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Hong Kong Sizzles

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by: john@johnhacking.com
Total views: 401
Word Count: 553
Date: Mon, 25 May 2009 Time: 10:31 AM

Few travel to Hong Kong for the sights; they come for business and excitement. Hong Kong is so lively it sizzles like the oil in the woks of its numerous street vendors. Little has changed since the 1997 return of the British colony of Hong Kong to China. The city that flourished through co-operation between the Chinese and British societies is, if anything, more fascinating and interesting than ever before.

Opium highs and wars.
In the early eighteenth century, the first British traders to arrive at what would become Hong Kong, found only a few fishing huts. Hong Kong had no importance at all within the Chinese Empire and had been ignored for centuries.

The British built a trade port here in 1711, and it thrived during the early nineteenth century when goods from China were in great demand in Europe.

As the fashion for things Chinese declined the British began to deal in opium instead, harvesting it in India and importing it illegally into China, where the Qing dynasty emperor had banned its sale. When the Chinese tried to halt the imports, the British responded with military force.

The resulting Opium Wars (1838-1856) were disastrous for China. In 1842, the British took control of the city of Hong Kong and it became a British colony. A 1898 pact with China made Hong Kong and 234 nearby islands a British protectorate for ninety-nine years. The treaty ended in 1997.

Negotiations took place in 1982 to modify the original agreement in order to protect Hong Kong's special status. China had originally demanded control not only of the so-called "New Territories" around the city, but also of Hong Kong itself. Through a series of agreements and negotiations, the UK was able to prevent Hong Kong from being directly absorbed into mainland China. Instead, on 1 July 1997, Hong Kong was declared a Chinese Special Administrative Region.

Office Blocks and feng shui.
Hong Kong's special status has allowed it to remain a modern economic metropolis. Despite its visible modernity, traditional ways of life are never forgotten. The ancient Chinese art of feng shui is still applied to new constructions, where measurements are configured according to lucky numbers and windows positioned so as to let prosperity in and bad luck out.

Skyscrapers loom where splendid colonial buildings once stood, only a few of which have survived. In the central district, the Cathedral of St. John, the former French Residence and the Legislative Council Building are among the few traditional buildings that remain.

Omnipresent Buddha.
Traditional life is a stronger presence in the New Territories than in the city itself. Superb temple complexes are everywhere, built in traditional style in tranquil settings. 10,000 Buddhas Monastery is one of the most frequented. This number represents "very many" or "countless" in Chinese, rather than a specific number of Buddhas.

In fact, there are more than 10,000, perhaps as many as 13,000. The enormous bronze Buddha towering above Lo Pin Monastery on the island of Lantau is the largest Buddha in the world, measuring 26 metres tall. Visitors can climb a steep path of 260 steps to reach it. The panoramic view from the top definitely rewards the effort, as does the spiritual enlightenment achieved along the way.

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