We love our milk tea and egg tarts here in the mighty Kong, so it only seems right that after seven years of intensive research, the government has added them to UNESCO’s catalogue of Intangible Cultural Heritage. As much as we pride ourselves on being culturally aware here at Localiiz, scrolling this lengthy list of 530 items made it clear that there are countless traditions that have slipped beneath our radar. In an attempt to educate ourselves, and you too, we’ve broken it down into the customs we know and love, and those we’ve never heard of.
Knowledge and Practices Concerning Nature and the Universe
Photo Credit: Emily Orpin
There’s a wide variety of teas on offer in Hong Kong claiming to have multiple uses, from quenching thirst to aiding digestion and fixing colds, sore throats, acne, bad breath and even liver disease. Traditionally sold at specialised teashops, which can still be found all over Hong Kong today, each variety is manufactured individually onsite using trade secret prescriptions. If you somehow fail to find a tea shop on every corner, hunt them down here.
Traditional Jade Stone Knowledge
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Jade markets are extremely popular in Hong Kong, and auctions regularly take place across the city. Today, Jade craftsmen and traders have developed extensive knowledge about the formation, structure, texture and proper selection of the stone. Check out the jade market at the junction of Kansu Street and Battery Street (Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon) or the shops on Hollywood Road and Cat Street.
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Egg tarts today have two main types of crust, short crust pastry or puff pastry, and are traditionally made with lard rather than butter. So they’re not particularly healthy, but they are totally irresistible. Tai Cheong Bakery (35 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central) is widely considered to be the best for short crust tarts, while Honolulu (176-178 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai) is renowned for their flakey pastry version.
Hong Kong Style Milk Tea Making Technique
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Most local Hong Kong restaurants serve milk tea, with perhaps the most famous being Cheung Hing Coffee Shop (9 Yik Yam St, Happy Valley).
Seal Carving technique
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They are usually made square and hold the imprint of the office rather than the names of the owners. Produced by specialist seal carvers or by the users themselves, the stamps are chiseled and carved to perfection.
Oral Traditions and Expressions
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As education became more available post war, the Hakka people ventured into different career paths and began to move into urban areas of Hong Kong and overseas. However, Cantonese became more prevalent, and the number of people who still speak Hakka Chinese in Hong Kong is diminishing quickly. Some Hakka villages still remain in areas such as Sheung Shui, Tai Po and Sha Tin.
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While there are many overlaps with Mandarin, the two languages differ widely in terms of pronunciation, grammar and lexica. Like Mandarin though, the language is extremely tonal, boasting nine in total.
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Hong Kong culture uses the single-horned Chinese Southern Lion, whose legend stems from the mythical monster, Dian. During Chinese New Year, the lions perform ‘Cai Qing’, meaning ‘plucking the greens’. Auspicious green vegetables, usually lettuce, are hung on poles and above doorframes for the Lion to eat (and spit out) as a symbol of good luck.
Want to see one of these? Just head for the racket during the next Chinese festival.
Photo Credit: Flickr User Alcuin Lai
On deities’ birthdays or the Jiao Festival, Cantonese Opera troupes are hired to appease gods by performing in temporary bamboo sheds. Today, there is a dwindling number of Cantonese opera troupes left to preserve the art. Hoping to catch a show? Look no further than The Cantonese Opera Advancement Association for free and ticketed options.
Puppetry – Shadow Puppetry
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Wu was so impressed he created the concept of shadow theatre. The puppets are usually made out of leather, are moved on sticks and used to depict fairy tales and myths. Want to learn the true art of shadow puppetry? The Hong Kong Puppet and Shadow Art Center in Shek Kip Mei offers several different courses that might suit your fancy. Check them out here.
Engor (Dance of Heroes)
Engor, or the Yingge Dance, is known as the ‘Dance of Heroes’. A Chinese war ritual originating from the Ming Dynasty, it’s popular in the Teochew region of Guangdong.
Social Practices, Rituals and Festive Events
Dragon Boat Festival
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Dragon Boat festivities go on all over Hong Kong, but make sure you head to Stanley Beach on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month to see it in full swing!
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If you’re looking to celebrate this year, head over to the Hindu Temple in Happy Valley. There are also often banquets and balls held for the occasion.
Hua Yue Xin Yi Liu He Ba Fa Chuan (Six Harmonies, Eight Methods Boxing)
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A form of internal Chinese martial arts, the exercise denotes that one body is built with six harmonies, and eight methods are used to maintain it. It is said that through the practice of Hua Yue Xin Yi Liu He Ba Fa Chuan, overall health and strength will improve.
Photo Credit: Laughing Squid
While the main material is sugar, these pieces of art are (sadly) not made for eating. Stalls should be set up during yearly festivals in Victoria Park and the like, but if you’re hankering to see how these fantastic pieces are made, take a look at this video:
So there you have, it a few of the weird and wonderful Hong Kong customs earmarked for urgent cultural preservation before they’re lost from the Fragrant Harbour forever. If you made it this far and you’re still hungry for more, read the brief descriptions of all 530 cultural entities, click here.