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Hong Kong Heritage - A Look Back

The special blend of East and West gives Hong Kong a unique heritage and cultural identity. 

Called “Fragrant Harbour” in Cantonese because of the sandalwood incense sellers once common along its docks, Hong Kong Island was dismissed as a “barren rock” some 170 years ago by Lord Palmerston, then British Foreign Secretary. The island was ceded to Britain in 1842 and, within 60 years, Kowloon, the New Territories and the Outlying Islands were also leased to Britain.

Hong Kong’s history before the arrival of the British was a story of clans, pirates and traders. More than 100 archaeological sites attest to human habitation dating back to at least the late Stone Age. 

In the tumultuous years since then, this “barren rock” has been transformed from a sleepy collection of 20 or so villages into a dynamic metropolis of gleaming skyscrapers that form one of the world’s most iconic skylines and reflect Hong Kong’s status as “Asia’s world city”. 

Hong Kong has more than 110 declared monuments and nearly 1 000 buildings have been earmarked for preservation. The Antiquities and Monuments Office works to protect, conserve and revitalise Hong Kong’s historical and heritage sites and buildings.

Last revision date: Feb 11, 2021