Several times over the years, I’ve devoted blog posts to Asian place names which continue to fascinate me. And I’ve written here about my love for the city of Hong Kong, where I visited every chance I got during my years in the Far East. I loved the city, then under British control—it returned to Chinese jurisdiction in 1997 and has since lost its colorful character. It was the commercial capitol of Asia where I bought many of the treasures that still decorate my house.
The British colony consisted of the island of Hong Kong and its adjacent segment on the mainland named Kowloon. My linguistic spirit was fascinated by these two names, so I learned all I could about them.
The two characters for Hong Kong are
In Chinese Mandarin (the accepted national dialect), they are pronounced syang gang. That means “perfumed harbor.” The characters for Kowloon are
They mean “nine dragons.” I was unsuccessful in trying to find the Mandarin pronunciation for Kowloon or an explanation of why it is referred to as “nine dragons.”
The old days of Hong Kong are gone. The Chinese Communists have stripped the residents of their freedoms and, in the process, deprived the city of its charm. It is now just one more dull town populated by the powerless.
As much as I mourn the loss, I still have and relish my treasures from Hong Kong. A ceramic temple dog, ceramic and wooden garden seats, a large painting of a tiger, and many more prized possessions still grace my house. My memories comfort me.