Hong Kong from Fragrant Harbor to High Tech

Hong Kong from Fragrant Harbor to High Tech

Welcome to Hong Kong!

The city has managed to blend east with west seamlessly.  From temples to sky scrapers, the city is a hub of modern world and ancient customs that co-exist with adventure around every corner. Due to its blended history of European and Chinese, Hong Kong respects its roots while being one of the most high tech cities in the world. From serene temples to looming skyscrapers, visitors can experience everything from ancient landmarks to new world architecture while shopping for high tech items not found in their own countries. It is a major world trading hub.

Shopping here I come!

Often referred to as the Pearl of the Orient, the name Hong Kong itself literally translates from Cantonese to Fragrant Harbor. Many historians believe that the name was due to the city’s past trading history of fragrant incense. The “king of incense” being agarwood that was readily available in earlier times.  There is also some belief that was the name of a river or stream that provided sweet, clear, and fragrant water and was known as the fragrant river but most believe it was the harbour and trade of the incense itself that gave Hong Kong its name.

Hong Kong was once a sleepy fishing village with junk boats in the harbour that traded its agarwood in China itself, throughout the rest of Asia, and far as Arabia. Today the Agarwood resin can sell for thousands of dollars for just two ounces. I need to plant me some Agarwood trees. Could be a lucrative business. Just a few things.  This might be difficult as they are a protected trees and nearly extinct due to poaching and deforestation. Most importantly our temperatures in Canada would not be good for them either. Frozen incense hasn’t caught on yet. Too bad…

The incense has been used for medicine and in their religions of Buddhism and Taoism.  For medicine, the resin is used as a sedative and also as a digestive aid and even an aphrodisiac. No Darin, there will not be incense burning in the room tonight.

It is believed that the incense can ward off bad luck and give clarity and peace of mind. It is also used for offerings, meditation, and other religious ceremonies.

A lot of wonderful smells must have permeated the area for its inhabitants and visitors.

 It was said that when the British arrived in the 1840’s that they could smell the incense all over. It was in part why the name actually stuck but the British applied the name to the whole island not only the port. When the British arrived, they started to use the harbour on the northern side of the island. This was a perfect area for their boats and trade. The British relied on this harbour to move goods to their other empires. Illegal or otherwise. This was the reason that the British colony started with a clash between China and Britian with the main motivation being opium which was being illegally imported into China. Most importantly the two countries had very different concepts of relations and trade. China was reluctant to open international trade to Britian and the western countries and Britian and other countries demanded equal treatment and access to the Chinese market.

As a result of a war with China, Britian was able to acquire Hong Kong through the treaty of Nanking in 1842. This was not an easy peace and resulted in friction between China and the West. When a new emperor assumed the throne in Beijing, it was known that the treaties were not being upheld. After another war, Britian obtained even more land near Hong Kong across the harbour and Stonecutters Island. This is when the commercial development slowly began due mostly due to its natural harbor that had attracted Britian in the first place.

Another influence….

Who would think that that something that was taking place thousands of miles away on another continent would greatly affect Hong Kong.

Gold! I struck gold!

Yes, after the discovery of gold in California, it became a major center for Chinese emigration to the US which helped build its economy.

 Many of the Chinese who went to discover gold returned with their new found wealth to help build the economy even more.

By the last part of the 19th century, it had become a British Crown colony with the wellknown lease that would end in 1997. This was the heyday of colonialism for this area. It became a popular area for westerners to visit. This was short lived as the beginning of the 20th century started with anti-colonialism, the birth of the Chinese revolution, and war on the continent. Hong Kong itself was deeply affected by these as many Chinese fled to Hong Kong.

 It was most especially when Japan occupied Hong Kong during the invasion of Pearl Harbour. Britian returned from the war and many people were imprisoned as a result with limited food and resources.

Finally in the later 1950s everything changed, the birth of Modern Hong Kong would happen. The economic success story really started here. After an influx of capital and entrepreneurs from Shanghai in the late 1940s plus the Korean War trade embargo of China, this spurred the colony’s development to an industrial giant. Many textile, garment, and many more factories were created to supply goods for trade and for its inhabitants. An industrialized nation.

It also saw some of the most serious housing shortage due to people fleeing from the mainland with the communist rule in the Republic of China. China was unhappy and this resulted in the West being cut off from China with limited relations. Although China attempted to keep its relations with Britian in Hong Kong. There were some demonstrations in Hong Kong during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-67 but these were restored by Britian in short order.

At this time it started to grow as a international finance center with British rule as new rule in China began its economic reforms. As it grew it became a fusion of western and eastern cultures with local cultures being shared with western fashion, food, music, entertainment, and consumerism that made Hong Kong a modern and unique culture in Asia. At this time it was recognized as one of the wealthier representatives of south asia.

For much of the time, Hong Kong was living on borrowed time under British rule. One Country, Two Systems. Unease started in the 1970s and 1980s when citizens of Hong Kong worried about the ending of the lease in 1997 which would end British rule. Serious negotiations with Britian and China started in the 80s with the conclusion of the drafting of Basic Law for the area. It promised 50 years of self-government and freedoms of assembly, speech and press that are not allowed on the Communist-ruled Chinese mainland. This set up the area for its transition back to China in July 1, 1997. Its handover marked the end of British colonial rule in the Asia-Pacific region.

In 1995, China had already began positioning the country to be developed with science and technology in the wake of the turnover from British rule.  Hong Kong was on the precipice of going from textile, garment, and more manufacturing to hi tech. The country was opening for more technological advancement under Chinese rule.

In 1998, China would build a new airport replacing the one that had existed for 70 years. This would encourage even more visitors and trade and with one of the largest and deepest ports in Asia, it would give Hong Kong a monopoly over the international trade of goods in the Pearl Delta area. Even more so now with its recent 27 billion upgrade. With an already financial background, fintech or financial technology boomed at this time.

With a combination of an influx of Chinese capital, technology, and entrepreneurship with cheap labor, Hong Kong was able to take advantage of business opportunities that would develop the high tech industry to what we see today. It has positioned itself as a thriving hub for technology and innovation. It presents opportunities for companies and startups to make their mark on the industry. With its strategic location, already existing infrastructure, and a supportive environment, it is attractive for investing, aiding new talent, and supporting tech advances.  

From software engineering to cloud computing to data to AI and robotics, cyber security to digital marketing, Hong Kong pumps billions of dollars into the high tech industry to support its innovation and development.

With the Innovation and Technology Bureau created in 2015, it continues to sustain and create new opportunities for a more advanced Hong Kong.

You can still visit the temples and sites of ancient Hong Kong alongside the structures reaching for the sky. You will still see some junk boats with a nod to the past but the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong and its harbour are vastly different from its humble beginnings of Fragrance Harbour of yesterday.

Stay courious fellow Nomads!

Darin and Suzanne


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