Hong Kong Food and Culture (part 1)

In this post I’m going to try to sum up what I’ve learned and seen of Hong Kong’s culture duringg my time at HKUST. As many of you probably know, Hong Kong was a British colony up until 1997, and so it has some strong British influences, including its own style of milk tea and traditional British breakfasts. However, what many of you might not know (at least I definitely didn’t) is that Hong Kong started out as a cluster of small fishing villages, specializing in preparing dried fish. So that is where we will start our tour of Hong Kong culture, with one of the first things I saw here, Tai O village.

Tai O village

Tai O village

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Dried fish, the specialty of Tai O

Dried fish, the specialty of Tai O

Tai O was at one point one of the major economic centers of Hong Kong, with salt harvesters and fishermen producing dried fish that were traded throughout Southern China and elsewhere. The smell in the village was like nothing I’d smelled before, but when cooked, it’s quite good.
Later on, I saw the Big Buddha built in the 1980s, when Hong Kong was in the midst of an economic boom.

The Big Buddha on Lantau Island

The Big Buddha on Lantau Island

When I first heard about it, I assumed that it was some ancient monument because of some strange preconceptions, but it was also fascinating to see that Buddhism was still alive and well in Hong Kong to the extent that this large project would have been done in the 80’s. Another Buddhist temple that was built fairly recently (the 1940s and 1950s) is the 10,000 Buddha Monastery, which is dedicated to the Pure Land branch of Buddhism, which emphasizes prayer and reverence for certain buddhas and boddhisattvas.

The path up to the 10,000 Buddha Monastery, with several buddhas.

The path up to the 10,000 Buddha Monastery, with several buddhas.

Another misconception I had before coming to Hong Kong was that it was solely a large metropolis, completely separate from nature. As I learned, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Hong Kong is full of nature, especially on Lantau Island, where the Big Buddha is. There are forests, mountains, and some nice beaches.

Hong Kong scenery

Hong Kong scenery

In my next post, to continue the cultural tour, I’ll talk about some festivals I’ve seen in Hong Kong.