Origins of the name “Hong Kong”

Fung Chi Ming and Hugh Farmer: We have several articles and images about the production of incense in Hong Kong, and in what became the New Territories in pre-colonial times. It is often supposed that it was this industry that led to the name Hong Kong being used to indicate the whole of the colonial territory. I asked Fung Chi Ming if he had any information relating to the origins of the place name. Here is what he has kindly sent me.

Fung Chi Ming: “There is a saying that the name “Hong Kong” stemmed from the production and export of incense here.  To quote from page 158 of the book titled HONG KONG AND ITS EXTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS BEFORE 1942, published in 1963, “the industry attained such an importance that it is chiefly responsible for the name of “fragrance” (Hong Kong, meaning fragrant or incense port).” (The original version of the book, in Chinese, was published in 1959. It was translated into English, which was published in 1963. The chief author of the book is Mr LO Hsiang-lin 羅香林, a reputed scholar of Chinese studies.)

Here are the relevant pages, click to enlarge:

Hong Kong - Name. origin p1

Hong Kong - Name. origin p2

Hong Kong - Name. origin p3

Fung Chi Ming continues: There is also a letter to the editor of Hong Kong Daily Press, 5 February 1873, titled “THE NAME HONG KONG”.  This is reproduced from a reel of microfilm of the daily press now deposited at the Hong Kong Central Library, Causeway Bay.  Interestingly, in the 1873 letter there is mention of “white-wood fragrant trees” (in Chinese: 白木香樹) which are referred to as incense trees of “the White Wood Incense variety” (page 88) in the 1963 book.

Hong Kong - Name. Daily Press 5 Feb 1873 part oneHong Kong - Name. Daily Press 5 Feb 1873 part two

This article was first posted on 26th March 2014.

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