Exhibition reveals changes in popular local entertainment
An exhibition of photographs and artefacts that depict the development of Hong Kong over the past 100 years through its popular entertainment is on show at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum until February 26, next year.
Jointly organised by the Heritage Museum and the Department of History of the Hong Kong Baptist University, the exhibition, "Hong Kong's Popular Entertainment" draws on the collections of the museum and of public and private organisations and collectors to review the changes in Hong Kong's major leisure activities and describe their relationship to political, economic, social and technological developments.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition today (June 17), the Deputy Director (Culture) of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Chung Ling-hoi, said that "popular entertainment" could be defined as forms of entertainment that were accepted and enjoyed by most people in society. He said popular entertainment was intimately connected with people's lives and formed part of the culture.
"Hong Kong has seen many changes over the past 100 years – population increase, economic development, technological advancement. In tandem with these changes is the evolution of Hong Kong's popular entertainment, in terms of venues, programme content, games equipment, participation methods and so on," Mr Chung said. "Entertainment in Hong Kong is evolving from one that involves mass participation to one that engages the individual, and it is no longer something to be indulged in at one's leisure, but a consumer activity with commercial interests.
"In addition, tangible toys, which are played in real time and space, are being replaced by virtual games unfettered by physical constraints. The transformation reflects the changing times.
"Covering a wide range of themes including traditional festival celebrations, street entertainment, horseracing, football, amusement parks, theatres, radio and television broadcasting, toys, comics and online entertainment, the exhibition not only provides a glimpse of the development of Hong Kong's popular entertainment over the past 100 years but also recalls our collective memories," Mr Chung said.
Before the British arrived in Hong Kong, the residents in local villages and hamlets had their own forms of entertainment, some of which were local, while others were introduced from Guangdong. Cantonese opera was one of the most popular entertainments that was enjoyed by the locals. During festivals and temple fairs, roving entertainers would perform Cantonese opera songs and martial arts displays on the streets. Gradually, a "dai daat dei" (flea market) culture evolved, where ordinary people would seek entertainment in their spare time.
After Hong Kong was ceded to Britain in 1842, the British brought in their forms of entertainment such as horseracing and sports like football, some of which had a large following in the colony.
With urbanisation, urban entertainment such as movies and radio programmes gradually became more popular among the people of Hong Kong. Amusement parks of all sizes also opened, complete with eateries and mechanised games, which provided locals with new forms of entertainment and became public spaces for urban leisure and entertainment.
During the Japanese Occupation between 1941 and 1945, large numbers of people left Hong Kong for the Mainland. Although radio broadcasts and horseracing events were sustained throughout the occupation and cinemas continued to screen movies, the unrest and lawlessness of society made people turn to gambling.
After the end of the Second World War, massive numbers of immigrants entered Hong Kong from the Mainland. By the mid-1950s Hong Kong's population had grown to more than two million, most of whom were concentrated in the city area. A dense urban population provided the foundation – a market – for the growth of popular entertainment, like "dai daat dei", movies, football, horseracing, hiking and even gambling.
According to the 1961 census, 45.5% of the population in Hong Kong was below 15 years old, reflecting the high birth rate in the immediate post-war years. The increase in the children's population supposedly brought the proliferation of comic books and toys.
The ongoing economic development in Hong Kong stimulated the increasing number of small factories. For the working classes, radio programmes became the major form of entertainment at the work place. To retain their staff, factory owners would organise "party tours", which gave rise to more local hiking and sightseeing activities.
The living conditions of the public improved in the 1970s. Television sets became essential household items and television programmes provided free entertainment for the hardworking people of Hong Kong. Television also brought outdoor competitions and sports like football and horseracing into living rooms.
In recent decades, the market has been saturated with many new electronic products and audio-visual equipment. Walkmans, hand-held electronic games, video cameras and karaoke have revolutionised leisure and entertainment. The popularisation of personal computers and the Internet gave rise to a new platform for enjoying multimedia entertainment programmes. Today, entertainment is no longer constrained by time and space. It is becoming individualised and virtualised. At the same time, with the increase in commercialisation, hitherto simple leisure activities have now become consumer and commercial pursuits.
Located at 1 Man Lam Road in Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10, with a half-price concession for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and full-time students. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
Car parking is available at the Heritage Museum. Those who prefer to use public transport can take the KCR to the Che Kung Temple Station, which is five minutes' walk from the museum.
For enquiries, call 2180 8188. For details of the exhibition, visit the Heritage Museum's website at http://hk.heritage.museum
Ends/Saturday, June 17, 2006