LIFE / CULTURE
Hong Kong’s newest cultural feast with far-reaching impact, enjoyed by local people
In demand
Published: Jul 11, 2022 08:01 PM
A man practices calligraphy on a screen at HKPM on July 3, 2022. 
Right: Standing Bodhidharma from the Dehua Kiln 
Top: HKPM Photos: IC

A man practices calligraphy on a screen at HKPM on July 3, 2022. Photo: IC

A man practices calligraphy on a screen at HKPM on July 3, 2022. 
Right: Standing Bodhidharma from the Dehua Kiln 
Top: HKPM Photos: IC

HKPM Photo: IC

A man practices calligraphy on a screen at HKPM on July 3, 2022. 
Right: Standing Bodhidharma from the Dehua Kiln 
Top: HKPM Photos: IC

Standing Bodhidharma from the Dehua Kiln Photo: IC

It has been more than a week since the Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM) opened to the public and tickets for this new West Kowloon Cultural District landmark, which can accommodate roughly 7,000 people a day, are still selling out. In addition to a high-speed rail line connecting Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong and the 55-kilometer long Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, the construction of HKPM is one of the most important decisions made since Hong Kong's return to the motherland in 1997. For cultural experts, the popular museum not only brings greater influence that spans out to the Greater Bay Area, but also shows the world what makes this bustling city unique.

After five years of working with the Palace Museum in Beijing, HKPM opened on July 3, right after the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland. 

The museum has received generous and diverse support from the Palace Museum in Beijing, with which it signed a cooperative agreement in 2017. A total of 914 artworks and relics on display at the museum are on loan from Beijing. Among them, 166 are first-class cultural relics recognized as national treasures. This is the largest loan by the Beijing Palace Museum to another institution since its establishment in 1925.

The opening of the museum in Hong Kong is sure to greatly impact people's views on traditional Chinese culture. 

"In the post-pandemic age, people will flock to HKPM to visit exhibitions. Forming a 'hot spot' for traditional Chinese culture, HKPM will also become a developing regional cultural brand that can strengthen traditional Chinese culture's influence on surrounding areas," Chen Lüsheng, former vice president of the National Museum of China, told the Global Times.

HKPM's significance is far-reaching. Better than any slogan, the museum is a "declaration" that Hong Kong is oriented by Chinese cultural values, Chen added.

Its international perspective is also well explained in the carefully selected relics on loan from Beijing. The classic artwork Wanguolaichao, meaning "All nations come to the Qing," depicts the bustling exchanges between the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and the rest of the world during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong. 

"Since the late 19th century, Hong Kong has been a window and a hub for China to the outside world. A considerable part of China's foreign exchanges were undergone through Hong Kong and Macau. The selection of this painting reflects Hong Kong's role as this window to the outside world," said Chen.

"The HKPM is the biggest cultural 'gift' that the central government gives to the HKSAR. Hongkongers, even those holding different political opinions, celebrated this cultural event," noted Chen. 

"Many Hongkongers, especially those in their 60s and 70s, are very much aligned to Chinese culture. They may not have had the opportunity to see authentic relics in the past, but now they have these treasures right in front of them. This special cultural impact is sure to deepen their national identity and feelings for the nation," he said. 

Rare opportunity

The opening of the museum was one of many cultural, recreational and sporting events celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return.

Tickets have been in high demand before the venue even opened. Nearly 8,000 people were waiting online for tickets on the first day they went on sale, and 40,000 tickets ended up being sold, with many people waiting hours without being able to eventually secure a ticket. 

Among the national treasures on display are some masterpieces that have rarely been seen outside the Palace Museum in Beijing. For example, the painting Nymph of the Luo River by artist Gu Kaizhi of the Jin Dynasty (265-420) and Autumn Colors among Rivers and Mountains by Zhao Boju of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) are being displayed alongside hundreds of relics across nine exhibition halls.

Another is Yanshan Ming, a precious inkblot calligraphy work by Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) calligrapher Mi Fu that was once collected by Emperor Gaozong of Song. This cultural relic once fell into the hands of a collector in Japan, and later in 2002 the National Cultural Heritage Administration spent a fortune to bring it back and return it to the Palace Museum.  

"Mi's calligraphy is free and unrestrained, with endless changes," Xu Minjun, a media student from City University of Hong Kong, who was visiting the museum on its second day of opening, told the Global Times.

"Among all the works, Mi's inkblot calligraphy has impressed me the most. This is the first time that Yanshan Ming has been exhibited outside the Chinese mainland, and I have to say it is a rare viewing opportunity," Xu added.

"We are Chinese, so we should know about our Chinese culture," a retired couple told the Global Times. "The Terracotta Warriors were not exhibited this time. We guess that's probably because the relics are very difficult to transport and can be easily damaged, but that treasure has left a deep impression on us." 

"I was buzzed by my work that don't have time for a visit, so I haven't gone to see the exhibition yet. All the local young people here wanted to visit it. There were celebrities promoting the event, and loaded with visitors! The HKPM is at the West Kowloon Cultural district, we all love it," said Lusy Aun, an office lady in Hong Kong.