The Mainland Connection
The Hong Kong Museum of History’s narrative of political and cultural continuity with mainland China stretches far back to the earliest signs of life on the island. Starting with the archaeological connection, an interactive video display entitled “Hong Kong’s historical relationship with China” includes a section that maneuvers archaeological evidence to prove Hong Kong’s relationship with mainland China. The display reads, “Archaeological findings have shown that there were signs of human inhabitation and activity in the Hong Kong area as early as 6,000 years ago, in the Neolithic Age. An abundance of unearthed artifacts also illustrated that Hong Kong is in the same cultural sphere of Guangdong in South China” (HKHM). Thus, though the museum boasts 400 million years of Hong Kong history, these millions of years seem more for the purpose of introducing the human life common to Hong Kong and the mainland than for emphasizing Hong Kong’s independent development as an island.
Times were hard when I was young. Many grocers sold their family properties in the mainland to raise enough capital to run their businesses in Hong Kong. The competition was not that keen, however. I was 14 in 1949, and I left Xinhui, my hometown in Guangdong to come to Hong Kong and work at Wing Wo Grocery for my uncle. (HKMH)
Moreover, according to Kwan, the signboard in the back (the 永和 calligraphy characters and all) was fashioned by Kwan’s great uncle, “a successful candidate in the imperial examination,” a system that is an important part of Chinese heritage (HKMH).
In addition to referring to the Hong Kong people as Chinese, rather than using any other number of terms such as “British colonials” or “Hong Kong people” (perhaps implicated in this is also the shame of colonialism), the placard also places the style of dress at the time within Chinese tradition.
“The ceding of Hong Kong to Britain was a historic watershed. For more than a century, Hong Kong’s developments had their own direction and pace. The relatively stable environment attracted waves of people from the mainland. Given the combination of this environment and personal motivations, these settlers gave their all to make Hong Kong the international metropolis that it is today.” (HKHM)
Interestingly, the placard attributes Hong Kong’s status as an “international metropolis” today to the diligence and efforts of mainland migrants who took advantage of British-caused stability. Rather than make any mention of people from all over the world (which would seem to make a place more “international”), the last descriptive placard in the museum instead chooses to once again cement the relationship between Hong Kong and its motherland.
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