"You can live like a king ..." a postcolonial tour of colonial Hong Kong

James W. Ellis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


For a long time Westerners were attracted to the Far East by a romantic vision of the Orient. This essay explores how written tourism texts, travel advertisements, and related ephemera, blended fantasy and reality to lure Western visitors to the remote, 'exotic' British colony of Hong Kong. Hong Kong was a divided city, with a small British contingent overseeing a large Chinese society. Westerner writers, advertising illustrators, and the tourism industry generally, reflected colonialist perspectives and exploited a largely contrived East-West dichotomy between Hong Kong's Chinese and British residents, reinforcing an Orientalist view of exoticism and colonial superiority. The essay treats tourism images as cultural relics and social statements, which transmitted disturbing messages about relationships of social power, through a compositional device called visual positional superiority. The essay takes the reader on a hypothetical Grand Tour of colonial Hong Kong, visiting racially segregated Western enclaves, the private world of international hotel "microcultures", and "contact zones", where people met in "asymmetrical relations of domination and subordination". The essay concludes with musings on Hong Kong's recent effort to change its global identity to "Asia's World City", after the British transfer of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China in 1997. Even in the postcolonial era, efforts to encapsulate Hong Kong's essence rely on troubling symbols carried over from the colonial past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-232
Number of pages24
JournalAsian and African Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Hong Kong
  • Postcolonial
  • Tourism
  • Grand Tour
  • “Asia’s World City”


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