HONG KONG MARITIME MUSEUM, Deck C Room C4

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English / USA Language: English / USA

The last exhibit to visit on Deck C, in room C4, is entitled Creating Victoria Harbor. It will take you along a timeline that goes from 1841, the year Hong Kong became a British colony, to the years following the Second World War.

It’s fascinating to observe the radical change undergone by Hong Kong during its first 40 years as a British colony, from a natural harbor with little fishing villages to the most important trading port in China.

In just a few short years, the bay became filled with docks, warehouses and offices for merchants from a variety of countries in Europe and Asia.

One of the most interesting works in the room is a large canvas entitled The Alexander Hume Scroll Painting of Foreign Factories in Canton, painted on silk by an unknown artist using a particular tempera technique known as gouache.

Alexander Hume was a businessman who worked for the East India Company in Canton, where he bought the work which shows what the port looked like around 1772, when it was painted.

At that time, Canton was the only Chinese port where, thanks to a decree by the Emperor Qing Qianlong, trade was permitted with the West.

In the painting, from right to left, you can see the flags of various nations that were doing business in Canton at the time: Holland, Great Britain, Sweden, France and Denmark.

In the foreground, you can see fishermen, merchants of various nationalities, sailors and officers.

In the port and on the sea are various types of craft, from small Chinese junks to large foreign ships.

The buildings in the background show a blend of Eastern and Western architectural styles.

On the whole, the painting offers a unique snapshot of this part of the world at the time.

 

In the gallery, you’ll also find objects linked to Hong Kong’s recent past, such as photographs illustrating the crisis the city went through during the Second World War when it was occupied by the Japanese, and the new lease on life that maritime trade enjoyed after the war.

 

An interesting fact: from 1897, the British Navy ship H.M.S. Tamar, which was launched in 1863, carried out its services in Victoria Harbor. After a glorious career, it was sunk by the British in December 1941 to avoid having to surrender it to the Japanese.

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