Stories behind the heart of Hong Kong: Sheung Wan

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Described by Forbes as “one of the world’s coolest neighborhood”, Sheung Wan is a household name to many of the city’s residents. However, the myriad of stories that personify this iconic district may not be as well-known – especially to recent arrivals, expatriates and even some local Hong Kongers. Therefore, we’ve decided to take a deep dive into the history of this personable neighborhood, we hope you’ll join us.

theDesk - Erba Sheung Wan

A moment in history

The name Sheung Wan, is itself steeped in history and translates as “Upper District” – aptly named due to its higher geographical location on Hong Kong Island. As one of the city’s earliest developed districts, there are plenty of colorful stories behind Sheung Wan. Its modern history dates all the way back to 1841, when the Qing dynasty was defeated by the British Empire in the First Opium War and Hong Kong Island was leased to the Queen under the Treaty of Nanjing. Sheung Wan was where the British navy first landed and the exact location where they raised the Union Jack was called Possession Point – nowadays known as Possession Street. Yet, if you’ve ever been to this street, you may notice that it’s inland and some distance from Victoria Harbor. This is because, during the recent development of Hong Kong, Victoria Harbor has undergone several reclamation projects meaning that the seafront is now some distance from where the British originally set foot.

Blossoming business

During the Taiping rebellion of the 1850s, many influential Chinese entrepreneurs flocked to Hong Kong and chose to settle in Sheung Wan to protect their businesses. Therefore, the area was one of the first to flourish, bringing wealth and prosperity to Hong Kong. This prosperity continues to blossom to this today. Banks, business centers and office blocks are found all over the neighborhood, each of them taking advantage of the solid financial foundation and historical networks of Sheung Wan. In keeping with this trend, theDesk has strived to create a unique co-working space for those looking to revel in the benefits of Sheung Wan’s shared economy.

Famous footprints

Yet, it’s not really the flashy banks and the buildings that intrigue so many visitors, but rather the streets of Sheung Wan itself. Take Graham Street, for example, at first sight it looks just like any other wet market in Hong Kong and yet, many influential people have walked its cobbled stones over the years. In 1975, Queen Elizabeth II came and perused the narrow street with Governor MacLehose. While in 2002, Jackie Chan filmed the Hollywood blockbuster Rush Hour 2 amongst Graham Street’s bustling fruit market. Other bizarrely named locations such as Medicine Street, Dried Seafood Street, Antique Street and Cat Street, are all guaranteed to have a story or two to tell you.

Artistic streak

Aside from being a central business district imbued with history, Sheung Wan is also infused with a vibrant art scene. A prime example of this is Tai Ping Shan Street. During weekends, many locals and tourists will visit the aesthetically graffitied Kwong Fuk Ancestral Hall. The traditional red brick of the temple has recently been transformed into a colorful mural thanks to an initiative funded by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals. The Ancestral Hall perfectly showcases how Sheung Wan has seamlessly blended its historical past with modern city-life.

Erba Sheung Wan - Graffiti
Along Hollywood Road, you can find this piece painting by Rukkit Kuanhawate from HKwalls 2015.

One of theDesk’s Sai Wan members, iDiscover, is so fascinated with these hidden gems that they’ve developed a mobile app that helps people to uncover local heritage and art spots. Next time you’re wandering the streets of Sheung Wan, make sure you have iDiscover on hand to guide you round the neighborhood.

Meet our community: Hong Kong’s heritage crusaders: making cultural impact with iDiscover

Your new neighborhood?

Choosing an optimal workplace is not only about the office interior itself, but also what kind of neighborhood it’s situated in. Being located in “one of Hong Kong’s coolest neighborhoods” is no doubt more conducive to productivity than being in an uninspiring community. As the heart of Hong Kong with a vibrant business hub and an upcoming art scene, Sheung Wan has more to offer than most and we’re certain that it’ll be an option for anyone looking for a new office space in the nearby neighborhood!

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