Hong Kong - Fragrant Harbour

Discover a Hong Kong before the tide of modernity swept all before it, a land of striking contrasts where old and new, European and Chinese shared a crowded island.

Hong Kong before the skyscraper: it's barely possible to imagine today. But this collection of films shows island life before the steel-and-glass towers and the elevated expressways, when Hong Kong and the neighbouring New Territories were still parts of a rugged but rapidly developing outpost of the British Empire. Visit the genteel colonial centre, including the long-gone Hong Kong Club; explore the waterfront streets around Wan Chai and Causeway Bay, before the major land reclamations of the 60s and 70s pushed them inland. A few select landmarks in the footage can still be seen today, notably Aberdeen Bay, the Peak Tram and Victoria Harbour. But what these films preserve is a largely lost Hong Kong, a city whose recent past is vanishing and whose ever-shifting landscape is fading from recognition. The films are rich in contrasts. Traditional Duanwu Festival dragon-boat racing share the waters with Royal Navy warships enjoying the interwar calm. While peasant farmers bend their backs in the New Territories paddy fields, expat Brits tour the colony in motorcars. As today's Hong Kong faces yet more uncertainty and change, these films highlight a very different time on the crowded island where East met West.

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Kung Hei Fat Choy - A Happy New YearKung Hei Fat Choy - A Happy New Year

Amateur film193712 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

Excitement fills the air as Hong Kong steps out to party.

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A Gate of ChinaA Gate of China

Documentary19279 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

Staggering views of 1920s Hong Kong capture the contradictory cocktail of East meets West on this outpost island.

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Hong Kong East Meets WestHong Kong East Meets West

Documentary194024 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

This intimate study of Hong Kong explores the life and landscape of the former British colony in exquisite detail.

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Dragon Boat Racing Hong Kong c.1937Dragon Boat Racing Hong Kong c.1937

Amateur film19375 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

Get close to the action with this high-octane footage of a traditional Chinese water sport.

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Coronation Hong Kong 1937Coronation Hong Kong 1937

Amateur film193710 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

Street carnivals and military processions – a home movie record of Hong Kong’s celebrations as George VI is crowned.

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Hong Kong c.1938Hong Kong c.1938

Amateur film193817 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

The daily grind for Hong Kong dockers and farmers, captured by an amateur filmmaker.

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Rice Cultivation New Territories 1938/9Rice Cultivation New Territories 1938/9

Amateur film193810 minsSilent Location: New Territories

A study of Chinese peasant labour in the paddy fields of the New Territories, north of Hong Kong Island.

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Typhoon Hong Kong September 1937Typhoon Hong Kong September 1937

Amateur film19378 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

Poignant amateur footage records the aftermath of one of the worst typhoons in Hong Kong's history.

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Hong Kong HappeningsHong Kong Happenings

Home movie193513 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

Striking snapshots of life in a colonial outpost in the 1930s.

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My Oriental Friends, From Penang to PekingMy Oriental Friends, From Penang to Peking

Amateur film192316 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

This unique and beautiful tour of Southeast Asia and China is a treasure trove of picturesque views of Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.

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A Drive Round the Island of Hong Kong A Drive Round the Island of Hong Kong

Home movie193518 minsSilent Location: Aberdeen

Join a group of ex-pats on a tour around Hong Kong, long before it became defined by its skyscraper skyline.

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The Streets of Hong Kong - Wintertime 1936The Streets of Hong Kong - Wintertime 1936

Amateur film193817 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

Christmas decorations jostle for attention among thousands of street signs in this amateur exploration of Hong Kong Island’s busy streets.

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Hong Kong Happenings Part 2Hong Kong Happenings Part 2

Amateur film19379 minsSilent Location: Lai Chi Kok

Scenes of typhoon-torn Hong Kong captured by a local resident.

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Around the New Territories - Hong KongAround the New Territories - Hong Kong

Amateur film193814 minsSilent Location: Tai Po Road

The famous island is only part of Hong Kong, as this intrepid amateur explorer-cum-filmmaker reveals in this intriguing travelogue.

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Scenes in 1920s Hong KongScenes in 1920s Hong Kong

Amateur film19294 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

A fascinating film about expat life in Hong Kong; featuring amazing views of open countryside, a steeplechase and frolics on the beach at Repulse Bay.

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Trip to Guandong aboard the Lion steamer with friendsTrip to Guandong aboard the Lion steamer with friends

Amateur film19294 minsSilent Location: Guangzhou

We’re all aboard the steamer Lion, cruising towards the bustling city of Guanzhou. We also see Chinese workers in traditional headgear toiling in the scorching countryside.

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Cine Snapshots - 1937Cine Snapshots - 1937

Amateur film193732 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

Vivid views of pre-war Hong Kong.

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Cine Snapshots - 1938Cine Snapshots - 1938

Amateur film19379 minsSilent Location: Hong Kong

Beautiful and engaging amateur footage of a lively 1930s Hong Kong.

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At Home in Shanghai and a Trip to Hong KongAt Home in Shanghai and a Trip to Hong Kong

Amateur film19284 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Chinese junks and British battleships appear together in this film depicting the 1928 Armistice Day in Hong Kong.

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Outward Bound through the Suez Canal and on to ShanghaiOutward Bound through the Suez Canal and on to Shanghai

Amateur film193810 minsSilent Location: Shanghai

Travel in luxury on the 'slow boat to China' in this remarkable film from 1938, passing through the Suez Canal to Hong Kong, Shanghai and beyond.