Hong Kong Asia's World City

Enduring Culture

Enduring Culture

The never-ending story

Hong Kong’s culture is a melting pot of customs and traditions, influenced by thousands of years of immigration. Wherever you look in the city, there is a story to be told that will take you back centuries: whether it’s in the traditional Chinese festivals, cultural arts, or family-run restaurants. Below you’ll find an introduction to just some of the impressionable cultural experiences to be had in this ever-changing city. You can also read our insights into the district of Sha Tin for some must-visit spots to add to your itinerary.

While Hongkongers are all proud to call this city home, almost everyone you meet will be able to trace their roots back to mainland China. Human settlements date back some 30,000 years and since then the city’s population has exploded with migration from across the mainland—with each group bringing its own culture, cuisine and traditions. Although these blend seamlessly into the cultural melting pot that is Hong Kong today, you can still see evidence of these enduring influences at every turn and even experience some of the more longstanding Chinese folk traditions firsthand.

Ko Shan Theatre

Hong Kong culture is underpinned by the Cantonese dialect and people: early immigrants from the southerly Guangdong region of China established Cantonese as Hong Kong’s main language, bringing with them a strong cultural influence that’s evident in the city’s food, music and festivals. For an artistic expression of this culture you only need watch some Cantonese opera: an elaborate art form that involves the singing of Guangdong melodies as well as a mix of martial arts, acrobatics, acting and incredible costumes. Ko Shan Theatre is one of the last remaining venues to showcase this art. First opened in 1983 as a semi-open air theater, it has since been renovated and now holds a 1,000 seat theater plus a 600-seat auditorium. Operas—some of which are free to watch—are held here on an almost daily basis, plus there’s an exhibition hall on the art’s heritage.

Chiu Chow Chan Kan Kee

Another notable cultural influence on Hong Kong comes from the city’s 1.2 million Chiu Chow immigrants. This group’s movement south from the Chinese region of Chaozhou in eastern Guangdong can be traced back thousands of years. One of the most interesting cultural traditions it brought was the Yu Lan, or Hungry Ghost Festival. In the seventh month of the lunar year, Chiu Chow people believe that restless spirits roam the earth—and so you’ll see them out burning incense and joss paper for their ancestors in public spaces across Hong Kong. You can also experience the culture through its cuisine at Chiu Chow Chan Kan Kee, one of the oldest Chiu Chow restaurants in Hong Kong and an old haunt of property tycoon Li Ka-shing. Don’t miss the Chiu Chow congee here—a porridge-style dish that’s enriched with meaty baby oysters—or other regional specialties such as marinated goose, steamed eel or deep-fried baby oyster omelet.

Another cultural influence worth discovering through its food comes from the Hakka population, some of the region’s earliest immigrants who arrived and set up rural abodes in walled villages in the north of the territory. Their culinary traditions have spread further south in the city, and Chuen Cheung Kui is a popular Hakka food spot that’s often packed out. Here you should try the deep-fried fresh milk, a famous Hakka dish that’s formed of a sweet dough wrapped in crispy skin.

Wan Kam Leung Practical Wing Chun

Your visit to Hong Kong could be packed full of cultural activities as there is so much to see and do. If you’re interested in traditional Chinese art forms, then why not try a spot of Wing Chun? This unique and scientific form of Chinese martial art is a style of kung fu that dates back to the late 1800s and was refined in Hong Kong by the late—and great—sifu (master) Ip Man. Wan Kam Leung Practical Wing Chun is a school teaching a modern-day version of the art developed by sifu Wan Kam-leung: learn more about this fascinating style in a group or with private lessons from the Grandmaster himself, Mr. Wan. Alternatively if you’re seeking a more peaceful inroad to traditional Chinese culture, look no further than Ming Cha Teahouse. This artsy retreat holds interactive tea tasting workshops that will educate you about five different types of tea, teaching you about the production process and correct brewing methods. There’s also a tea lounge and mini museum for you to while away the afternoon.

While there are many Chinese traditions that have left their mark on Hong Kong, it’s worth reflecting on the diverse ethnic make-up of Hong Kong from the 1800s onwards. The Hong Kong Cemetery has some fascinating stories to uncover surrounding the territorial wars, the colonial period and the expansion of the city: you’ll find epitaphs devoted to US missionaries, Japanese crewmen, colonial surgeons and entrepreneurs, including names such as Sir Kai Ho Kai—the barrister, physician and teacher who built the medical school that would become the University of Hong Kong.

Wherever you look in Hong Kong you will see how myriad groups of immigrants from around the world have impacted on the city’s culture: from its culinary tastes to its artistic forms and traditional festivals.

Get Going

  • Ko Shan Theatre
    Ko Shan Theatre
    One of the last remaining venues to show Cantonese opera, Ko Shan Theatre holds performances on an almost daily basis, many of which are free to view.
    Address:
    77 Ko Shan Road, Hung Hom, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2740 9222
    How to Get There:
    MTR Mong Kok Station Exit B2, take minibus 27M from the terminus near Trade Department Tower. Alight at entrance to Ko Shan Road Park.
  • Chiu Chow Chan Kan Kee
    Chiu Chow Chan Kan Kee
    One of Hong Kong’s oldest Chiu Chow restaurants that sells regional specialties such as oyster-topped congee, steamed eel and baby oyster omelets.
    Address:
    11 Queen’s Road West, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2858 0033
    How to Get There:
    MTR Sheung Wan Station, Exit A2. Turn right along Wing Lok Street and left onto Morrison Street. Continue to Queen’s Road Central and turn right. It’s about an 8-minute walk.
  • Chuen Cheung Kui
    Chuen Cheung Kui
    At this popular Hakka food spot you should try the deep-fried fresh milk, a famous Hakka dish that’s formed of a sweet dough wrapped in crispy skin.
    Address:
    Shop E, G/F and 2/F Lisa House, 33 Nelson Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2396 0672
    How to Get There:
    MTR Mong Kok Station, Exit E2. Walk along Nelson Street for 5 minutes.
  • Wan Kam Leung Practical Wing Chun
    Wan Kam Leung Practical Wing Chun
    A school teaching a modern-day version of the traditional Chinese martial art, Wing Chun. Take a group or private lesson with Grandmaster Wan Kam-leung.
    Address:
    1/F, 456 Nathan Road, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 9180 1802
    How to Get There:
    MTR Yau Ma Tei Station, Exit D. Walk south along Nathan Road for about 3 minutes.
  • Ming Cha Teahouse
    Ming Cha Teahouse
    This artsy retreat holds interactive tea tasting workshops that will educate you about the production process and correct brewing methods of Chinese tea. Booking required.
    Address:
    12D, Wah Ha Factory Building, 8 Shipyard Lane, Taikoo Shing, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2520 2116
    How to Get There:
    MTR Tai Koo Station, Exit A1. The entrance is opposite the exit, on King’s Road.
  • Hong Kong Cemetery
    Hong Kong Cemetery
    Uncover some fascinating stories here among the epitaphs devoted to US missionaries, Japanese crewmen, colonial surgeons and entrepreneurs.
    Address:
    Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley, Hong Kong Island
    How to Get There:
    MTR Causeway Bay Station, Exit F2. Board a Happy Valley-bound tram on Hennessy Road (Percival Street stop) and alight at the Happy Valley Racecourse. It’s about a 10-minute journey.

Enduring Culture 'Musts'

  • Dr Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail
    Follow the trail
    Dr Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail
    One of Hong Kong’s most celebrated Cantonese figures is the revolutionary Dr Sun Yat-sen, who was educated in Hong Kong before he went on to declare the Republic of China in 1912. Follow the Dr Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail which charts the revolutionary’s activities through the Central and Western District. It starts on Staunton Street and concludes at the Dr Sun Yat-sen museum.
    Address:
    Staunton Street, Gough Street, Shing Wong Street, Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong Island
    How to Get There:
    MTR Central Station, Exit D1. Exit via Theatre Lane on to Queen’s Road Central and turn right. Head up the Central—Mid-Levels Escalator and get off at Staunton Street. Turn right and the trail begins here. It’s about a 10-minute journey.
  • Chop Alley
    Shop for chops
    Chop Alley
    Chinese seals, commonly referred to as chops or stamps, have been in use for thousands of years and used to be an essential part of Chinese culture. These are small carved stone blocks (but can also be made in plastic or metal) that are used by individuals and companies either in lieu of or in conjunction with actual signatures on paper documents. Get your own tailor-carved design in Sheung Wan’s “Chop Alley” for the ultimate souvenir.
    Address:
    Man Wah Lane, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island
    How to Get There:
    MTR Sheung Wan Station, Exit A1. Turn right on Des Voeux Road Central and take the first right onto Man Wa Lane. It’s about a 2-minute walk.

This guide was produced by HK Magazine Media Group from 2014-2015.

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