1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hong-Kong

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See also Hong Kong and British Hong Kong on Wikipedia; Hong-Kong in the 9th Edition; and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer.
For a map, see the article on Hong-Kong in the 9th Edition.

HONG-KONG (properly Hiang-Kiang, the place of "sweet lagoons"), an important British island-possession, situated off the south-east coast of China, opposite the province of Kwang-tung, on the east side of the estuary of the Si-kiang, 38 m. E. of Macao and 75 S.E. of Canton, between 22° 9′ and 22° 1′ N., and 114° 5′ and 114° 18′ E. It is one of a small cluster named by the Portuguese “Ladrones” or Thieves, on account of the notorious habits of their old inhabitants. Extremely irregular in outline, it has an area of 29 sq. m., measuring 101/2 m. in extreme length from N.E. to S.W., and varying in breadth from 2 to 5 m. A good military road about 22 m. long encircles the island. From the mainland it is separated by a narrow channel, which at Hong-Kong roads, between Victoria, the island capital), and Kowloon Point, is about 1 m. broad, and which narrows at Ly-ee-mun Pass to little over a 1/4 m. The southern coast in particular is deeply indented; and there two bold peninsulas, extending for several miles into the sea, form two capacious natural harbours, namely, Deep Water Bay, with the village of Stanley to the east, and Tytam Bay, which has a safe, well-protected entrance showing a depth of 10 to 16 fathoms. An in-shore island on the west coast, called Aberdeen, or Taplishan, affords protection to the Shekpywan or Aberdeen harbour, an inlet provided with a granite graving dock, the caisson gate of which is 60 ft. wide, and the Hope dock, opened in 1867, with a length of 425 ft. and a depth of 24 ft. Opposite the same part of the coast, but nearly 2 m. distant, rises the largest of the surrounding islands, Lamma, whose conspicuous peak, Mount Stenhouse, attains a height of 1140 ft. and is a landmark for local navigation. On the northern shore of Hong-Kong there is a patent slip at East or Matheson Point, which is serviceable during the north-east monsoon, when sailing vessels frequently approach Victoria through the Ly-ee-mun Pass. The ordinary course for such vessels is from the westward, on which side they are sheltered by Green Island and Kellett Bank. There is good anchorage throughout the entire channel separating the island from the mainland, except in the Ly-ee-mun Pass, where the water is deep, the best anchorage is in Hong-Kong roads, in front of Victoria, where, over good holding ground, the depth is 5 to 9 fathoms. The inner anchorage of Victoria Bay, about 1/2 m. off shore and out of the strength of the tide, is 6 to 7 fathoms. Victoria, the seat of government and of trade, is the chief centre of population, but a tract on the mainland is covered with public buildings and villa residences. Practically an outlying suburb of Victoria, Kowloon or (Nine Dragons) is free from the extreme heat of the capital, being exposed to the south-west monsoon. Numerous villas have also been erected along the beautiful western coast of the island, while Stanley, in the south, is favoured as a watering-place.

The island is mountainous throughout, the low granite ridges, parted by bleak, tortuous valleys, leaving in some places a narrow strip of level coast-land, and in others overhanging the sea in lofty precipices. From the sea, and especially from the magnificent harbour which faces the capital, the general aspect of Hong-kong is one of singular beauty. Inland the prospect is wild, dreary and monotonous. The hills have a painfully bare appearance from the want of trees. The streams, which are plentiful, are traced through the uplands and glens by a line of straggling brushwood and rank herbage. Nowhere is the eye relieved by the evidences of cultivation or fertility. The hills, which are mainly composed of granite, serpentine and syenite, rise in irregular masses to considerable heights, the loftiest point, Victoria Peak, reaching an altitude of 1825 ft. The Peak lies immediately to the south-west of the capital, in the extreme north-west corner of the island, and is used as a station for signalling the approach of vessels. Patches of land, chiefly around the coast, have been laid under rice, sweet potatoes and yams, but the island is hardly able to raise a home-supply of vegetables. The mango, lichen, pear and orange are indigenous, and several fruits and esculents have been introduced. One of the chief products is building-stone, which is quarried by the Chinese. The animals are few, comprising a land tortoise, the armadillo, a species of boa, several poisonous snakes and some woodcock. The public works suffer from the ravages of white ants. Water everywhere abounds, and is supplied to the shipping by means of tanks.

Under the Peking Treaty of 1860 the peninsula of Kowloon (about 5 m. in area) was added to Hong-Kong. The population is about 27,000. There are several docks and warehouses, and manufactures are being developed. Granite is quarried in the peninsula. An agreement was entered into in 1898 whereby China leased to Great Britain for ninety-nine years the territory behind Kowloon peninsula up to a line drawn from Mirs Bay to Deep Bay and the adjoining islands, including Lantao. The new district, which extends to 376 sq. m. in area, is mountainous, with extensive cultivated valleys of great fertility, and the coast-line is deeply indented by bays. The alluvial soil of the valleys yields two crops of rice in the year. Sugar-cane, indigo, hemp, peanuts, potatoes of different varieties, yam, taro, beans, sesamum, pumpkins and vegetables of all kinds are also grown. The mineral resources are as yet unknown. The population is estimated at about 100,000. It consists of Puntis (or Cantonese), Hakkas (“strangers”) and Tankas. The Puntis are agricultural and inhabit the valleys, and they make excellent traders. The Hakkas are a hardy and frugal race, belonging mainly to the hill districts. The Tankas are the boat people or floating population. In the government of the new territory the existing organization is as far as possible utilized.

Hong-Kong or Victoria harbour constantly presents an animated appearance, as many as 240 guns having been fired as salutes in a single day. Its approaches are strongly fortified. The steaming distance from Singapore is 1520 m. Victoria, the capital, often spoken of as Hong-Kong (population over 166,000, of whom about 6000 are European or American), stretches for about 4 m. along the north coast. Its breadth varies from 1/2 m in the central portions to 200 or 300 yds. in the eastern and western portions. The town is built in three layers. The “Praya” or esplanade, 50 ft. wide, is given up to shipping. The Praya reclamation scheme provided for the extension of the land frontage of 250 ft. and a depth of 20 ft. at all states of the tide. A further extension of the naval dockyard was begun in 1902, and a new commercial pier was opened in 1900. The main commercial street runs inland parallel with the Praya. Beyond the commercial portion, on each side, lie the Chinese quarters, wherein there is a closely packed population. In 1888, 1600 people were living in the space of a single acre, and over 100,000 were believed to be living within an area not exceeding 1/2 m.; and the overcrowding does not tend to diminish, for in one district, in 1900, it was estimated that there were at the rate of 640,000 persons on the sq. m. The average, however, for the whole of the city is 126 per acre, or 80,640 per sq. m. The second stratum of the town lies ten minutes’ climb up the side of the island. Government house and other public buildings are in this quarter. There abound “beautifully laid out gardens, public and private, and solidly constructed roads, some of them bordered with bamboos and other delicately-fronded trees, and fringed with the luxuriant growth of semi-tropical vegetation.” Finally, the third layer, known as “the Peak,” and reached by a cable tramway, is dotted over with private houses and bungalows, the summer health resort of those who can afford them, here a new residence for the governor was begun in 1900. Excellent water is supplied to the town from the Pokfolum and Tytam reservoirs, the former containing 68 million gallons, the latter 300 millions.

Climate.—The temperature has a yearly range of from 45° to 99°, but it occasionally falls below 40°, and ice occurs on the Peak. In January 1893 ice was found at sea-level. The wet season begins in May, after showers in March and April, and continues until the beginning of August. During this period rain falls almost without intermission. The rainfall varies greatly, but the mean is about 90 in. In 1898 only 57·025 in. fell, while in 1897 there were 100·03 in., in 1899, 72·7 in. and in 1900, 73·7 in. The damp is extremely penetrating. During the dry season the climate is healthy, but dysentery and intermittent fever are not uncommon. Bilious remittent fever occurs in the summer months, and smallpox prevails from November to March. The annual death rate per 1000 for the whole population in 1902 was 21·70.

Population, &.—The following table shows the increase of population—

Year. Europe and
Chinese Civil Total (including
Military and Naval
Establishments and
Indians, &c.).
1881 3,040 148,850 160,402
1891 4,195 208,383 221,441
1901 3,860 274,543 283,978
1906 12,174 306,130 326,961

Education is provided by a few government schools and by a large number receiving grants-in-aid. The foundation-stone of Hong-Kong University was laid in March 1910, the buildings being the gift of Sir Hormusjee Mody, a colonial broker. The Queen’s College provides secondary education for boys. There are several hospitals, one of which is a government institution. The Hong-Kong savings bank has deposits amounting to about $1,100,000. There is a police force composed of Europeans, Indian Sikhs and Chinese, and a strong military garrison.

Industries.—Beyond the cultivation of vegetable gardens there is practically no agricultural industry in the colony. But although only 400 acres are cultivated on Hong-Kong island, and the same number of acres in Kowloon, there are 90,000 acres under cultivation in the new territory, of which over 7000 acres were in 1900 planted with sugar-cane. Granite quarries are worked. The chief industries are sugar-refining, the manufacture of cement, paper, bamboo and rattan ware, carving in wood and ivory, working in copper and iron, gold-beating and the production of gold, silver and sandal-wood ware, furniture making, umbrella and jinricksha making, and industries connected with kerosene oil and matches. The manufacture of cotton has been introduced. Ship and boat building, together with subsidiary industries, such as rope and sail making, appear less subject to periods of depression than other industries.

Trade.—Hong-Kong being a free port, there are no official figures as to the amount of trade; but the value of the exports and imports is estimated as about £50,000,000 in the year. Among the principal goods dealt with are tea, silk, opium, sugar, flax, salt, earthenware, oil, amber, cotton and cotton goods, sandal-wood, ivory, betel, vegetables, live stock and granite. There is an extensive Chinese passenger trade. The following are the figures of ships cleared and entered:—

Year. Tonnage. British.
1880  8,359,994 3,758,160
1890 13,676,293 6,994,919
1898 17,265,780 8,705,648
1902 19,709,451 8,945,976

The Chinese ships rank next to British ships in the amount of trade. German and Japanese ships follow next.

Finance.—The revenue and expenditure are given below:—

Year. Revenue. Expenditure.
1880 $1,069,948 $ 948,014
1890 1,995,220 1,915,350
1898 2,918,159 2,841,805
1902 4,901,073 4,752,444

The main sources of revenue are licences, rent of government property, the post-office and land sales. The light dues were reduced in 1898 from 21/2 cents to 1 cent per ton. There is a public debt of about £340,000, borrowed for public works, which is being paid off by a sinking fund. The only legal tender is the Mexican dollar, and the British and Hong-Kong dollar, or other silver dollars of equivalent value duly authorized by the governor. There are small silver and copper coins, which are legal tenders for amounts not exceeding two dollars and one dollar respectively. There is also a large paper currency in the form of notes issued by the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, the Hong-Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and the National Bank of China, Limited. The foundation of new law courts was laid in 1900.

Administration.—Formerly an integral part of China, the island of Hong-Kong was first ceded to Great Britain in 1841, and the cession was confirmed by the treaty of Nanking in 1842, the charter bearing the date 5th of April 1843. The colony is administered by a governor, executive council and legislative council. The executive council consists of the holders of certain offices and of such other members as the crown may nominate. In 1890 there were nine members. The legislative council consists of the same officials and of six unofficial members. Of these, three are appointed by the governor (of whom one must be, and two at present are, members of the Chinese community); one is elected from the chamber of commerce, and one from the justices of the peace.

Authorities.—Sir G. W. des Vœux, Report on Blue-book of 1888; A Handbook to Hong-Kong (Hong-Kong, 1893); The China Sea Directory (vol. iii., 3rd ed., 1894); Henry Norman, The Peoples and Politics of the Far East (London, 1895); Sir E. Hertslet, Treaties between Great Britain and China and China and Foreign Powers (London, 1896); A. R. Colquhoun, China in Transformation (London, 1898); Colonial Possessions Report, No. 84; and other Colonial Annual Reports.