Hong Kong Museum of History (Part 2)

One of these days, I’ll be a blogger extraordinaire who writes about daytrips that happened in the same month. However until then, let’s head back to the start of August 😉

As promised, Ry and I headed back to the Hong Kong Museum of History to check out the second floor.

hong kong museum of history

The first gallery featured “The Opium Wars and the Cession of Hong Kong.” After the defeat in the First Opium War, China ceded Hong Kong to Britain. This gallery outlines the events leading up to the First Opium War, the war itself and its aftermath.

Although the Qing government’s 100,000 men fighting the Opium War far outnumbered the British Force of 20,000, the Qing Forces’ equipment was inferior, especially its’ navy. British warships were fast and possessed incomparable combat capability.


By contrast, the Qing war junks were poorly armed, had little offensive capability and were commanded by officers inexperienced in the highly efficient tactics of the British.


This is a model shows the destruction of opium at Humen (the Bogue).


The next gallery was the “Birth and Early Growth of the City.”  On entering, you are greeted by a three-storey European style structure, adjacent to a port scene against a background of an enlarged old photograph of Kowloon.

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The population survey for 1847 found that of the 23,872 inhabitants, 603 were Europeans, 264 Portuguese, 539 Indians, Malays and other non-Chinese. Although only a minority of the population, these groups contributed disproportionately to the growth and development of Hong Kong. Eurasians and Portuguese tended to monopolise clerical/interpreter posts as many were bilingual. Among Indians, the Sikhs were usually recruited as police from 1867.


Behind the building stretches an old street scene lined with a variety of shops selling tea, tailors, pawnshop, grocery store, post office, bank, herbal medicine etc. The whole area is lit with a dim yellow light from a street lamp, imbuing the scene with an ambience of the early 20th century.

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There is also a double-decker tram!


In the early days of British rule, the Chinese still retained their traditional clothing style. For special occasions, a gown and short jacket remained the apparel for men, while beautifully embroidered upper garments and skirts were won by the wives and daughters of wealthy families.


However Western dress began to come into fashion for the locals from the 1920s. The style was set by the wealthy Chinese, merchants engaged in foreign trade, office personnel or well educated young men returning from abroad. However the traditional women’s dress (qipao) was still the fashion for the ladies in the first half of the 20th century.

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The pocket watch (1940s) was a stylish accessory, attached to the waistband of trousers with a metal chain displayed on the outside of clothes. Early spectacle frames (1920s) were mostly made from the shell of the hawksbill sea turtle to signify the wearer’s elevated status.


“The Japanese Occupation” gallery has been designed as an air-raid shelter in order to conjure up the atmosphere of war. After 18 days of fighting, the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Mark Young, surrendered to Japan on the 25th December 1941 and Hong Kong entered a dark age which lasted for three years and eight months. Through the display of relics, historical photography and videos, visitors can witness the horrific battles during those 18 days and learn about the harsh conditions of life in Hong Kong under Japanese occupation.

Japanese troops marching across the border into Hong Kong.


Rice, sugar, salt and cooking oil were rationed and food such as vegetables and meat were extremely scarce and extortionately priced. Fuel was equally scarce, so electricity, gas and public transport services were gravely affected.  Enemy banks were liquidated and the Hong Kong dollar was replaced by the Japanese military yen as legal currency, paralyzing Hong Kong’s economy.

Military and civilian passengers aboard a ferry.


Local and Japanese women at the Peak Tramway (I love their dresses!)


During the Japanese occupation, education in Hong Kong deteriorated as there were no school places for many school-age children. The number of students shrank from 118,000 in 1941 to 4000 in 1945. The policy was to instill Japanese culture by presenting Japan in a favourable light, along with compulsory teaching of the Japanese language, culture and etiquette. These measures were designed to exercise more effective control over Hong Kong citizens and to realize Japan’s long-term goal of creating the “Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere.”

Badly damaged Hong Kong University building at war’s end.


British Prisoners of war captured in the New Territories.


Indian prisoners of war being searched by the Japanese.


A nurse attends to a patient suffering from severe malnutrition following Hong Kong’s liberation.


This film enables the younger generation to appreciate the hardships suffered by their elders during 1942-45. It is hoped that Hong Kong people and peace-loving people everywhere will not forget the terrible lessons from this episode of history.


The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and another on Nagasaki three days later. Consequently the Japanese Emperor unconditionally surrendered on 15 August.

Japanese representative Vice-Admiral Ruitaro Fujita signing the Instrument of Surrender.


Japanese representative Major General Umekichi Okada handing over his sword during the surrender ceremony.


Japanese military rounded up for captivity after their surrender.


Lion dance by local residents to celebrate the Japanese surrender.


Victory parade in Central.

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Return of Sir Mark Young as Governor of Hong Kong.


Hoisting of the Union Jack inside Stanley Internment Camp.


The final gallery traces the story of Hong Kong’s postwar development into a modern metropolis.


The Japanese Occupation inflicted much suffering on the local population. The food shortage increased the cost of living by over 500% compared with 1941, therefore more than 80% of the population suffered from malnutrition. Most apartments needed maintenance but materials for repairs were non-existent. Due to the sub-standard living conditions, epidemics of malaria, cholera, smallpox and tuberculosis were reported from time to time.

Chinese shops on both sides of Queens Road Central (1953)


Pottinger Street in Central after the Second World War


Squatter huts on a hillside in Tai Hang (1962)


Squatters fire at Shek Kip Mei (1953)


The cabinet behind the street beautician displays a brand of noodle named “Victory” in 1946 following China’s victory over Japan at the end of the Second World War.


Amahs dressed in black and white tunics and trousers and fashionable ladies wearing qibao pass by a bustling street market in post-war Hong Kong.


Centre Street in Sai Ying Pun bustles with activity (1947)


Coolies unload goods on the praya in Western District in the 1940s


Severe droughts in 1963 and 1967 reduced the territory’s water supply to a dangerous situation. In 1963, the domestic water supply was rationed to four hours every four days. When a similar water crisis struck Hong Kong again in1967, the Government negotiated with China for the provision of additional water supplies and they built the Lok On Pai desalter to desalinate seawater. Three reservoirs were built and a publicity campaign drove home the necessity to save water!

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Children getting water from a hillside at Causeway Bay (1962)


Living conditions in the early resettlement estates, built after the Shek Kip Mei fire were quite primitive. Families of seven or eight were jammed into a tiny cubicle of 11 square metres. Meals had to be cooked on a narrow balcony and residents had to use communal washing and toilet facilities. Schools were hurriedly thrown up on the rooftops of seven-storey blocks, almost as an afterthought. Nurseries, clinics and libraries were non-existent. However the low rent of $14 per month was a blessing as former squatters could at least have a permanent roof over their heads.


Birds-eye view of a resettlement estate.


Decades ago, when the common people had few places to go for recreation, they spent their leisure time at herbal tea shops with their friends, sipping herbal tea, which can release body heat and has curative effects for minor illnesses, along with quenching one’s thirst!

46a 46b 46c Reading newspapers or listening to the radio here were also popular past-times, as few could afford to buy a gramophone. 47a

A grocery shop was known as a ‘sze dor’, the local pronunciation of the word ‘store.’ As most of the stores were located either close to residential areas or roads, they were well received by residents as they provided such a wide selection of goods. These included canned food, drinks, cigarettes, ice cream, biscuits, sweets, toothpaste, matches, soap, exercise books, stationery and toys.

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As the Chinese were gradually liberated from traditional customs after the collapse the Qing Dynsasty, hairdressing became fashionable among the more open-minded women. When the technique of perming hair was introduced in Shanghai, the city’s hairdressing trade flourished. After the second world war, many Shanghainese barbers settled in Hong Kong and established barber shops. Besides cutting hair, they offered shaving and massage services. There were also some ramshackle roadside stalls and travelling barbers patronized mostly by men and children.


In the 1950s and 1960s, comic book stalls were virtually everywhere and youngsters only needed to pay 10 cents to read 10 of their favourites.

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As the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Hong Kong earns much of her revenue from the tourism industry, which has actively been promoted since 1958. Hong Kong became a popular place to visit in the 1960s through its portrayal in Western fiction and movies, such as ‘The World of Suzie Wong.’ With its industrial boom, Hong Kong was also renowned for its abundant supply of cheap goods which made it a shopping paradise. From 1961 to 1980, the number of tourists in Hong Kong increased at an annual rate of 13.12% on average, bringing in an income of around $41 billion. The success of the tourism industry also encouraged the development of industries such as retailing, restaurants, entertainment and transport.


The toy-making industry began in the late 1940s and the mass production of toys, mostly made of plastic, developed in the next two decades. In the late 1970s, electronic toys were gaining in popularity and local toymakers promptly seized on this new opportunity for further expansion. As a result, Hong Kong retained its position as the largest exporter of toys.

Spot the Ryan 😉


These fans looks incredibly dangerous…


Vintage cameras!


By the late 1960s, 561,563 people were factory workers. Most had received no education beyond primary level. Due to the potential threat of cheap labour from China, the local workforce had to accept long hours and low wages. The riots in 1966 and 1967 were, to a certain extent, a reflection of their discontent. Consequently the Government made efforts to improve labour conditions in the last few years of the decade.


Having taken so many photos, I’d gotten a bit worn out so I’ll just describe the final part of the gallery to you, if you don’t mind! Here we have relics, memorabilia and important documents related to the Sino-British negotiations, the signing of the Joint Declaration and the Handover Ceremony marking the return of sovereignty to China. A multimedia presentation on the theme of the relations between China and Hong Kong after the war brings the “Hong Kong Story” to a close.

I think this is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written! Nevertheless I hope you enjoyed it and found it informative.

If you fancy some more HK history, feel free to check out part 1 😉



4 thoughts on “Hong Kong Museum of History (Part 2)

  1. Absolutely amazing detail! I love your picture posts so even though they might take a little time to come through, they are always inspiring me to get out there and discover new things in Hong Kong. Have you been to the art museum? I still need to do my write up (naughty) but there was the most amazing sculpture exhibition on when I went. Over now tho 😦

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