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Last updated : Nov 2009
Hong Kong Culture Guide
Hong Kong Culture Guide - TravelPuppy.com
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.

Cityline (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: 2956-3428).

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).

Cultural events

The Hong 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.

Literary Notes

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.

 Much 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 (1997).

 Jan 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 latest developments.

 Mark 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.

 As for 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.

 Timothy 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.

 Most 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.

 Otherwise, 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.

 Anyone who desires the blockbuster view of Hong Kong should read James Clavell’s Noble House (1981) and Tai-Pan (1966).

 The 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.
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