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Hong Kong Culture

Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image

Edited by Kam Louie
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 324
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  • Book Info
    Hong Kong Culture
    Book Description:

    Hong Kong as a world city draws on a rich variety of foundational "texts" in film, fiction, architecture and other forms of visual culture. The city has been a cultural fault-line for centuries - a translation space where Chinese-ness is interpreted for "Westerners" and Western-ness is translated for Chinese. Though constantly refreshed by its Chinese roots and global influences, this hub of Cantonese culture has flourished along cosmopolitan lines to build a modern, outward-looking character. Successfully managing this perpetual instability helps make Hong Kong a postmodern stepping-stone city, and helps make its citizens such prosperous and durable survivors in the modern world. This volume of essays engages many fields of cultural achievement. Several pieces discuss the tensions of English, closely associated with a colonial past, yet undeniably the key to Hong Kong's future. Hong Kong provides a vital point of contact, where cultures truly meet and a cosmopolitan traveller can feel at home and leave a sturdy mark. Contributors include John Carroll, Carolyn Cartier, David Clarke, Elaine Ho, Douglas Kerr, Michael Ingham, C. J. W.-L. Wee, Chu Yiu-Wai, Gina Marchetti, Esther M.K. Cheung, Pheng Cheah, Chris Berry, and Giorgio Biancorosso.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-613-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction Hong Kong on the Move: Creating Global Cultures
    (pp. 1-8)
    Kam Louie

    It is now over ten years since Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. In the scale of Chinese history, mere decades seem relatively short. In many respects, the physical and cultural landscape of the former colony seems to have remained the same, yet we all know that there have been a great number of changes in that time. Some of the continuities and discontinuities — such as the ubiquitous taxis and the replacement of the British flag with the Chinese at government buildings — are superficial. Others are more subtle but more profound, and these constants and changes are not...

  6. 1 Ten Years Later: 1997–2007 as History
    (pp. 9-24)
    John M. Carroll

    How has Hong Kong changed since July 1997? Is it better or worse off as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China than it was as the only significant remaining colony of a long-gone British empire? These are two of the most frequently asked questions since Hong Kong’s reversion to Chinese sovereignty, but a question that is asked much less often is how the past decade fits into the overall history of Hong Kong. This chapter provides an overview of the decade since the 1997 retrocession by framing it within the wider scope of Hong Kong’s...

  7. 2 Power Plays: Alternative Performance Art and Urban Space in the Political Life of the City
    (pp. 25-40)
    Carolyn Cartier

    In the decade since the handover, political life in Hong Kong has entered the realm of the performative. Political perspectives have moved beyond debate in broadcast media and institutional forums to emerge in performances in the public sphere — alternative art actions and performance artworks about social and political issues — that have taken corporeal shape in the life of the city, in the spaces of daily life and in demonstrations and marches, across the island, from park to town and in the heart of the city’s zones of connectivity and mobility, culminating in demonstrations at the Star Ferry and Queen’s Piers...

  8. 3 The Haunted City: Hong Kong and Its Urban Others
    (pp. 41-54)
    David Clarke

    When we travel to other cities as a result of personal desire — for example in our identity as tourists — we are driven to a significant extent by the place that city has in our imaginative life. Early in Proust’s monumental work In Search of Lost Time the young narrator looks forward in anticipation to a family visit to a town called Balbec on the French Atlantic coast (actually a fictionalization of the name Cabourg), and like that fictional character our notion of a place and its attractiveness can be fuelled by textual and visual images of it we may have...

  9. 4 Chinese English, English Chinese: Biliteracy and Translation
    (pp. 55-74)
    Elaine Yee Lin Ho

    In the past decade, local activism has encouraged public interest in cultural identity but there is little doubt that the global attention on Hong Kong evident around 1997 has receded. As one local historian and sinophone literary scholar lamented,

    Before 1997, Hong Kong was the focal point of the world. Everywhere, there was “Hong Kong fever”, and a whole mass of publications on many areas of Hong Kong appeared…. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a “five-minute fever”. After 1997 … all that was splendor returned to quietude. Very quickly, everything seemed to have fallen back into silence.

    力匕前夕, 香港曾經是全世界焦點,...

  10. 5 Louise Ho and the Local Turn: The Place of English Poetry in Hong Kong
    (pp. 75-96)
    Douglas Kerr

    The year 2009 saw the publication by Hong Kong University Press of Incense Tree: Collected Poems of Louise Ho, a book by Hong Kong’s leading English-language poet. The consecration of the poet’s work by publication by an academic press says something about the institution of literature in English in Hong Kong, but so does the fact that the title refers to a tree, aquilaria sinensis, whose fruit produces the incense that gave Hong Kong its Chinese name (“incense port”), but is today, as the title poem says, an endangered species.¹ The book contains work from three earlier publications, as well...

  11. 6 From Xu Xi to the Chief Executive: Hong Kong in the Dock
    (pp. 97-112)
    Michael Ingham

    As Hong Kong’s culture and politics have become more inexorably intertwined over the years since the handover, it is significant that its cultural production has reflected a subtle shift away from pure escapism toward something approaching a critical discourse. While a few critical swallows cannot be represented as constituting a more lucid summer, to adapt the proverb, it is significant that the last dozen or so years have seen the rise of the film essay in Hong Kong, as well as the development of the critical essay form juxtaposing the cultural and political histories of the territory. Veteran Hong Kong...

  12. 7 The “New” East Asia and Hong Kong Cinema
    (pp. 113-130)
    C. J. W.-L. Wee

    A notable cultural development during the 1980s and the 1990s, the decades of the so-called “East Asian Miracle”, has been the increased cultural production, innovation and circulation of both high culture and mass culture within East Asia. Mass culture includes films from Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Japan, and more recently transnational co-productions, as well as pop music from Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong. The historic political divisions in the region that led to the Greater East Asian War — or the Pacific War, although the former term is more revealing of the stakes in the conflict —...

  13. 8 One Country Two Cultures? Post-1997 Hong Kong Cinema and Co-productions
    (pp. 131-146)
    Chu Yiu-wai

    The “one country, two systems” idea famously proposed by the late Deng Xiaoping maintains that within one socialist China there can be capitalist economic and political systems in special administrative regions such as Hong Kong and Macau. Shortly before the tenth anniversary of Hong Kong’s reversion to China, Donald Tsang, the chief executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), claimed in “Hong Kong Letter — Just Because You Are Here”, an open letter broadcast on Radio Television Hong Kong on 18 June 2007, that the ten years since 1997 had proved that the implementation of “one country, two systems” had...

  14. 9 Departing from The Departed: The Infernal Affairs Trilogy
    (pp. 147-168)
    Gina Marchetti

    Hong Kong’s fortunes have been linked to its status as an entrepôt — an import/export merchandise mart for the world’s manufactured goods and a point of assembly, repackaging, re-labeling, recycling and transshipment. As the world economy swings from goods to intellectual property and image commodities, Hong Kong’s role as entrepôt also shifts so that ideas, styles, fictions, images and the wealth of Hong Kong’s creative industries play a more important role as do its financial institutions, tourism, retail sales and the rest of the service sector. While “Made in Hong Kong” may signify plastic flowers and transistors to an older generation,...

  15. 10 On Spectral Mutations: The Ghostly City in The Secret, Rouge and Little Cheung
    (pp. 169-192)
    Esther M. K. Cheung

    What we now call “hauntology” in critical and cultural studies arises from attempts by critics and theorists to articulate the relation between textuality and materiality. Some are particularly interested in the new world order after the world-wide events of 1989 — a “time [which] is out of joint”, as Jacques Derrida calls it, citing Shakespeare’s Hamlet.¹ In my study of the spectral city in Hong Kong cinema, the invocation of the ghostly has provided us with a means through which the shock impact of the urban phantasmagoria can be restored to itself by way of the things made strange, by ostranenie,...

  16. 11 Global Dreams and Nightmares: The Underside of Hong Kong as a Global City in Fruit Chan’s Hollywood, Hong Kong
    (pp. 193-212)
    Pheng Cheah

    The tenth anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China took place amid great media attention. Of particular note are the full-page official newspaper declarations, in Hong Kong and abroad, that celebrate the event by attributing Hong Kong’s success to the fact that it has achieved the status of the premier world city of Asia (“Asia’s World City”) and to its economic position as “the prime gateway to China”. Indeed, the Hong Kong government published a book of commemorative glossy photographs of the city with a dust jacket in the auspicious red of a Chinese New Year money packet or, alternatively,...

  17. 12 Hong Kong Watcher: Tammy Cheung and the Hong Kong Documentary
    (pp. 213-228)
    Chris Berry

    Tammy Cheung (Cheung Hung, 張 虹) is a prominent member of Hong Kong’s independent filmmaking community, and possibly the city’s only full-time independent documentarian at the time of writing. As such, she is an example of just how much — and how little — Hong Kong’s culture has changed over the last decade or so. This case study analyzes Cheung’s career and films within this larger framework, with a focus on Hong Kong’s screen culture, and particularly its independent documentary culture.

    Born in Shanghai in 1958, Cheung came to Hong Kong with her family at the age of three. After studying sociology...

  18. 13 Global Music/Local Cinema: Two Wong Kar-wai Pop Compilations
    (pp. 229-246)
    Giorgio Biancorosso

    Primarily as a result of his own statements in various interviews, much ink has been spilled over Wong Kar-wai’s literary tastes and cinephilia. The names Murakami, Cortazar, Puig, Garcia Marquez and Liu Yichang on the one hand and Hitchcock, Suzuki, Scorsese, Bertolucci and Antonioni on the other appear with increasing frequency in the literature on his cinema. And yet the extent of the influence of these texts and authors on Wong’s cinema remains unclear. This is not only because I am naturally skeptical of directors’ statements about their own work, but also because tracing influences sheds only partial light on...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 247-262)
  20. References
    (pp. 263-282)
  21. Index
    (pp. 283-312)