Thursday, 16 November 2017

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park In Hong Kong

Although Hong Kong is one of the world's most densely populated metropolises, I don't find it as oppressive and suffocating as many other, even smaller, cities.

The reason is because Hong Kong's urban planning maintained a balance between residential areas and nature. As a matter of fact, about "80% of Hong Kong's territory is still natural, or semi-natural." That's not easy to see if you spend all of your time in Hong Kong Island or Kowloon, but if you go outside of the main financial and shopping districts, you will be stunned by its gorgeous wild nature.

But even within the skyscraper jungle that is Hong Kong Island, the British authorities tried to create parks and playgrounds so as to give residents a refuge from busy modern life. After the 1997 handover the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has so far upheld those policies.




Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park is one example of good urban planning. It is a waterfront park on the Western side of Hong Kong Island, near Sheung Wan. If you go there, you will see a lot of people, both young and old, jogging and doing exercise. The facilities of the park include a swimming pool, tennis court, a basketball court, two restrooms with showers, drinking fountains, and vendor machines where you can buy drinks using coins or your Octopus Card (a stored value smart card used for payments in the metro system, on buses and trams and many shops).

The fact that people have a place to go jogging and exercising near their home is extremely important, and it is great that Hong Kong provides plenty of parks in most neighbourhoods. 

One fascinating and a bit worrying side of the park is its political character. The park was opened in 1991 as 'Western Park'. After the handover the park was redeveloped and its name changed into 'Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park.'

Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese revolutionary born in 1866. He was an opponent of the then-ruling Qing Dynasty and organized a revolutionary movement that in 1911 overthrew China's last imperial house. He was the first President of the Republic of China (ROC), which was itself toppled in 1949 by the Communists but still exists in Taiwan. 



It is not a coincidence that the park was renamed after Sun, whom the Communist Party reveres as the precursor of the 1949 revolution. One inscription in the park, which mentions Sun's journeys to Taiwan, calls Taiwan a part of China, which is in itself a problematic statement, but even more so as at that time Taiwan was officially a part of the Japanese Empire. It appears that the renaming of the park was an attempt to align Hong Kong with mainland China's official nationalistic rhetoric. 

As part of the renovation of the park, which was reopened in 2010, a number of Chinese neoclassical architectural elements were installed, such as a traditional memorial arch.

Nevertheless, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park is one of my favourites in Hong Kong, even more than the more famous Victoria Park. What I especially like is the beautiful harbour view, which offers an amazing panorama of Kowloon. Below are some of the pictures I took. 

The park from above

Entrance of the park with the characteristic Chinese-style memorial arch and the statue of Sun Yat-sen in the background
A bench and a bell tower. On the left you see part of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel which runs under the park.
A tennis court with the Shun Tak Centre (Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal) in the background
A display shows time and temperature. 
Sun Yat-sen statue facing impressive skyscrapers

I love the contrast between the park and the surrounding skyscrapers
  
On evenings and weekends this area is full of people jogging, chatting and eating
The amazing harbour front view. I love skyscrapers!

   


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