Hong Kong (before 1841 and 1841-1997) / The City of Dominating Streets Colliding with Traditional Street Life

During the colonial period of Hong Kong, the British government has introduced grid pattern into the new urban city. As shown in the map of Kowloon during 1941, when the British transformed Kowloon near the coastal area, it clearly told which part was the newly developed area which were gridded. This grid system was a result of building a lot of streets for improving the transport network and infrastructure in the city. At that time, the government built the city mainly according to British standard such as the dimension of the roads. Hong Kong has to sacrifice most of its space to accommodate roads of large scale. Consequently, this small piece of land in Hong Kong become a city of dominating streets.

Grid Pattern of the newly developed area in Kowloon by the British government

Map of Hong Kong Kowloon during 1941 © Vintage Maps and Prints

Grid Pattern of the Urban Fabric of Hong Kong

Map of Hong Kong during 1997 © Marco Carnovale


The choice of these dominating streets for protest, perhaps had another traditional reason other than lack of public space. Dating back the history of Hong Kong before colonization, under the influence of traditional Chinese culture, street life is an important place for social and cultural implications. Despite there were plenty of good public space for people to gather such as markets (hui), ancestral shrines and open areas in villages, the crowds staying on the street marked the importance of street as the public place. The famous art work “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” produced by Zhang Zeduan has reflected the richness of the street as the people treated it as public space for social activities. Therefore, the importance of street was not just known by the British government, it already took root in people’s heart from the traditional history. The choice of street as space for protest was perhaps reflecting their choice of public space.

Street life marked the traditional Chinese culture

Photography of Streetscence in Chinese City © 魏峰

Open areas in front of ancestral halls

Photography of Ancestral Halls in Guangzhou © Chinanews.cn

Part of the “Along the River During Qingming Festival” showing the street life of the Chinese

Banknotes Version of “Along the River During Qingming Festival” © 项欣荣


LO, K.M. (2013) A Critical Study of the Public Space in Hong Kong. MCS symposium. [Online] Available from: http://www.ln.edu.hk/cultural/programmes/MCS/Symp%2013/S1P2.pdf. [Accessed:18th December 2014].


1 Comment on “Hong Kong (before 1841 and 1841-1997) / The City of Dominating Streets Colliding with Traditional Street Life

  1. I think this passage successfully points out the importance and dominance of streets in Hong Kong, especially due to the fact that the streets were laid out during the time period when they were under the British rules and standards of road sizes consequence in having a small piece of land divided into grids of streets. I think this system benefits Hong Kong in a long term in terms of allowing a smooth flowing transportation infrastructure. The economy would benefit the most from this system. And perhaps because of the fact that Hong Kong is just mostly covered in streets, and taking up the streets at time of protest would stagnate the wheels of the city and manipulate it, streets naturally became the platform of protests.

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