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Life in the Cities: The Emergence of Hong Kong Man*

  • Hugh D. R. Baker


Before 1842 all western trade with China was carried on through the port of Canton (Guangzhou). From the point of view of the Chinese Government, Canton had two advantages: it had a long history and much experience of sea-borne trade, and it was a great way from Peking (Beijing), China's capital. Thus the foreigners could be kept as distant as possible from the court and their corrupt and barbaric ways would do least damage. In Canton the western traders were allowed to live in their “factories” during the tea-trading season after which they had to leave. They could not bring with them either their womenfolk or their weapons, they could officially have no more than eight Chinese servants per factory, and they were forbidden to move out of the small factory area except on occasional special days. There was thus little mixing between. Chinese and westerner and, as one observer wrote in 1855, “We pursued the evil tenor of our way with supreme indifference, took care of our business, pulled boats, walked, dined well, and so the years rolled by as happily as possible.”



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1. Hunter, William C., Bits of Old China (London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1855), p. 3.

2. Hayes, James, “Old British Kowloon,” Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 6 (1966), p. 122.

3. Lethbridge, H. J., Hong Kong: Stability and Change (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1978), pp. 210–11.

4. Hong Kong 1983, p.111.

5. Jarvie, I. C., Window on Hong Kong: A Sociological Study of the Hong Kong Film Industry and its Audience (Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong Centre of Asian Studies, 1977), p. 75.

* Unless otherwise indicated statistics are taken from the Hong Kong Government's Annual Report Hong Kong 1983 or from earlier reports in the same series.


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