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Hong Kong’s Ancient Culture

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.

While Hong Kongers 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. Many of these are still alive and kicking today.

Cantonese Opera

Cantonese Opera Performer Hong Kong

A Cantonese Opera performer putting on her intricate make up.

For an artistic expression of Hong Kong’s Cantonese culture, 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, with operas played daily, some free of charge!

Hungry Ghost Festival

Hungry Ghost Festival Hong Kong

Incense burning at the Hungry Ghost festival

In the seventh month of the lunar year, Chiu Chow people (a 1.2 million strong minority group in HK) 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. 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.

Walled Villages (and yummy Hakka food)

Walled Village Hong Kong

A traditional Walled Village.

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.

Wing Chun Kung Fu

Kung Fu, Hong Kong

The ancient art of Kung Fu features in many of Hong Kong’s festivals

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.

Watch our Hong Kong insider Jeremy Pang get a Kung Fu lesson

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