MCLC logo

Nation, Topography, and Historiography:
Writing Topographical Histories in Hong Kong

by Jeremy E. Taylor

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 45-74


This paper explores a style of popular local history writing that emerged in Hong Kong during the 1990s. It concentrates in particular on “topographical writing,” i.e., that which finds its expression in the shape and space of Hong Kong’s streets. It explores this genre with reference to examples of writing about a specific district in Hong Kong—Western District, or Sai Wan. Furthermore, this paper considers the relevance of local history at a time when historians based in the People’s Republic of China are increasingly trying to rewrite Hong Kong history in a manner that is consistent with Chinese national histories. Whilst “topographical writing” does not necessarily contradict or challenge nationalist and race-based histories of Hong Kong, it does, nonetheless, provide a radically different way of viewing the local history of this city.