Vaudine EnglandAug 10, 2023
The Making of Hong Kong
The legacy of the businessmen who built Hong Kong are all over the city. Bankers work in Chater House—named after Paul Chater, the Armenian businessman behind much of the city’s land reclamation (among many other things). The Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel sits along Mody Road, named after Hormusjee Naorojee Mody, a Parsi immigrant who helped found the University of Hong Kong. And that’s not including figures like Robert Hotung, the half-British, half-Chinese magnate who found more power in his Chinese identity.
The story of Hong Kong is more complicated than what the British or the Chinese might assert–countless migrants, from all over the world, came to Hong Kong to build the city and make their fortunes. Vaudine England’s Fortune's Bazaar: The Making of Hong Kong (Scribner, 2023) tells the stories of these communities of Armenians, Indians, Parsis, Portuguese, Eurasians, and others who sat between the Anglo-Saxons and the Chinese majority.
In this interview, Vaudine and I talk about Hong Kong’s story, the city’s early Wild West–or perhaps “Wild East” days—and the communities of men and women that built the city.
Vaudine England has been a journalist in Hong Kong and South East Asia for years. As a historian, she has focused on the diverse personalities and peoples that have gone into making Hong Kong a cosmopolitan Asian metropolis. She is the author of The Quest of Noel Croucher: Hong Kong’s Quiet Philanthropist (Hong Kong University Press: 1998) as well as several privately published works of Hong Kong history and biography.
Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.