Hong Kong: Cultural revolutions of the past brought to life

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The Independent Travel

The traditional view is that Hong Kong was nothing but a barren pile of rocks until the British arrived during the 1840s to turn it into what it is today.

The traditional view is that Hong Kong was nothing but a barren pile of rocks until the British arrived during the 1840s to turn it into what it is today. "Hong Kong Story" exhibition at the Museum of History sets out to put the record straight.

The permanent exhibition has been six years in the making, and is housed in a new building constructed at a cost of HK$390m (£36.8m). It starts with the Devonian Period 400 million years ago and ends with the handover to China in 1997.

Rather than being a traditional set of dusty exhibits in glass display cases, it is designed as a series of reconstructions. You can walk back in time through a 6,000-year-old jungle, climb aboard a junk, witness a Punti marriage procession, enter a shop from the 1940s and wander around a fort.

Chinese culture is explored through the traditions of the peoples who lived in Hong Kong long before the British arrival. There is a reconstruction of the Hoklo people making salt and a Hakka peasant family's house, showing the frugal living conditions. The biggest display in this area is a reconstruction of the Bun Festival held annually on Cheung Chau Island.

The British arrival is shown in a film in the reconstructed Bogue Fort which outlines the history of the Opium Wars and the Cession of Hong Kong (see box, right). The Bogue forts were used by Qing soldiers during the First Opium War.

Dim lighting is used in the 1930s street scene which shows how the city had grown, complete with double-decker tram. There is a variety of shops including a herbalist, Canton tea house, post office, pawnshop and bank. As you walk down the street, there are sounds of tramcars, carts and shopkeepers.

The gallery illustrating the Japanese Occupation of 1941-45 is designed as a dark air-raid shelter. This does not rely on reconstructions, but uses photographs, letters, uniforms and weapons to illustrate what life was like. You can even see the table at which the peace treaty was signed.

Hong Kong's boom years after the war, and its development into a modern metropolis are the focus of the last gallery. There is a reconstruction of a typical flat of the early resettlement area, which shows the cramped conditions in which people had to live. There is a also a great display of industrial products with the "Made in Hong Kong" stamp. The exhibition finishes with a look at the Handover Ceremony in 1997.

Hong Kong Museum of History, 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. 10am-6pm daily. Closed on Tuesdays. Admission: HK$10 (£1). Free admission on Wednesdays. Tel: 00 852 2724 9042. www.lcsd.gov.hk/hkmh

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