HK Magazine Archive

Guide to Hong Kong: Enduring Culture

A series of stories, recommendations and tips on Hong Kong from people in the know. Explore our city based on the travel experiences that interest you and get itineraries for off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 February, 2016, 4:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:56pm

Wherever you look in Hong Kong you will see how immigrants from around the world have impacted on the city’s culture; from its culinary tastes to its artistic forms and traditional festivals. There are thousands of experiences that will take you back centuries: whether it’s in the traditional Chinese festivals, cultural arts, or family-run restaurants.

A night at the Opera

Hong Kong is underpinned by the Cantonese culture evident in the city’s food, music and festivals. For an artistic expression of this you only need to watch Cantonese opera: an elaborate art form combining singing, acting, martial arts, acrobatics and incredible costumes. Ko Shan Theatre is one of the last remaining venues to showcase this art. Operas are held here on an almost daily basis, some of which are free.

Taste the Culture

Another notable cultural influence on Hong Kong comes from the city’s Chiu Chow and Hakka descendants. The Chiu Chow people’s movement south from the Chaozhou region in eastern Guangdong can be traced back thousands of years, and you can also experience the culinary side of their culture at Chan Kan Kee Chiu Chow restaurant. For a taste of the Hakka population’s offerings, head to one of the branches of the popular Chuen Cheung Kui chain.

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Spotlight on: Sha Tin

In the easterly New Territories, Sha Tin has grown from a huge area of farm land popular with migrating groups from mainland China into a new town that boasts one of the city’s largest populations. If you visit the district today you’ll be able to spot a real cultural mix: from 19th century walled villages and Chinese traditional temples to modern, spacious parks.

Built on History

Some of the earliest immigrants to Sha Tin from the mainland were the Hakka people, who built walled villages upon their arrival to protect them from rival clans. You can still see some of these villages remaining: Tsang Tai Uk was built in the 19th century by the Hakka Tsang clan and is one of the biggest structures still standing, while the “Old House” is a remnant of the historical Wong Uk Village, a trading station for merchants built in the 1800s.

Culinary Heritage

Sha Tin is renowned for its roast pigeon, in part thanks to the area’s iconic restaurant, the Lung Wah Hotel. Built in the 1930s, it was transformed into a hotel in 1951 and has attracted celebrities such as Bruce Lee over the years, mainly to feast on the house specialty, pigeon. For more of a taste of old Hong Kong dishes, seek out Chan Kun Kee: this dai pai dong on a public housing estate in Sha Tin is a hub for the community’s residents and serves up creative, homely Guangdong cuisine.

Natural Resources

Besides the traditional Chinese cultural elements on offer, Sha Tin has lots of beautiful natural resources for recreation. Add the Shing Mun River to your itinerary—a wide waterway that gives incredible night views of the district. It’s also where you’ll find Hongkongers out cycling and running, plus the annual Dragon Boat Festival takes place here too. Next door sits Sha Tin Park, a garden with traditionally styled Chinese archways, gardens and fish ponds.

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