City Weekend

What colour comes to mind when you think of Hong Kong? Journey through the rainbow of shades that define our city

Hong Kong is defined by the brilliance of its colours and the brightness of its lights

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 March, 2018, 8:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 March, 2018, 8:01pm

From that not-quite-emerald green of the Star Ferry to the sharp candy red of urban taxis, specific shades of certain colours will always hold a unique place in the hearts of Hongkongers.

These colours, wherever they be seen in the world, will irrevocably harken back to home. They are symbols of the city, of that whirling, vibrant, bustling life that thrives amid the towering buildings and hollering hawkers.

Regardless of where Hongkongers happen to be in the world, these colours speak to us in a way that cannot help but provoke a sense of nostalgia. City Weekend explores the various tones that “colour” our city and represent this “fragrant harbour” of ours, as a means of constructing the colour palette that defines our lives.


Chinese culture enshrines itself in the aesthetic glory of vibrant red, and Hong Kong has definitely not fallen short in this regard. The city is defined by this vivid red that bursts through the concrete seams that try to rein it in. From the cloth lanterns that cover Wan Chai’s Lee Tung Street and the omnipresent urban taxis, to the luminous symbol of our Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system and the city’s flag, you have to actively try to not see red everywhere you turn.

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Aside from the oranges that pile high at fruit stalls, this colour is on every Hong Kong street corner as the happy shade of the city’s rubbish bins. Every urban streetscape is characterised by these bright cylindrical containers, which act as little beacon-like reminders to dispose of rubbish correctly.


Maybe food tastes better when yellow. Maybe Hongkongers just really love the colour. As a city, we apparently exalt the consumption of yellow street foods: our curry fishballs, egg waffles, pineapple buns, mango mochi, Hui Lau Shan drinks and custard buns add little bursts of yellow to our lives and to our mouths. Yellow, in a somewhat paler, more creamy form, can further be found as the defining feature of the public minibuses that rush through the crowded streets. They are the backdrop to our busy lives and a constant amid chaos.

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No image of Hong Kong’s skyline and harbour is complete without that not-quite-emerald green of the Star Ferry. It’s the same singular shade that comes with a simple childhood six-pack of crayons or coloured pencils when spatial allotment does not leave room for a diversity of greens. Yet it is also the particular hue that characterises our harbour.

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What’s more, in the form of zipping taxis, this same shade of green also colours the streets of the New Territories. Of course, no discussion of green can be complete without throwing in the sloping mountains that frame the city. While smog sometimes obscures their immediate presence, every Hongkonger is anchored by the monumental presence our mountains possess.


Despite the symbolic significance of all the aforementioned colours, absolutely nothing characterises Hong Kong more than the blue that tints our world. Blue, in Hong Kong, is a cycle of reflection. Our harbour captures the blue of the sky and our glass skyscrapers reflect the bed of blue they are nestled within.

Twilight in Hong Kong is characterised by that simultaneously eerie and comforting blue-ish purple that takes over. Never quite black, our darkening skies cannot help but reflect the beacons of light that shine out from below, leaving the stars stolen from a night sky that cannot support them. The blue that defines us is calming – it reaffirms that our city can sustain its natural beauty and reassures us about the value we hold true: Hong Kong is the perfect mixing ground of the natural world and human ingenuity.

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Perhaps adding to the city’s almost incoherent chaos, the rainbow of colours seen in our brightly lit street signs completes the visual experience of our city. The signs almost compete with each other, each fighting for authority and brightness as they extend over our heads and our streets. While our signs are no longer made of the fiery neon tubes of the past, the electronic renditions that now characterise every street are no less iconically Hong Kong.

While natural rainbows are rarely seen arching across our sky, the city more than makes up for nature’s failings with the vibrancy seen in its man-made explosions of colour. Hong Kong is a city defined by the brilliance of its colours, the brightness of its lights, and the unending excitement that comes from walking its winding streets.