspot SoHo is almost an adventure, especially when you’re on the hunt for the most iconic  murals plastered across shop entrances and tucked between shops and alleways. This area colourfully reflects Hong Kong as the cultural melting pot that it is.

Boasting some of the most Instagramed parts of Hong Kong and featuring some of the most recognisable murals around town, the street art here is hard to miss, but if you’ve never taken a second to stop and appreciate it, some of the trendiest ones to look out for are the vibrant Old Townhouses by Alex Croft outside of the GOD store on Graham street; Uma Nota’s iconic Flamingo lady by Elsa Jean de Dieu on Peel Street; the imposing Hollywood-inspired piece above Madera Hollywood Hotel; the beautiful twin coy by Christian Storm on Shing Wong Street; and the urban impressionism-style of Hong Kong by Dan Kitchener (aka DANK) and Charles Williams on Elgin Street.

Sheung Wan

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(Bruce Lee mural by Yoo Seung-Baik, aka XEVA; Photo courtesy of Longzijun via Flickr)

If you have the bandwidth to continue to Sheung Wan, proceed along Hollywood Road until you reach the stairway that leads up to square street to reach Tank Lane. Here, the journey takes you through a series of murals by local and international artists. This is also where iconic mosiac-style portrait of hometown hero Bruce Lee by XEVA (Yoo Seung-Baik) hangs overhead. And at the end of the trip, turn into Bridges Street to arrive at Tai Ping Shan where Instagram-famous teashop  Teakha serves refreshingly delicious chai and treats.

Sai Ying Pun

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(One Art Lane; Photo courtesy of yogawinetravel.com)

Farther down the western side of Hong Kong island, a quaint alleyway in Sai Ying Pun named One Art Lane transports you to a multi-verse of colours and quirky characters. Its alleyways and stairways are completely covered with a collection of 26 murals by 17 international and local artists. This spot is easily accessible by train as it is conveniently situated right outside Exit B3 of Sai Ying Pun MTR station.

The Mills

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(The Past and Future of The Mills by Uncle; Photo courtesy of The Mills)

Although Tsuen Wan doesn’t score high on the list of must-see places to appreciate street art, the latest revitalised heritage building, The Mills, formerly a textiles factory, does feature over a handful of murals along the wide entrance of its building if ever you are on this side of town or visiting the landmark.  

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(Rainbow Thief by Okuda San Miguel; Photo courtesy of HKWalls)

Although Kowloon side doesn’t spring to mind when on the hunt for art, its old buildings and old-style Hong Kong aesthetic provides a stark contrast to the city’s earlier commissions of murals. Decades old buildings, shop shutters and high rises along Sham Shui Po, Prince Edward, Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei were given new life thanks to HK Wall’s 2016 project.

If you find yourself around the Yau Tsim Mong district, check out the iconic large scale multi-coloured geometric dog by Okuda San Miguel, named Rainbow Thief, that is plastered along the length of the Man Fung Residential Building in Sham Shui Po or the street art that decorate the infamous Yau Ma Tei fruit market and bustling stalls along Waterloo Road. In Mong Kok, the Public Square Street is a relatively new addition. You’ll surprised to see that these vibrant gems stand out and highlight the areas with an vibrant interpretation of Hong Kong’s multicultural city.  

All Fired Up: The art of modern ceramics

What is it about ceramics that attracts and intrigues? For the many who seek out fine china or artisanal pieces for their home, they encapsulate a sense of mystery while offering a comforting quality that relaxes the mind. Their very nature is a paradox, fragile yet durable at the same time.

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(Photo courtesy of Touch Ceramics)

Ceramic works have seen a boom in interest among the younger generation – a growing trend, whether they are looking to create or collect. Although the craft is rooted deep in Chinese history – in their humble beginnings they were everyday receptacles such as cookware, tableware, flasks and vases – the focus now lies in contemporary artistic designs. But what exactly makes ceramics worth buying and collecting?

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(Enders Wong of Touch Ceramics; Photo courtesy of Touch Ceramics)

For starters, every handmade piece is a one-of-a-kind creation. “Ceramic artists are extraordinarily hardworking,” says Enders Wong, the ceramic and kintsugi artist behind local gallery Touch Ceramics. “The medium can be hard to control and predict until you’ve actually finished firing the pieces and opened the kiln. In that way, with every piece that is created – every thought, experiment, discovery and care that is put into the work – the artist is actually giving more than they take,” he opines.

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(Photo courtesy of Touch Ceramics)

Wong works with high-temperature ceramics and glass predominately. His sculptural pieces and kintsugi works typically take three months to perfect, from planning to finish, with the majority of time dedicated to conceptualising rather than the actual production. Wong’s process is very different to those working in conventional ceramics, though. “I reverse the sequence of traditional ceramic works to create new artworks,” he explains. “For example, I will do a glaze firing first, then pour slip on for another round of firing. This creates a peeling effect that is unlike the usual smooth surface of traditional wares. Using traditional techniques [melded with] my own approach allows me to chaSpotllenge myself and find my own unique style.”

“With every ceramic piece that is created – every thought, experiment, discovery and care that is put into the work – the artist is actually giving more than they take”

Also Read: The Arts of Survival: Hong Kong’s disappearing crafts

Made by Hand
There is a misconception that there is very little artistry in creating modern ceramics; given today’s advanced technology, people might assume that the pieces are mass-produced. This notion is refuted by Julie Progin and Jesse McLin, founders of Hong Kong-based design studio Latitude 22N, who stress that handcrafting is still the most constructive way to make ceramics, not to mention the most liberating for the creative mind. “Technology is something we try to disengage with whenever possible,” says Progin, “We like to work with our hands. With clay we can create forms almost as we conceive them. It’s very spontaneous and it allows us to quickly get a feel of what we want to make.”

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(Julie Progin and Jesse McLin of Latitude 22N; Photo courtesy of Latitude 22N)

“We also benefit from skills that complement one another,” adds her artistic partner and husband McLin. “Julie may spend more time on the computer sketching and composing patterns, whilst I prefer to experiment directly with the clay to see what works and what doesn’t.”

The duo shies away from trends in ceramic design, preferring to draw from their different backgrounds and experiences to find a fresh perspective on preserving tradition and conceptualising meaningful, innovative ideas. “We love to investigate materials, push their boundaries and invent new processes which eventually lead to new works,” says Progin.

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(Photo courtesy of Latitude 22N)

This is clearly evident upon stepping into their studio. In a “library of experiments”, samples reveal the pair’s extensive investigations and document mistakes, tests and past works. It shows everything they’ve done – what works, what doesn’t, and what is yet to be discovered.

Clearly, mastering ceramics isn’t as simple as throwing clay on a turntable and shaping it to perfection. The research and development phase alone might take Progin and McLin two weeks or four, while their production time ranges upwards from a month to eight months and more. Small batches of their porcelain tableware, lighting and accessory collections, as well as uniquely shaped creations that require careful treatment, are all handmade in their studio. For large projects and collaborations that require specific skills such as hand-painting, carving or gliding, they will partner with various workshops. Having a team in a second studio in Jingdezhen, China’s porcelain capital, allows them to scale up production when required.

Connecting with Clay
The value of a ceramic work is not about its price, but the connection one has with it. For some, the pieces sit behind the glass of a display cabinet to be admired; for others collecting ceramics is a deeply personal and intimate way of interacting with everyday objects and appreciating art. Since each represents a piece of the artist, a bond between creator and owner is forged. At least this is what young local ceramic artist Allen Chiu, founder of Water Ceramics, believes.

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(Photo courtesy of Water Ceramics)

Just four years ago Chiu was fresh out of college with an art degree from the US, but not a single job offer lined up. Then, finally, she landed some work at a small ceramics studio and discovered her calling. As a one-woman team in her studio in Hong Kong, she not only handles production, sales, marketing and customer service, but also teaches pottery classes. But it is her background in fine arts, Western oil painting and collage that defines her distinctive aesthetic. Chiu’s works offer a soothing sense of Japanese-style minimalism with a vivid splash of colour that elicits joy.

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(Photo courtesy of Water Ceramics)

Unlike paintings and sculptures, ceramics are multifaceted in form, marrying traditional artisanal craft with aesthetic beauty, and communicating different cultural and historical narratives. Whilst being unique pieces that resonate with their collector, they are also more accessible to the ordinary person. As the famous English ceramic designer, Susie Copper, once said: “Pottery… is a practical and lasting form of art. Not everyone can afford original paintings, but most people can afford pottery.”


Also Read: Pottery, flower arrangement and more. New skills to pick up to expand your horizons

Culture Conversations: History of Hong Kong’s bauhinia flag

July 1997 was the end of an era – 150 years of colonial rule had just ended, the British Hong Kong “dragon and lion” flag was lowered to make way for not one, but two flags under the “one country, two systems” principle to be hoisted over the SAR. Every morning since then, China’s five-starred red flag and Hong Kong’s five-petalled, white bauhinia flower against the red backdrop, fly over the autonomous state.

The British colony-turned-Special Administrative Region of China has never flown an independent flag, but flags have played an integral role in its politics and history. Seven years ahead of the handover, the white bauhinia flower emblem was selected from thousands of submissions to be the centrepiece of the new Hong Kong flag.

The making of Hong Kong's national flag gafencu feature local culture

The bauhinia – a genus of five-petalled flowering plants – already enjoyed an elevated status in the city, with our very own hybrid cultivar being the official flower since 1965. Named in the early 20th century after Sir Henry Blake, the 1898-1903 botany-loving Governor, it was deemed an apt representation of the place itself – a conglomeration of backgrounds and contrasts.

The hybrid nature of the plant is seen as symbolic of Hong Kong’s history and how the colony had drawn its strength first from Britain and then China”

Bauhinia blakeana, or Hong Kong orchid tree, is distinguished by intense, pinkish-purple flowers that bloom from November to March. The fragrant, semi-evergreen flowering plant is an ideal streetscaping solution, but in a region which boasts a diverse flora including some 390 native tree species, the elevation to national emblem of a sterile cultivar of non-indigenous parents that propagates only by hand-grafting was met with some puzzlement. In Portraits of Trees of Hong Kong and Southern China, co-author Richard Saunders described this barren badge as an “arguably inauspicious” choice for a “city built on mixed Chinese and British heritage”.

Flag History

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The national flags of Hong Kong and China by the Golden Bauhinia Sculpture

The new flag was on the drawing board as early as 1984, when the government called for design concepts that best reflected “the spirit of ‘one country, two systems’”. From among more than 7,000 submissions – many littered with dragons and stars – six sketches were shortlisted by a panel of judges, but they fell short of expectations. Thus, three of the jurists – architect Tao Ho, designer Hon Bing-wah and sculptor Van Lau – were asked to remedy the situation and submit a proposal.

“The stylised flower is asymmetrical, and therefore its form implies movement, alluding to Hong Kong’s democratic energy and economic vitality”

They put their heads together to envision an abstract design of white bauhinia petals in a clockwise motion on a red background, and it received the resounding approval of China’s National People’s Congress in 1990. Unlike the static symbol of the Urban Council, the post-handover emblem was admired for its lyrical, poetic interpretation of Hong Kong’s native flower.

“We had to avoid certain shapes like the crescent, which could be religiously sensitive,” explained Hon, fittingly a Bronze Bauhinia Star-winning artist. “A triangle enclosing a circle that suggests Lion Rock wasn’t lively enough. A sailboat couldn’t represent the whole of Hong Kong’s diverse communities. A dolphin wasn’t appropriate enough, while a dragon had varied resonances across cultures.”

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Hand drawn designs of the Hong Kong Flag. Photo courtesy: Hon-Bing-Wah

Settling on the flower as a “neutral” choice, Hon has related that they were “inspired by the auspicious spiral patterns found in Chinese paper-cutting aesthetics” that thus “arranged the bauhinia flower’s five petals like a windmill, incorporating movements to symbolise that Hong Kong is an energetic city that never stops progressing forward.”

Shanghai-born, Harvard-educated Ho, whose legacy also includes the Arts Centre and the panda enclosure at Ocean Park, concurred. He wrote on his website: “The stylised flower is asymmetrical, and therefore its form implies movement, alluding to Hong Kong’s democratic energy and economic vitality. The red background represents China, and the five stars… hint at the integration of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy.” The respected architect passed away two years ago this month at the age of 82.

Also Read: Reclaiming Hong Kong: A history of the changing coastline

Flower Power

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The national flag of Hong Kong and China side-by-side at the LegCo building

Despite the name and appearance, the Hong Kong bauhinia isn’t an orchid, but rather a tree from the legume family, which includes the likes of peas and beans. The undoubtedly pretty petals were accidently discovered in 1880 by French Catholic missionary Jean-Marie Delavay while hiking in Pok Fu Lam. Fascinated by the brilliant magenta of its flowers, Delavay took a cutting and propagated it near Béthanie, then a sanatorium belonging to the French Mission. A few years later, the plant was offered to the Botanical Gardens.

Now abundant, it has been planted extensively throughout the territory since 1914. All Bauhinia blakeana are believed to have hailed from the French missionary’s ancestor tree, and since the Hong Kong orchid tree is sterile (bearing no seeds or fruit), each was cultivated by hand by someone who took the stock of an old tree, stuck it onto another root, and let the descendants grow from there.

Foreign Roots

The making of Hong Kong's national flag gafencu feature local culture
Government House on Government Hill in Central, the official residence of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong

It’s not just this barren nature that makes the flower seem an unlikely choice as a symbol of Hong Kong; its parents also have no ties to the city. In 2005, Saunders traced the origins of Bauhinia blakeana by comparing its breeding system with those of other bauhinias. He confirmed that the cultivar is the result of hybridisation between two exotic plants: Bauhinia purpurea (the purple bauhinia or camel’s foot), a native of the Indian subcontinent and Myanmar, and Bauhinia variegata (the orchid tree or mountain ebony), found abundantly in China and East Asia.

Though its rise from flower pot to flag pole may have had some detractors, the fact that our bauhinia flourished in Hong Kong from overseas heritage will endear it to many citizens who share a similar origin story. The stylised white five-petal bauhinia flower amid a red field has fluttered in the morning breeze more often of late – in schools as well as government landmarks – flies over the city in a symbolic representation of the region’s ‘one country, two systems’ governing principle.

One person’s trash is another’s treasure. While Saunders and others may have objected to its selection, the Urban Council, which oversaw public services and facilities under British rule, unanimously praised the decision. Indeed, the body had adopted the bauhinia as its logo 25 years previously. The hybrid nature of the plant is seen as symbolic of Hong Kong’s history and how the city had drawn its strength first from Britain and then China.

Also Read: Pulse of the Peak: Chronicling the ascent of Asia’s oldest furnicular


(Text: Nikita Mishra Photos: Hon-Bing-Wah)

Pulse of the Peak: Chronicling the ascent of Asia’s oldest furnicular

After almost a year of waiting, the sixth generation Peak Tram is set to launch by summer 2022 — trundling up and down the heavily forested slopes of Victoria Peak for 133 years, we look back at colourful history and the old world charm of this meticulously designed modern classic…gafencu the peak tram reopening

Trundling up and down the densely forested slopes of Victoria Peak for 133 years, the tramcar has long been the best way to see the sights from atop, to soak up the panoramic vistas and to absorb the boundless energy of a sleepless city that rises from sea level to Mid-Levels. For generations of families and millions of visitors, doing a weather check and then hopping on Asia’s oldest funicular railway to creak up to the Peak has been a holiday ritual.

the history of the peak tram hong kong gafencu

Humble Beginnings
Altitude is affluence in Hong Kong. By default, the higher you live, the wealthier you are. Mansions on the elite Victoria Peak make for some of the costliest real estate in the world. In the early years before the Peak Tram was constructed, just 30 or 40 well-heeled British families were in residence. From 1904 for nearly half a century, under a racially discriminatory ordinance passed by the colonial government, Chinese nationals were banned from living there unless they were domestic workers. Once that abhorrent European privilege changed in 1947, navigating the heavily forested slopes of the Peak was unequivocally possible because of the Peak Tram.

Pause for a moment and wonder how the people of the Peak functioned before the tram. With no speeding cars, mass transit system or fossil-fuelled vehicles, hauling up and down that staggering height for an arduous hour or more in sedan chairs, on horses, mules or on foot would undoubtedly have required beastly strength and, in the summer, buckets of sweat.

hong kong history of the peak tram victoria peak gafencu

More of a tourist attraction than a commuter train in today’s world, the Peak Tram climbs the 1.4km from Central in eight to 10 minutes, ascending a dizzying height of almost 400m, and navigating a 27-degree gradient on the most thrilling stretch of its single-track route. It is not only the most efficient route to the top but also the most picturesque. The journey in a boxy, burgundy carriage to the city’s best vantage points is a visual and visceral feast, revealing spellbinding views.

hong kong the peak tram history reopening sixth generation hong kong

Most of the credit for the gravity-defying funicular goes to an enterprising Scot, Alexander Findlay Smith. A young entrepreneur with a background in railways, Smith arrived in Hong Kong in the 1860s and built the prestigious Peak Hotel atop the Victoria Peak in 1873. Fascinated by the potential of combining rails and wheels, he suggested the ambitious plan for a tramcar to increase trade for his hotel.
Approval for the construction of tracks across the mountainous terrain was granted in 1882, allowing the colossal work of laying track to begin. Machine parts often weighing up to 136kg each were carried uphill by brute manpower. Six years of blood, sweat and tears later, the first generation of the Peak Tram was ready for its inaugural ascent.

the peak tram gafencu

Crafted from varnished timber, the car had a seating capacity of 30 passengers; for many years the first two seats were reserved for the Governor of Hong Kong, whose summer house, Mountain Lodge, was then on the Peak. Some 800 passengers rode the tram on the first day, and 150,000 in the first year – to put this number into perspective, in 1888 that was the entire population of Hong Kong.

hong kong the peak tram gafencu

A Slice of History
A revolutionary feat of engineering for a genius mode of transport, the first Peak tramcars were powered by coal-fired steam. The original price for a first-class ride was 30 cents, with 20 cents for second-class seats and 10 cents for third class, and tickets for the return journey slashed by half. At the last count this year, a single ticket was HK$37, thousands of times higher than the early fare, but only the cost of a Starbucks latte for a vintage Hong Kong experience.

The nostalgic, colonial vibe of the tramway, with its characteristic wooden benches, hasn’t really changed in 133 years, nor indeed the necessity of queuing for hours at peak times to board a crammed carriage. But in tandem with the extraordinary vertical growth of the majestic city skyline, the technology and structure of the funicular itself has undergone a series of makeovers since it first set wheels on the hilly terrain. The power system switched to electric in 1926; the tramcars began their shift from wood to metal in 1948; and the colour of the carriages went from deep red to green and then back to burgundy. Since the fifth-generation Peak Tram (car capacity: 120) was rolled out in 1989, it has carried some 140 million people up and down for day trips, evening dinners and scenic strolls around the summit.

the peak tram debut hong kong gafencu

A Tramcar Called Nostalgia
A further, highly anticipated modernisation has been underway. The massive HK$700 million facelift during the last eight months will reveal a passenger-capacity uptick to 210 and a weekend waiting-time cut from 90 minutes to a mere 17 minutes. The upper and lower terminuses will be extensively renovated to accommodate the bigger cars, and the control and signalling systems completely overhauled.

hong kong the peak tram 6th generation 2022

An emblem of Hong Kong, the Peak Tram has withstood the ruins of the Second World War, survived epic hillside floods and braved the current pandemic. Before 2019, it recorded an annual ridership of six million – roughly 17,000 passengers a day – and even during the peak of Covid-19, patronage stood steady at one million. It’s one of the oldest forms of public transport and a slice of local history.
Owned by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels since 1971, the tramway is a landmark in the same ilk as the group’s grand-dame property, The Peninsula Hong Kong. It takes a place of pride in Hongkongers’ hearts. Hundreds of people queued for hours to ride in those iconic burgundy carriages one last time before the service closed at the end of June.

In a futuristic megapolis, the humble carriages of the Peak Tram are a reminder of the contrasts that define Hong Kong – of old and new, gritty and glossy – and they serve as a social bridge between the rich and the poor. Yes, you can whoosh to the top of the Peak in your Ferrari, but is it as enriching as chugging up in an ancient time capsule, wind caressing the hair as you reminiscence about the first tram journey you took as a child? The 10-minute ride to the top brings awe and perspective, changing more than just how you travel.

(Text: Nikita Mishra)

International Women’s Day: 8 influential Hong Kong women breaking the bias

Managing teams at work, orchestrating change, leading the way, breaking the glass ceiling in a very male-dominated world, making key decisions, inspiring young women along the way – empowered women, empower women – truly, no better time to reflect on those words than today, on International Women’s Day. With the theme #breakthebias, Gafencu shines the spotlight on eight influential, powerful women who are truly working to make their fields more open, inclusive and accessible to all…

Yolanda Choy

Co-founder of EcoDrive

Celebrating 8 of Hong Kong's game-changing females for International Women's Day yolanda choy ecodrive sustainable education

On a crusade to fight the burgeoning rise of single-use plastics, Yolanda Choy has made it her mission to to educate the public on the environmental damage of single-use plastics and hopes to create a greener, more  sustainable future. With roots in fashion and Marketing and PR, she connects with corporates to provide solutions for sustainability and encourages lifestyle change on both the individual and community level through campaigns that promote sustainability initiatives. She also co-founded Central Weddings, a luxury bridal salon.

“Education plays a big part, because, by and large, many people might be throwing away things that contaminate the entire collection bin unrecyclable and sent to a landfill instead…We educate people different ideas on how they can make a difference to create a better, more sustainable world for future generations.”

Yenn Wong

Founder and CEO of JIA Group

Hong Kong game-changing females International Women's Day gafencu people F&B dining restauranteur yenn wong JIA Group

For the thousands of foodies and discerning diners in Hong Kong, there is high chance you have dined in one of Yenn Wong’s  many establishments that embrace an array of culinary concepts. As the owner of multinational F&B company, JIA Group, the continuously growing vibrant and diverse gourmet flavours have Yenn Wong to thank for. Especially, during strict social distancing rules, JIA Group has spearheaded bringing fine-dining and Michelin-star menus to the comfort of patrons’ homes through its digital platform JIA Everywhere. 

“We pride ourselves on providing a range of gourmet experience, ranging from casual to fine dining, all of which place equal emphasis on the quality of the cuisine and the dining environment. Our outlets not only aim to satiate a customer’s appetite, but also deliver a visual feast. It’s a formula that resonates with our guests and one I take a great deal of pride in.”

Mei Mei Song

Brand and Product Transformation Director of Plaza Premium Group

It’s no secret that aviation has been the hardest hit global industry in the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, but Mei Mei Song exemplifies what rising from adversity looks like. She took the tumultuous Covid period to revamp, regroup and reinvent the brand, making travel better with initiatives such as opening their first pay-per-use lounge in Africa, introducing pet-friendly services, valet, baggage-wrapping, buggy and a plethora of other convenient amenities at key international airports, and tapping into new markets such as train lounges in China and launching their first zero carbon footprint lounge in Helsinki. Song is creating a new benchmark of sustainable, convenient, premium hospitality in the travel sector – her team aims to increase their current 230-plus global lounges to be at 550 by the year 2025.

“Founding a successful business is not enough. How you conduct that business and the strength of your vision and values are key.”

Betty Ng

Architect and Founder of Collective Studio

Hong Kong game-changing females International Women's Day gafencu people betty ng collective architecture

With a degree from Cornell University and a masters from Harvard University and stints in prestigious global design firms like Herzog & de Meuron and OMA, Betty Ng is Hong Kong’s leading architect and has already amassed an impressive body of work and founded her own Hong Kong-based firm, COLLECTIVE Studio, all before her late 30s.  A diverse amount of local and international work  can be credited to her name including the “Things, Spaces, Interactions” exhibition space in the new M+ museum, all four Kapok lifestyle stores, and is currently working New World Development on their twin tower and commercial podium project in Cheung Sha Wan. Having only started COLLECTIVE Studio six years ago, they have already been awarded a MIPIM Asia ‘Best Futura Project’ Award in 2021, for the King Lam Street commercial development. Betty strongly believes in giving back and inspiring the next generation of architects through her work, she teaches at the prestigious Chinese University of Hong Kong, and hopes that more young women will follow in the future. 

“Personally, I don’t think too much about whether I am female or male – I am an architect. I focus on the designs I create. In return, fortunately, I am surrounded by people who see me for what I bring to the table rather than my gender. I hope to inspire the younger generation and remind them that in 2022, disrupting the state of play is certainly possible.”

Also Read: 2021 Power List 300: Hong Kong’s most powerful and influential minds of our time

Helen Ma

Socialite, Entrepreneur, Mom

Celebrating 8 of Hong Kong's game-changing females for International Women's Day Helen Ma OnePlusOne Fashion

For a girl discouraged by her father to work, Helen Ma blazed a trail in fashion, beauty and catering. After a slew of successful businesses which range from launching a magazine, Helen Ma Loves Muse, running a successful F&B venture and introducing the French-influenced Japanese luxury skincare brand Evidens de Beauté to Hong Kong – the style guru and beauty goddess has done it all. But no venture comes close to the gratification of being a mum to 9-year-old, Shymie. Currently running her lifestyle e-commerce platform, One Plus One, Ma is eyeing yet another successful, quality lifestyle venture with the idea of creating healthy food, sustainable trends, home styling and engaging experiences. Her advice to the modern-day career woman juggling family and home:

Balancing a thriving career and a blissful family will take too much of your strength and resilience. Try to live guilt-free [and] happy.”

Ariel Yang

Executive Director of DS Regenerative Medicine

Hong Kong game-changing females International Women's Day gafencu people Arial Yang DS Regenerative Medicine beauty

Having started her career teaching from Zhejiang University’s Faculty of Science, followed by a stint in its School of Management, before pursuing other passions such as designing Chinese jewellery, and following her lifelong passion for beauty and skincare by leading the DS Regenerative Medicine business in the field of regenerative beauty and medicine. Recently, she has gone back to her teaching roots and started a new youth education venture to raise awareness of artificial intelligence for young minds. Her company, DS Regenerative Medicine was listed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2017.

“Our company currently helps more than 200 primary and secondary schools across Hong Kong, training them to develop requisite skills within this sphere. We also host activities to increase awareness and encourage development, be it annual competitions or even international conferences. I believe it’s something that fills an unmet need, and that’s very meaningful to me.”

Veronica Lam

Executive Director of Big Honor Entertainment

Hong Kong game-changing females International Women's Day gafencu people Veronica Lam Big Bonour Entertainment Harbit Music VS Visual photography music

Daughter of Lam Kin-ming and successor of Big Honor Entertainment, Veronica Lam is an innovative promoter of musical talent, even co-founding  Hardbit Music with her brother, to put a new light on alternative music and DJ events in the city. Despite the hard hit that the entertainment industry took throughout the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, her response has been confident and resilient. She launched B.Live app to bring the experience of live music and theatrical shows to audiences in the safety of their won home; allowing people to enjoy music while interacting in chat rooms. All the while pursuing her own passion in photography work through VL Visuals. 

“At a time when in-person musical events are all but non-existent, we have to keep creating new spaces for musical acts within the entertainment industry. B.Live is a streaming app that offers viewers multiple angles during broadcasted events, so they can decide how they take in their favourite acts.”

Christal Leung

Celebrating 8 of Hong Kong's game-changing females for International Women's Day Christal Leung Skin Need Beauty Skincare

Skin Formulator, Founder of Skin Need

A major in biochemistry at the University of California, Christal Leung had a natural inclination towards the science of beauty. Growing up, her mum ran a beauty centre where she spent her weekends. Seeing her mum’s approach to skincare – customising products with fresh fruits and vegetables – and watching the way she brought joy and confidence to her customers, sparked a keen interest in beauty. Skin Need, her hugely successful line of skincare with an exceptionally attractive, minimalist packaging was launched with the same childhood passion of simplifying beauty, customising products according to the need of the skin and bringing joy from within. A firm believer in sustainability, clean products and bespoke products, Christal credits her accomplishments to a loving family, a brilliant team and the loyal customers.

“Our philosophy evolved from the experiences and skincare problems that my mother encountered over her career, and how she felt beauty products should actually be addressing those needs.”

Also Read: In Conversation with Ryan Cheung, CEO & Founder, PressLogic: Asia’s new-media wizard

Dickson Yewn: Promoting Chinese heritage for a noble cause

Renowned Chinese jeweler Dickson Yewn and auction house Sotheby’s, have collaborated to showcase a strong exhibit of rare and unique classics with the aim of promoting Chinese heritage and fine arts. Coming together to raise funds for the Needle and Thread Charitable Foundation – a project which promotes the unique handicrafts of women in remote areas of China to a wider audience.

Promoting his works and enlightening the younger generation to their intangible heritage and cultural awareness is integral to Yewn’s artistic purpose. The focus of this exhibit includes a historic first – a Chinese tunic suit with the most intricate and beautiful embroidery from the southeast region of Guizhou.

Gafencu caught up with global artist Dickson Yewn to dig deeper into his artistic journey with this collaboration…

Artist Dickson Yewn

You’ve got global recognition through your work in fine arts and jewellery – what inspired you to support the Needle and Thread charity? 
This charity is really close to my heart – they preserve the work of Chinese ethnic minorities. Most of these indigenous tribes are already fast disappearing and alongside their unique craftsmanship. Today, few young people want to get in the trade or pick up these ethnic skills. It’s a dying art and if I can do anything to honour the heritage, I will stitch together my purpose and function as an artist. Since 2008 I have been collaborating with Sotheby’s and this time I have some rare, iconic works up for auction, the proceeds from sale will go for a noble cause. 

You’re showcasing some rare collectible items for the auction – throw light on these pieces.

‘The Golden Kaiser-i-hind Butterfly’ brooch (left), ‘Dream of the Red Mansion’ wearable bangle (right)

Alongside the traditional-crafted Chinese tunic, four of my works, two of which – namely, the ‘Golden Kaiser-i-hind Butterfly’ brooch and the 23rd episode of the ‘Dream of the Red Mansion’ – are the rare collectible items up for live auction.

On a personal level, I am obsessed with nature – animals, insects species – butterfly watching is a hobby. I created the ‘Golden Kaiser-i-hind Butterfly’ shoulder brooch, with the intention of highlighting the species of the butterfly. There are more than 20,000 known species of butterfly and even though fauna-inspired fluttering designs are common in high jewellery, not one artist cares to educate people about the species of these delicate creatures. Through my collection, I try to change that notion while paying homage to these highly desirable beauties.  

Were there any artistic challenges in designing the collection?

Infusion of wood with precious jewels was a challenge. Embracing unexpected materials always comes with its own obstacles and it’s more with wood because it is taboo in the jewellery industry. Wood jewellery is rare because it needs to be tended to for decades to resist chemical and temperature changes, it’s a labour-intensive process. The inlaid workmanship to incorporate rose-cut diamonds, circular-cut yellow sapphires and tsavorite garnets in 18 karat yellow gold without nails or glue is nothing short of extraordinary.

Bidding for artist and jeweller Dickson Yewn’s pieces for the Needle and Thread Charitable Foundation begins on 18th Feb/Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery.

Reclaiming Hong Kong: A history of the changing coastline

“Reclamation is unavoidable”, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told journalists on a land supply discussion in 2019. “In the long term, many developing cities have to adopt this choice.”

Like many places in Asia, Hong Kong has been defined by reclamation – edging further into the sea has turned 733km of jagged shoreline into a global metropolis housing 7.4 million people. About 6% of the city is built on reclaimed land, and while that sounds modest, it translates to 7,000 hectares of land, or half the size of Lantau island. Today, one in every three Hong Kong citizen lives on reclaimed land.

In land reclamation, everybody wins – the space-starved locals, the housing crunch – well, except the environment, marine life and the fishermen who depend on it. Land reclamation has completely transformed Hong Kong’s iconic coastline, with changes so drastic the older generation can now barely recognise the city from their youth. If that has piqued your interest, let’s time-travel back to the sleepy fishing village Hong Kong once was, but carry a life jacket – chances are that the land you’re standing on now didn’t exist back then…

Built to the Hilt

Almost as soon as the British arrived in 1841, they began to push the shoreline further into the sea until it reached current-day Des Voeux Road. Queen’s Road was the coastal edge leading towards Wan Chai, then known as Praya East. Hennessey Road was the land’s periphery. Gazing across the Victoria Harbour was a completely different experience – the chunk of sea was twice its size.

When the iconic ‘ding ding’ was built 118 years ago, it marked the coast of Hong Kong Island. Up until the 70s, the now bustling towns of Shatin, Tuen Mun, Ma On Shan and Tung Chung were peaceful, quiet hills. Tai Po and Tseung Kwan O were also yet to be carved from sea and swamp.

Also Read: Hong Kong iconic buildings designed by international designers

Made from Scratch

The first real attempt of land reclamation occurred in December 1851 after a massive fire wiped out the Sheung Wan district. Clearing the rubble would’ve costed the British government an enormous budget, instead they shifted debris into the sea, extending the shoreline by 50 feet. An ambitious project for the era, it finished in 1859 and resulted in Queen’s Road Central and Bonham Strand we know today.

Over the next century, a series of rigorous reclamation projects made way for two airports, first at Kai Tak and then the 1998 world-class upgrade at Chek Lap Kok. Nearly 250 million cubic metres of raw materials were rummaged to fill up 1,248 hectares of land in less than three years. During the late ’90s, legislators also signed off on creating 340 hectares of reclaimed land to redesign the Kowloon waterfront, carving out space for big-ticket projects like the West Kowloon Cultural District and the Express Rail Link. Just as this was taking shape, there were proposals to fill in the whole of Kowloon Bay.

Money into the Sea

City of the Sea Hong Kong's Changing Coastline gafencu_central before and after
Victoria Harbour before and after

In Hong Kong, the ground under your feet is never quite as firm as it seems and with so much concrete being poured into the sea, a looming threat was that one day the entire Victoria Harbour might completely disappear. With the gap between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui less than a kilometre wide, and already resembling a river rather than a sea channel, activist Winston Chu and legislator Christine Loh teamed up to push through the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance in 1997. Upheld in the Court of Final Appeal in 2003, the legislation prohibited any further reclamation of Victoria Harbour “unless there is an overriding public need”.

Also Read: Vibrant City: Hong Kong’s growing art scene

“In Hong Kong, the ground under your feet is never quite as firm as it seems… a looming threat was that one day the entire Victoria Harbour might disappear”

City of the Sea Hong Kong's Changing Coastline gafencu_check lap kok zhunghai bridge china
Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge construction

In one of the most remarkable feats of modern engineering, the world’s longest sea crossing, the 55km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, was constructed to provide a critical link between the three key Chinese cities. Built with 400,000 tonnes of steel, it is the biggest international landmark of reclamation – spanning 22.9km over the sea and 6.7km underwater.

Opened to public in 2018, the bridge came at a cost, and not just its price tag of US$26 billion. No less than a million tonnes of concrete were dumped into the sea, which shook the habitat of the endangered pink dolphin. Disturbing images of dolphins washed up on shore emerged as their population fell by 60-percent.

Turning sea into viable land is a high-risk operation. Reports are widely circulating about Dubai’s manmade archipelago, Palm Jumeirah, sinking into the sea. Reclaimed land becomes a huge risk during an earthquake. Persistent shaking can initiate a process called soil liquefaction, where waterlogged sediment that was once solid begins to liquefy. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake is an alarming case in point.

Yet, the need for humans to encroach beyond their natural shores remains. The housing crisis in Hong Kong has deepened; it is estimated that over the next 30 years the city will need an additional 9,000 hectares of land to support its growing population. It’s a precarious balancing act, and no-one knows when and how this land grab will end. A few decades from now, will we be able to recognise the Hong Kong of our youth?

Also Read: Hong Kong’s star architect Betty Ng on shaking up the design world…

(Text: Nikita Mishra)


Oscars 2022: Asian films gunning for glory

The nominations for the 94th Academy Awards which take place on 27 March have landed. While the triumph of “The Power of the Dog” is confirmed with 12 nods, as this year’s race gears up it’s gratifying to see Asian talent emerge on the global scale. Gafencu shines a spotlight on the Asian films and projects which are touted to be sensational at the Oscars…

Drive My Car, Japan

A still from Japanese movie, Drive My Car

The meditative drama, based on celebrated writer Haruki Murakami’s short story,  scored multiple nominations – best film, best director, best adapted screenplay and best international feature film. 43-year-old director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s moving drama, Drive My Cars solid nominations haul was beautifully reminiscent of the historic 2020 Oscars run of Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, the film landed six nominations, ultimately winning four awards.

Starring Japanese leading actor Hidetoshi Nishijima as Yusuke Kafuku, a stage actor and director coping with the fateful death of this wife, he travels to Hiroshima to direct a performance of Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. The movie is a powerful tale of conversations and revelations between the young, female chauffeur and Nishijima. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last summer and has been winning accolades ever since

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, Bhutan

A still from Bhutanese film, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

 A film from Bhutan has made it to Oscar nominations for the first time in 23 years. Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom was sent as Bhutan’s entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards as well, but was later disqualified. This is the second time. The 109-minute-long film which tells the life of a disillusioned school teacher, Ugyen, touches upon the basic human quality of seeking where you belong, seeking happiness, and seeking home. The storyline follows Ugyen in the remote town of Lunana in northern Bhutan during the final year of his training where he adapts to the rough life in a cold, high altitude place with little or no amenities. Ugyen keeps the company of a yak and a song that echoes through the mountains.
The drama has won several international accolades at festivals – Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film and the Best of the Fest at the 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival, Lessinia d’Oro Award for Best Film at the 26th Festival della Lessinia in Italy, the Guiria Microcosmo del carcere di Verona Award and a special mention in the Log to Green Award, Prix du Public in the Festival international du film de Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Sherab Dorji was awarded the Best Actor award for his role of Ugyen Dorji.

Also Read: 10 most anticipated Chinese films in 2022

Writing With Fire, India

A still from Writing With Fire, India’s official entry to the Oscars

The only Indian film to earn a nomination at the 94th Academy Awards, Writing With Fire, the love child of filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, has been nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category alongside Ascension, Attica, Flee and Summer of the Soul (Or When the Revolution Could not be Televised).

The film shines the light on a rural newspaper Khabar Lahariya, run by marginalised Dalit women, and follows it transition from print to digital in recent years. The film tracks Meera and her fellow journalists as they get abreast with new technology whilst questioning the role of patriarchy, the overarching incompetence of the police force, and reporting stories about victims of caste and gender violence. It has already made waves at several international festivals including the Sundance Film Festival.

Also Read: Squid Games is sensational – Five reasons it’s so popular!