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Behind the Name: Temple Street

By Celia Lee 5 October 2023

Header image courtesy of Florian Wehde (via Unsplash)

If you already know all about Hong Kong’s major landmarks, you will be interested to learn that the vibrant history of the city is often hidden in plain sight, surrounded by high-rises interspersed with traffic-packed streets.

With the best-kept historical secrets woven into the fabric of everyday life, location names are a big part of our rich cultural landscape, revealing some of the most interesting aspects of the past. From local pirates to a royal visit, our “Behind the Name” series explores a whole host of places in Hong Kong with fascinating stories behind their names.

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Photo: Chapman Chow (via Unsplash)

Temple Street (廟街)

One of the most iconic cultural remnants of old Hong Kong, Temple Street offers an unexpected glimpse into a colourful aspect of daily life in the 1980s. 

Recorded on British maps as early as 1887, with a Tin Hau temple located in the middle, Temple Street was originally split into two (rather intuitive) sections: north of the temple was named Temple North Street (廟北街; miu6 bak1 gaai1) and south of the temple was known as Temple South Street (廟南街; miu6 naam4 gaai1). If the meaning of Temple Street’s name sounds straightforward enough, you might be surprised to know that it actually reveals very little of the road’s cultural importance.

Dubbed the “nightclub of the people” (平民夜總會; ping4 man4 je6 zung2 wui2), Temple Street in the 1980s was a vibrant market offering affordable goods, classic street snacks, and plenty of entertainment such as mahjong and street karaoke for the working population of Hong Kong. An extension of the localised “big event space” phenomena in Hong Kong that began with its predecessor, the Sheung Wan Big Event Space (上環大笪地; soeng5 waan4 daai6 daat3 dei6)—which boasted similar offerings of market goods, food, and down-to-earth entertainment—Temple Street was the place to be!

Photo: Richard Lu (via Unsplash)
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Celia Lee

Staff writer

Born and raised in Hong Kong and educated in the UK, Celia is passionate about culture, food, and different happenings in the city. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her scouting for new and trendy restaurants, getting lost in a bookstore, or baking up a storm at home.