History of Hong Kong/Introduction

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History of Hong Kong[edit]

Name Hong Kong[edit]

There have been several theories regarding the origin of Hong Kong's name. Firstly, here is an analysis of the name Hong Kong. The 'Hong' bit (香) means 'fragrant' in Chinese, while 'Kong' (港) means 'harbour'. There you have it – a fragrant harbour. Note that the name 'Hong Kong', in the early colonial days, referred to the island only; the Peninsula and the Territories weren't called Hong Kong. The table below shows the pinyin, jyutping, and meaning of each character.

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There's a legend about a female pirate called Xianggu. She captured Hong Kong Island, so they named the island after her. There are no records of any pirate called Xianggu, though there is one called Liu Xiang, whom we will meet in another chapter. However, Liu exists only on paper; no physical evidence of her activity in Hong Kong has ever been found. Besides, the Hongkongers despised pirates and it was unlikely that they would name an island after one.

According to another theory, Hong Kong was named after a censer in front of the Tin Hau Temple in Causeway Bay. The censer travelled drifted to the island and was stranded on the beach in front of the temple. It was taken to the front of the temple, so they called the bay in font of it Hongxianglu Harbour and the hill behind it Hongxianglu Hill. The name 'Hongxianglu Harbour' was spread to the whole island, so the island was called Hong Kong. However, the Xinan Gazetteer shows that a Hong Kong Village and Hongxianglu Harbour appeared simultaneously but at different positions, so this theory is incorrect.

Another theory is that Hong Kong was named after Xiang Jiang (a name by which Hong Kong is often known to locals), which used to be located in Pok Fu Lam. This legendary waterfall was popular among boatmen because the water was fresh and drinkable. However, the name Xiang Jiang was not coined until the last century, and the waterfall was likely located in Tap Mun and not the island, so this theory is false as well.

The most popular theory is that Hong Kong used to produce incense. (Incense production in Hong Kong is discussed in a later chapter.) The bay from which incense was transported became known as Hong Kong, so a nearby village took the name of Hong Kong Village. The name Hong Kong first appeared in the Yue Da Ji, which was printed in the Ming Dynasty. When the British arrived at Stanley, Chen Qun, a local Hakka (we'll learn about Hakkas later) told them in Hong Kong Village that the place was called Hong Kong (which is Tanka dialect for Xianggang). The British assumed that Hong Kong referred to the whole island, and the name stuck.

Culture of Hong Kong[edit]

History of the historical study of Hong Kong[edit]

Modern historical study of pre-colonial Hong Kong was initiated be Lo Hsiang-lin. Later, Siu Kwok Kin, a modern historian, followed Lo's lead. A significant portion of the information in this book is connected to Siu in one way or another.

Notes[edit]