Hong Kong And Its Associated Names

So, now you know about Shanghai—the Bund, and the Pudong, and all of that from the earlier posting.  You are ready for the still-more-complicated Hong Kong.

Stop fidgeting!

Hong Kong Island skyline as seen from Kowloon.

Hong Kong is a mountainous island  in Victoria Harbor in the South China Sea (We in Delaware call any mound over 20 feet high a mountain. Hong Kong Island has real mountains), but Hong Kong is also the name of a larger territory that includes the city of Kowloon on the mainland. Sometimes the difference is important and you need to know which one is meant.

Almost all of the published views of the Hong Kong Island skyline are taken from Kowloon. Tourists, mostly Chinese tourists, gather each evening on a Kowloon promenade to marvel at the brightly lit Hong Kong Island skyline.  The spectacular lights, that include lasers and digital graphics, suddenly go dark at midnight after a grand finale that signals, ” Show’s over.” The Star Ferry runs frequently between Hong Kong (the island) and the city of Kowloon.

The photo above should be a video to do justice to the moving light show.

The proper name for the large territory is the “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China” (I doubt they put that on their license plates.) I have been using “Island” here to specify the city, but I have never heard that used in public.  People just say, “Hong Kong” and leave it to you to figure out which is meant.

A public men’s room on Hong Kong Island.

“Island” is used on their website, which has a great night photo taken from the heights, looking down and back to Kowloon, the opposite view from the photo above.  We also think of “skyline” as buildings rising into the sky, but the Hong Kong skyline shown in the photo above is nestled at the foot of mountains unseen in the dark.

Most tourists stay in the much cheaper Kowloon thinking they are in the city of Hong Kong where they also have the best views of Hong Kong Island.  This often causes confusion: “That’s Hong Kong over there? I thought I was in Hong Kong!”

Adding to the confusion, “Kowloon” can refer to the city (properly, “New Kowloon”) or the whole Kowloon Peninsula, and both are part of the larger Hong Kong territory that was returned by the British to China in 1997. All of these names are written in Chinese characters that are pronounced very differently in different dialects, so alternate spellings  are common when translated into English.

Got it?  Hong Kong is a large territory that includes the mountainous Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula.  The Kowloon Peninsula contains the city of Kowloon, and more.

If this still confuses you, stay in Philly where you know you are not in Camden.  But don’t expect the elegant men’s room shown above at a SEPTA station.



About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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