Free history lecture on Friday | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Free history lecture on Friday

This week's RAS lecture is free to attend, and looks interesting:

Signs of a Colonial Past - Hong Kong Street Names from the Nullah to the Praya and Everything in Between
City Hall • Friday 10 September

Have you wondered why a street has a certain name or who it was named after? As a former British Crown Colony, many roads, streets, schools, hospitals and other public buildings in Hong Kong are named after British royalty, ministers, governors, colonial secretaries, military officers, and prominent businessmen (though most of the early businessmen made their fortunes trading opium rather than more honourable businesses). Generally, and for historical reasons, British colonial influence on the names of streets and buildings is most evident on Hong Kong Island, somewhat less so
in Kowloon, and much less so in the New Territories and Outlying Islands.

Mr Gillis Heller will speak to us about the creation of street names within Hong Kong, both English and Chinese. Mr Heller and his uncle Mr Andrew Yanne are co-authors of the book Signs of a Colonial Era, published by HKUP. He will talk about street names written in Chinese which should always have a "good meaning" such as longevity or good fortune, and must not sound like some other bad or impolite words.

For example, Chinese would not use 渠溝 or 陰溝 meaning drain or ditch for the surname of David Trench, the 24th Governor. Stubbs Road, named after Sir Reginald Stubbs, the 16th Governor, was originally transliterated as 史塔士道 sí taap sih douh without ever considering the meaning of these words. But
later that was changed to 司徒拔道 because 史塔 and 屎塔 are pronounced the same in Cantonese, and 屎塔 is a container or drum used for holding human waste. This was therefore considered not elegant.

There are many instances where the Chinese name for a street is not the same as the Chinese name historically adopted by early government officials or other figures.

Mr Gillis Heller lives in Hong Kong but Seattle, Washington is his homeland. His father is a third generation American, German-British and his mother was Hong Kong Chinese. Visits from his "exotic" relatives from Hong Kong and, even more dramatic, some long visits peaked his interest in Hong Kong. He is a long-time resident of Hong Kong, a lawyer for a public company, with a keen interest in Hong Kong history. Mr Andrew Yanne is his mother’s younger brother.

Speaker: Mr Gillis Heller
Date/Time: Friday, 10 September 2010, 6.30 pm
Venue: City Hall High Block 8, Central
Booking: There is no cost for this talk and no booking is required