Hong Kong: epilogue To An Empire

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Press:Penguin Books Ltd Penguin Books Ltd (2001)
Publication Date:2001-01-25
Author Name:Jan Morris


In its last days under British rule, the Crown Colony of Hong Kong is the world’s most exciting city, at once fascinating and exasperating, a tangle of contradictions. 
It is a dazzling amalgam of conspicuous consumption and primitive poverty, the most architecturally incongruous yet undeniably beautiful urban panorama of all.
World renowned travel writer Jan Morris offers the most insightful and comprehensive study of the enigma of Hong Kong thus far.

From Library Journal

With the benefit of extensive reading and long observation, Morris writes of Hong Kong as it nears the end of its colonial status and moves toward the "enigma of 1997," the reunification with China. 
In alternating chapters of history and analysis, Morris conveys the colony's restless energy, its drive for profit, its lighted hills, the jackhammers pounding to make new buildings.
Her prose, spiced with adjectives and apt phrases, moves easily among government officials, traders and triads, and the Chinese populace of millionaires and refugees.
This well-balanced description of Hong Kong's past andpresent ends with a perceptive chapter on the belated introduction of democracy as Britain prepares to leave the colony.
An enjoyable book that should find many readers.
Literary Guild alternate.- Elizabeth A.
Teo, Moraine Valley Community Coll.
Lib., Palos Hills, Ill.Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Combining firsthand reportage with exemplary research, Morris takes readers from Hong Kong's clamorous back alleys to the luxurious Happy Valley racecourse, where taipans place their bets between sips of champagne and bird's nest soup. 
Morris chronicles the exploits of traders, pirates, colonists, financiers, and shows how their descendants view the prospect of reunification with the Chinese mainland.
What emerges is an epic tableau, vastly informed and pungently evocative.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jan Morris was born in 1926 of a Welsh father and an English mother, and when she is not travelling she lives with her partner Elizabeth Morris in the top left-hand corner of Wales, between the mountains and the sea. 
Her books include Coronation Everest, Venice, The Pax Britannica Trilogy (Heaven's Command, Pax Britannica, and Farewell the Trumpets), and Conundrum.
She is also the author of six books about cities and countries, two autobiographical books, several volumes of collected travel essays and the unclassifiable Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere.
A Writer's World, a collection of her travel writing and reportage from over five decades, was published in 2003.
Hav, her novel, was published in a new and expanded form in 2006.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

This is a charming travel book about past and present-day Hong Kong, the last of England's Crown Colonies. 
Nadia May does an entertaining reading, with the right notes of irony and bewilderment at the oddities of this giant city.
Her English accent goes perfectly with Morris's English style and humor.
The text itself is designed to entertain, as well as inform, and works well in the audio format.
The book may be of special interest because the last chapter deals with the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997.
(c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.



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Comment List (Total:11)

  •     In this book, Jan Morris accounts Hong Kong's past and present concisely. This is a product of Jan Morris' accumulated years of intelligent perception and understanding of Hong...
  •     First of all, I greatly enjoyed this classic. Jan Morris is one of the English world's greatest travel writers and this book is a tour de force.
  •     Another recent re-reading of this excellent historical portrait led to this review, but it was also stimulated by another review in which the reader complains of Ms Morris as reflecting a `western perspective'. Given that the Hong Kong of which Jan Morris writes was created by Westerners, from a declining pearl of the East, and that those same creators returned the territory and its teeming millions back to the East in an unprecedented action for a former Empire, a `western perspective' would seem to me to be perfectly valid.Indeed, quoting Frank Ching, a noted Hong Kong author, from his own review of the book in the New York Times (1989); "She approaches the subject of Hong Kong as a student of British imperialism" and notes that she does a superb job.For decades Hong Kong was not only a refuge for `mainland' Chinese but a destination that encourage the growth of a true Chinese middle and educated class that now inherits that `western' imperialistic generated wealth and relative democracy. Our `western' concerns and doubts of this, the first hand-over of free millions to a Communist regime, are not yet stilled and Jan Morris in her excellent book, outlines the historical roots that will eventually confirm the reality of the new `eastern" Hong Kong.
  •     Outdated, tedious, inaccurate, romantic drivel. If you think this is a useful guide for a visitor or resident of Hong Kong, it is not
  •     Two lions made of bronze guard the entrance of the old Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building on the Bund in Shanghai. One looks cross, the other one snarls.
  •     At least one of the reviewers on this list was unkind about the book, but I think it only fails, in the manner that all single-volume histories do, by trying to cover so much in...
  •     At least one of the reviewers on this list was unkind about the book, but I think it only fails, in the manner that all single-volume histories do, by trying to cover so much in...
  •     I read and re-read this book over and over again while living in Hong Kong in the late nineteen nineties, both before and after the end of British rule.I found it both an absorbing, exciting read, and a useful practical guide - I explored many parts of Hong Kong after first reading about them in this book - for example, some of the more remote peaks of the New Territories where there are wonderful hiking trails set up in British days, full of beauty and history (they are Hong Kong's best kept secret - the only antitidote for the city's overcrowding). Also, the author's description of the ceaseless (aargh!) jack-hammering in urban areas is almost poetic (every expat's nightmare).Her description of Western expatriate life is informative and amusing - and accurate - some expats resent this kind of blunt description! Her account of the Chinese population must not be missed as she goes into great detail of the sad and poignant refugee movement that sent millions of Chinese fleeing into Hong Kong from mainland China to become the city's residents of today - if you are going to Hong Kong (or are simply interested), do take this book along, as the refugee status of the population is a very painful subject (understandably) for Hong Kong Chinese and you will here little about it in post - handover Hong Kong, but an essential element in understanding how the place ticks.Like many wonderful, accurate books about Hong Kong (Timothy Mo's the Monkey King; Paul Theroux's Kowloon Tong - read those if you like this one), Jan Morris's Hong Kong can be a painful read for some - Hong Kong's sad history of insecurity ensures that. But the detached reader, with this book, is in for a truly enjoyable experience that will be both a wealth of information and insight. Cracking good prose, too. UK edition is updated to 1997.
  •     While the book gave me a great history of the former British Colony it was written before the turnover to China. Great review of the power-brokers of Hong Kong, however it left me with a desire to know more about what has transpired since 1997. I suppose the rating I gave Jan Morris' book was due simple to this fact. I hope someone extends on what she has written and bring those of us interested up to date on the new role Hong Kong has in the world and China's dealing with this financial center of the world. It saddens me to think that in 2047 China will probably have destroyed the ambiance of this wonderful city. However, I will not be against Hong Kong people. Going fast now is the Cantonese language that is being replace with Mandarin.
  •     This well-written and well-researched book is a fascinating introduction for those looking to get a feel for the history and dynamic of Hong Kong, its people and its historical rulers. This is not strictly a history book, nor is it a guidebook. Instead, Morris has woven together a story of a colony together with a writer's journal, laced with historical anecdotes and relevant passages from other writers and historians who have recorded their obersvations of Hong Kong over the course of its relatively short history. Morris does an excellent job of explaining how the demographics of Hong Kong evolved and continue to evolve, how an unlikely cast of characters landed on a once unwanted island and created a thriving port and city-state, and what the post-1997 future may bring to the former British colony. While Morris' account of Hong Kong's past, present and near future is extremely insightful, the book does have certain limitations. This is clearly a view of Hong Kong through the eyes of a European. Insightful as Morris may be, this perspective inevitably will have holes, as Europeans make up only a tiny fraction of Hong Kong's current population and lead a much different lifestyle than the other inhabitants. To give one example of such limitation, the experience of Filipinos, who make up the largest non-Chinese group currently living in Hong Kong and dominate the scene as domestic helpers and laborers in certain other low-wage fields, is described on portions of only two pages. Morris merely scratches the surface of one of the more complex storylines of Hong Kong. Still, while Morris is not able to present a Chinese (or Filipino) perspective of Hong Kong, the reader can see that Morris is intellectually honest and is aware of the limitations. Overall, the author stays within its boundaries, which makes for a tightly- written book that transitions well throughout. What Morris is able to bring to life so well is the conflict and coexistence of the English and the Chinese and how the colonial culture continues as an undercurrent (however fading) in every aspect of life in Hong Kong. Morris' account of Hong Kong is likely to stand the test of time and continue to be referred to as a "classic" for years to come.
  •     If lace doilies could read, they'd love Jan Morris. Yes, she's a facile writer. Her sentences are at once both sinewy and elegant, and her book is rich with detail.

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