- Meeting Place: Encounters across Cultures in Hong Kong, 1841–1984 ed. by Elizabeth Sinn, Christopher Munn
An Asian financial center, a global city, a melting pot, a city where “East meets West”—to name a few. Hong Kong has been granted fascinating titles, distinguishing the place from any other part of Greater China and attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world every year. Today, if you were to wander along its streets, you would encounter working people of various colors speaking different languages. The lifestyle in Hong Kong also illustrates the city’s multi-cultural traits: while living an American-style urban life, local Chinese still keep series of religious and folk-culture practices alive; places for dining, grocery shopping and even religious worship cover a world-wide range. If people step into the Hong Kong Cemetery (located at Happy Valley) and take a meticulous look at the names carved in the stones and the styles of tomb-heads, a captivating script of Hong Kong’s early history will be unfolded in which not only people from a generally defined “Western world”, but also those from the rest of the world have set foot on and now rest forever in this legendary territory. To echo the opening statement, Hong Kong in fact embraces a larger world.
This edited book—Meeting Place—sheds light on how Hong Kong has been crafted into a multi-cultural meeting place in terms of the aforementioned aspects: from its social setting, people’s living space to everyday habits. Literature on Hong Kong’s multi-cultural and multi-racial history, especially the colonial history, exists on the market and has become increasingly popular in the recent decade along with the escalating discussion on people’s identity issues. What makes this edited volume outstanding is its micro-level yet multi-faceted exploration into the societal and cultural day-to-day encounters which enrich, and at some points challenge, existing academic discussions.
Edited by two scholars whose prominent works lie in early colonial history of Hong Kong and Chinese populations of different social classes, this book is a collection of works investigating the lives of people of different genders, ages, races, social-economic classes and professions. In the introduction, we can clearly grasp the puzzles which will later be solved chapter by chapter: “what were the sources of influence and how and at what levels and to what depth did they interact, and with what consequences? Who were the players in the long process of place-making, [End Page 186] encountering, diffusing, engineering, adopting, resisting, and reconfiguring these components? How can we demonstrate the historically significant roles that individuals, families, groups, and institutions have played in creating diversity and in constantly shaping and reshaping Hong Kong?” (p. ix).
What first draws my attention is the chapters that cope with uncommon subjects in colonial history research: girl education (Chapter 4) and children (Chapter 5). Elementary and secondary education yields enormous energy in most families in today’s Hong Kong. Back in the colonial age, children’s lives already denoted a sense of class and even played a part in the re-shaping of Hong Kong’s geo-political status. Chapter 5 shows how an England-based children’s organization thrived in this Far Eastern crown colony and even set an example across the Commonwealth. Legacy English schools are doubtless the most ideal choices to parents and teens. Chapter 4 draws most of my attention and interest as it exhibits the past life of well-known legacy girl’s schools which are still highly regarded in Hong Kong: St. Stephens, Diocesan, Belilios, Maryknoll and to name a few. The philosophies and principles that are nowadays still etched in these schools mirror the enchanting past of Hong Kong.
The Chinese population has dominated the territory. Besides local Chinese, Hong Kong, for a long time and even until today, has been a popular destination or springboard of emigrants from mainland China.
Chapter 2 explores the...