Thursday, November 26, 2015   

Hotung rammed home staying power

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In an earlier column, I looked at Ho Tung Gardens on The Peak as an important heritage site.

The 1927 building is one of the earliest examples of Chinese Renaissance architecture - the mixed Chinese and Western style adopted by China's first Western-trained architects.

However, the complex is also important for its social history, as a recent booklet by Lee Ho-yin, Lynne DiStefano and Curry CK Tse makes clear.

At the time it was built, The Peak was off-limits to Chinese residency, and there was a law against Chinese-style tenement buildings being built in the Mid-Levels or higher - rules partly driven by fear of bubonic plague.


Robert Hotung was the richest man in Hong Kong but of mixed ancestry, a status that both whites and Chinese looked down upon. But he and his family did buy property in the area, and managed to live there.

The choice of a very Chinese-looking style of architecture for the new house in 1927 wasn't an accident. It was a statement that a racial barrier was being broken. It was also a declaration by Hotung that he was different from his neighbors, who were only living in the colony temporarily before going home.

Hong Kong was the only home he had, and he emphasized this point by investing quite a lot in property - which was uncommon at the time.

So Ho Tung Gardens tells a very important historical story. Bernard Charnwut Chan, chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, sees culture from all perspectives.

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