Tropical Geography ›› 2019, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (6): 880-888.

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Hong Kong’s Cultural Identity from a Literary Geography Perspective

Zhang Lingyu1, Ye Haowei2a, An Ning2()   

  1. 1. School of Geographical Sciences, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China
    2. a. Center for Human Geography and Urban Development, School of Geographical Sciences; b. Guangdong Provincial Research Institute for Urban and Migration Studies, Guangzhou 510006, China
  • Received:2019-08-30 Revised:2019-10-23 Online:2019-11-10 Published:2019-12-26
  • Contact: An Ning


Based on textual and archive analysis methods and a literary geography analytical framework and research paradigm, this study analyzed the three most popular and widely recognized literary works during the 1970s and transitional and post-colonial periods in Hong Kong. The geographical and spatial imaginations, character activities, and local culture reproduced in the three spatial dimensions of “local,” “national,” and “global” were deconstructed. In addition, the hidden cultural identity and identity consciousness behind the three works was investigated. The study found that because of constant changes in Hong Kong’s social history and cultural background, its cultural identity and identity consciousness is constantly being reshaped. Through textual analysis, we found that the earliest budding of cultural and spatial identity in Hong Kong literature is local consciousness. Xixi’s literary work “My City” is considered the initial work on local consciousness, which outlines a strong local consciousness, at the spatial scale, of a “city” in the gap between the British Hong Kong government and the home that cannot be returned. Second, in the context of China's recognition of Hong Kong’s sovereignty, the literary work “Revolving Doll’s Journey”, a representative work on the return theme, profoundly portrays the identity confusion among the people of Hong Kong during the process of upscaling their identity. Finally, Yesi’s literary work “Post-colonial Food and Love”, which tells the story of Hong Kong after the return through food as a storyline, provides the audience a detailed observation of Hong Kong society under a mixed post-colonial culture. Through an analysis of these three literary works, we found that Hong Kong realized an awakening of local identity consciousness during colonial rule and a sense of belonging to Chinese culture, discomfort with the upscale in identity consciousness during the transitional stage, and multiculturalism after the return. This progression not only achieved an upscaling of identity from local to national, and then to globalization, but also created a three-fold cultural identity with continuous negotiation and conflict among Chinese, Western, and local cultures in Hong Kong. Notably, Hong Kong’s cultural identity is not a linear development process from local to national to globalization, but, in contrast, it is in constant change and negotiation among the three elements whose emphasis is different during each historical period from the 1970s to 1980s. In addition, the cultural identity of these levels is neither completely exclusive nor mutually consistent. There is the possibility of both conflict and collusion. Most importantly, through discussion based on literary geography, we found that such cultural identity and identity consciousness not only belongs to a certain group but is also present throughout Hong Kong society. This result not only reflects the novel authors’ observations on Hong Kong society, but to some extent also the cultural identity and identity problems faced by society.

Key words: cultural identity, identity consciousness, Hong Kong, literary geography, text analysis

CLC Number: 

  • K901.6