The buildings left over as a throwback to colonial times are present all over Hong Kong. This is most evident in Macau, whose architecture looks anything but Asian in origin. Whilst Hong Kong has developed its own style, reminiscent of large Chinese cities just across the bay, you can also easily find some reminders of its colonial past. So if you want to delve deeper into Hong Kong’s past, let’s visit some of the more notable reminders of its history.
Just across from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the south side of Statue Square now only contains just one statue from it’s colonial past. This is of Thomas Jackson, the manager of the Hong Kong and Shanghai bank during the 19th century. The square is an excellent meeting point, and many locals use it as a gathering spot. If you turn to the east, you can see a rather impressive granite building which is the former Supreme Court. It used to be the home of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, which has since moved. The building has always been prominent in Hong Kong politics, and is a stark reminder how even up until now the government of Hong Kong is still pushing for sovereign recognition.
In the heart of Central, Government House casts a commanding shadow. This was the sight of Hong Kong’s colonial governors until 1997, when Hong Kong was formally handed back to China. The current chief executive has also moved to take up residence here, amid cries that it is an evident support for colonialism and also that the building has notoriously bad feng shui. The gardens are the real beauty here, if you can look past the slightly confusing style of architecture. There is an enormous fishpond and plenty of flowering rhododendron bushes. Note that the turret was actually added to the building in 1945 by the Japanese during their occupation of Hong Kong. Government House was used as the Japanese military headquarters, adding a rather bloody note to it’s history.
The stunning terraces of Hong Kong Park are also home to a rather majestic colonial building, which was originally the residence of the Commander of the British Forces in Hong Kong. A rather stark contrast to the urban jungle of skyscrapers that surrounds it, the house is one of the better examples of colonial architecture in Hong Kong. Inside, you can visit the rather quaint Museum of Teaware which has teapots and cups galore, as well as an interesting showcase of how tea drinking in China has changed over time. Of course, there is also a tea house where you can try some of the different types of tea. The K.C Lo Gallery adjacent to the building is also worth a visit, as it has a rather fantastic collection of seal stones- name stamps used by Chinese to seal letters and personal documents centuries ago.
The Noon Day Gun
If you head down to Causeway Bay, you would be forgiven for thinking that it is impossible to imagine Hong Kong during colonial times as steel and glass greet you, as far as the eye can see. However, there is one small relic left over here. The Noon Day Gun is a ship’s cannon, which is still operated each day at exactly 12p.m. The gun was also made famous in the Noel Coward song, Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Whilst the reasons behind the daily detonation are unclear, it is a slightly underwhelming event, if not for the smartly dressed officer who ignites the fuse.
The Peninsula Hotel
One of the few colonial landmarks that remain in Tsim Sha Tsui, this hotel embodies understated elegance perfectly. The building itself dates from the 1920’s and it is still as stylish as it was back then. The real advantage is that they serve an excellent afternoon tea in the extremely glamorous lobby. Dress rules do apply and it is highly recommended that you book in advance. Expect to pay around HK$200 per person. If you decide to make your visit an overnight stay, you can rest assured that you will be thrown back in time, albeit with a hefty price tag.