Consistency in an Ever-Changing City: An Old Clock Tower in Contemporary Hong Kong

Old Objects in a Futuristic World: Re-Imagining Hong Kong through Its Clock Tower in the Eyes of Western Settlers and Local Citizens 

Catherine S. Chan
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In postcards, on government websites, and in the pages of travel guides, Hong Kong is commonly presented as a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city, marked by a skyline defined by skyscrapers and blinding lights. Millions of tourists visit the city each year to be awed by the highly modern spectacle of Asia’s financial hub. Walking through the streets of Hong Kong, another story emerges: the city celebrates hybridity like no other, incorporating East and West as colonial buildings coexist with the aroma of dried mushrooms from a nearby shop and folk statues are seen on street corners dominated by modern commercial and administrative buildings. However, such multiplicity does not come without a price, especially in a city that struggles to house seven million residents while facing a land shortage and being on the receiving end of a continuous explosion of people from mainland China since the 1990s.

In this context, soaring land prices and pressure to make ends meet have long resulted in a neglect of the past. Historical buildings and familiar streetscapes come and go as quickly as trends sweep the city. The clock tower at Tsim Sha Tsui is one example of Hong Kong’s many forgotten legacies: although it has stood at its current location for a century, few have found meaning in its presence. This essay hopes to bring forth the life and times of this architectural structure, highlighting both change and continuity in order to unearth the clock tower’s history from under the city’s countless transformations over the course of one century under British administration....