1901. People & boats along the new Praya

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 21:09

There are several stories to be told in this photo.

Let's place it first. The printed description is:

3703 On the Praya, (Water-front) Harbor of Hong Kong, China.
Copyright 1901 By H. C. White Co.

The Praya ran along the recently completed central reclamation. Today we know it as Connaught Road. The road in the foreground heads off to the left, but we can see it bends back to the right again by the line of the building in the distance. That bend was at the junction with Pedder Street, so I'd place the people in the foreground on Connaught Road near the junction with Ice House Street.

The chinese people in the foreground are from several different groups. On the left is a young child in a grubby top and no trousers, being hurried along by mum.

Fourth from the right is someone from a different class altogether, as he's the only person among this group to be wearing any shoes. Is he late for something? Both he and his friend on the right have worried looks on their faces.

Next come a group of children gazing intently at a hawker's wares. Any idea what he might be selling?

This photo was taken before the 1911 revolution in China, so the shaved front head and pigtail (queue) is the standard hairstyle for men. At first glance it looks like the two adult men in the photo don't have a queue, but if you zoom in (it's easier to see on the man in the light-coloured shirt), you can see it's wrapped around his head.

The other item of dress I find curious is the straps under the feet of the ladies on the right. On the left lady it looks as though the strap comes from the end of the trousers, but the lady on the right it seems to be a separate piece of clothing, that she has worked it forwards til it is just under her toes. Any idea what they were for?

Not a bound foot in sight, luckily for them.

Let's move back to the middle distance. To the left of the trouserless child we can see some solid-looking stone blocks. These are the start of Blake Pier, which had just opened the previous year. No sign of any cover on it yet, not even a temporary matshed structure.

Moving right along the pier we see a Sikh man with his turban. Was he a policeman, there to say who could or couldn't use the pier? Then just to the right is a group of men in peaked caps. The one on the left looks to have the stripes of a non-commissioned officer on his arm. Out at the very right of the photo is a man leaning in a very leisurely style - waiting for a boat to collect him, or just admiring the view?

Behind the pier is a jumble of masts and funnels. Does anyone recognise any of them?

Finally, there's just one lonely building on the left of the photo, though there's a mass of bamboo next to it that show the next buildings are already under construction. Looking at other photos of the time, I think this building stood on the south-west corner of Douglas Street and Connaught Rd.

Comments & corrections welcome!

Regards, David

PS This image comes from a stereoview card of the time, that would have been sold to tourists, and armchair-travellers overseas. The other printing on the card is:

The "PERFEC (sic) STEREOGRAPH" (Trade Mark)
Patented April 14, 1903. Other Patents Pending.

H.C. WHITE CO., Gen'l Offices N. Bennington, Vt., U.S.A.
Branch offices: New York, Chicago, London.

Reference: A08

Date picture taken


I think this would make a good project for a local school creative writing class.  We tell the bits we know, and they make up the story.

The lone building in the photo is interesting.

I am not sure whether it stood on the former Praya which is today's Des Voeux Rd Central or the reclaimed area in the 1900s.

Would it be this building which is the third from the right of the Hong Kong Hotel on the old Praya. Any suggestions?

1900 Praya Central Buildings

Annelise, that's an interesting idea. If you get anyone to bite, I hope they'll let us see their finished stories.

Moddsey, I think the fact it's a sole building makes Connaught Rd more likely. If you look at the angle of its facade, then if it were back on Des Voeux Rd we'd be able to see the other buildings along that road, stretching off to the right.

This photo is dated around 1923 as the P & O Building next to the GPO was being built. It was completed in 1924.

The bend in the Praya can be seen. The lone building would probably be the light coloured building in the centre.

1923 Connaught Rd Central looking west







From the harbour circa 1925

1924 View of Hong Kong from the harbour