|To some it may seem
a laughable idea however, culture does exist in Hong Kong.
Although it has reputation as a brazen philistine capitalist paradise
it should be noted that this is Greater China’s film and media
powerhouse and an area where Chinese culture and art have thrived
without ideological and political interference. For example, the
traditional Chinese opera at the China Club has
never had to struggle with all the Maoist intrusion that afflicted
it on the mainland.
(tel: 2317-6666) offers tickets to cultural events. For details
about events and performance in the city, check the free listings
in BC Magazine and HK Magazine
for current information.
The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
(tel: 2721-2030) is the town ensemble and its regular performances
at corporate galas at least bankroll a full year-round programme.
The company performs at the Hong
Kong Cultural Centre, 10 Salisbury Road (tel: 2734-2009), from
September to July. It's backed up by the Hong
Kong Chinese Orchestra (tel: 3185 1600). Visiting orchestras
of all standards often tour through Hong Kong. The Hong
Kong Academy for Performing Arts, 1 Gloucester Road (tel: 2584-8500),
also stages regular concerts. Traditional Chinese opera
is performed at the China Club, 13F Old Bank of
China Building, Bank Street (tel: 2521-8888). It is not easy to
get an entrée here but it is well worth trying, if only to
admire the modern Chinese art on display.
The Hong Kong Cultural Centre (see above), the Hong Kong Academy
of Performing Arts (see above), and the Hong
Kong Arts Centre, Upper Basement, 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai (tel:
2582-0200), are revered as high theatrical culture. The Star Alliance
Theatre, Fringe Club, South
Block, Lower Albert Road, Central (tel: 2521 7251), offers many
of the more wacky acts.
Hong Kong’s classical ballet troupe is the Hong
Kong Ballet (tel: 2573 7398) and the best venues include the
Hong Kong Cultural Centre (see above) and the Ko
Shan Theatre, 77 Ko Shan Road, Hunghom, Kowloon (tel: 2330-5661).
The Hong Kong Dance Company
(tel: 3103 1888) offers a traditional Chinese repertoire, while
the City Contemporary Dance Company
(tel: 2326-8597) is the more contemporary dance ensemble. Both perform
at a various venues.
Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are still the much-imitated icons of the
local film industry, however production has recently diversified
into more reflective fare. Meanwhile, John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat
sky-rocketed the Cantonese gangster genre into A Better
Tomorrow (1986). The UA and Golden
Harvest cinema chains are Hong Kong’s main commercial
screening venues. Their principal multiplexes include
UA Pacific Place, 1 Pacific Place, 88 Queensway,
Admiralty (tel: 2869-0322), UA Times Square, Times
Square, Causeway Bay (tel: 2506-2822), and Golden Gateway
Multiplex, The Gateway, 25 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (tel:
English-language films are mainly shown in the original language
with Cantonese subtitles, however some screenings are dubbed. Likewise,
Cantonese-language films almost always have English subtitles. Arthouse
films are usually screened at the Lim Por Yen Film Theatre,
in the Hong Kong Arts Centre (see above).
Kong Arts Festival (tel: 2824-3555), mainly based out of Hong
Kong City Hall, is the official yearly catch-all jamboree of events,
with international performances and events of all kinds, held from
February to March. A little earlier in the cultural calendar, from
January through February, is the City Festival,
which is mainly local acts. Sponsored by the Fringe Club, it now
rivals its respectable brother in content and variety and arguably
exceeding it in entertainment value. The Festival of Asian
Arts, in October and November, brings together the traditional
arts of the region, occasionally dovetailing with the Hong
Kong Folk Festival in November. The Hong
Kong Youth Arts Festival is from October to December.
Hong Kong has not left a deep foot print on world literature. Perhaps,
for too long in its history, it lacked the allure of Shanghai and
the recent economic dynamism still hasn't found a literary expression.
There is a full tradition of Cantonese literature, sadly this also
hasn't made much of an impact in translation.
of the finest works on Hong Kong are histories or travel writing
rather than fiction. Possibly the best of the histories is Frank
Welsh’s A Borrowed Place: A History of Hong Kong
Morris’ Hong Kong – Epilogue to an Empire (1997)
is a typically lyrical summary of the territory’s character
during the twilight of colonialism, currently updated to cover the
Roberti’s The Fall of Hong Kong: China’s Triumph and
Britain’s Betrayal (1996) is an understandably resentful
study of events before, during and after the 1997 hand-over.
novels, Paul Theroux’s Kowloon Tong (1997)
depicts cultural interaction and colonial legacies in the predicament
of a Hong Kong English trading family on the eve of the hand-over.
Mo’s An Insular Possession (1986) is concerned with
Macau more than Hong Kong but is still a subtle and polished work,
depicting the European enclave of a bygone era.
recently, John Lanchester’s Fragrant Harbour
(2002) His characters, the English Tom Stewart and Catholic nun
Sister Maria, are taken through the agitated trading years and Japanese
invasion of Hong Kong during th 1930s and 1940s. Lanchester was
born and raised in Hong Kong and offers his readers a powerful insight
into the city.
Hong Kong is a wealth of genre fiction. John Le Carré’s
The Honourable Schoolboy (1977) is among better spy novels
to deal with the territory.
who desires the blockbuster view of Hong Kong should read James
Clavell’s Noble House (1981) and Tai-Pan
World of Suzie Wong (1957), by Richard
Mason, conjures up more romance than could be found in
any of the Filipino pole-dancing bars in Wan Chai. The success of
the film it inspired is testament enough to the fact that Hong Kong
has been best depicted on celluloid – Jackie Chan is as good
a swashbuckling cultural hero for the place as anyone.