The Historical Significance and Vibrant Allure of the Hollywood Road Cultural District

The Historical Significance and Vibrant Allure of the Hollywood Road Cultural District

Spring breeze accommodates everything. The historical significance and vibrant allure of the Hollywood Road cultural district in Hong Kong's Sheung Wan area are remarkable.


In the 1990s, the famous Taiwanese singer Lo Ta-yu sang "Queen's Road East, Queen's Road West," which became widely known, showcasing the keen observation of creative artists who captured the cultural essence of Hong Kong. Since then, I have personally explored Hollywood Road with a curious mind, gradually falling in love with its rich cultural and artistic atmosphere. A chance encounter with a British guest who was fond of Chinese stone-carved Buddha statues led me to act as a guide, helping him explore and purchase items. Since that authentic encounter, a deep connection between me and Hollywood Road has blossomed over the decades.


Speaking of the history of Hollywood Road, it was the first street in Hong Kong during the early days of its port opening. The British military stationed here upon their arrival, and its influence gradually spread, making it rightfully regarded as the birthplace of Hong Kong. But why is it called Hollywood Road? "Holly" originally refers to a type of tree, while "wood" means a small wooded area. Centuries ago, many such trees were planted here, leading to its Cantonese transliteration as "Hollywood." This name bears no relation to the American movie industry's Hollywood that we're familiar with!


I adore the atmosphere of Hollywood Road. I visit several times a year, not necessarily to purchase anything specific, but to immerse myself in its fusion of Eastern and Western artistic cultures, blending ancient and modern elements. Hollywood Road has been a significant cultural hub in Hong Kong over the past half-century, boasting an array of antiques, modern art, and more, making it a feast for the eyes.


During the 1980s, with the rapid economic development in mainland China, many valuable artifacts, buried for centuries or even millennia, were unearthed during construction projects. Due to the relatively low economic level at the time, some individuals concentrated these unearthed artifacts in Guangzhou, while others were transported to Hong Kong through special channels. Hollywood Road and Upper Lascar Row became the distribution centers during that period, offering a plethora of goods at reasonable prices, albeit sourced from less reputable origins. However, due to the dubious sources of the antiques, lack of government support, and limited promotion by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, Hollywood Road has rarely been marketed as a tourist attraction.


Visiting Hollywood Road encompasses exploring from the Man Mo Temple towards the west to Peel Street, where there are approximately 200-300 shops on both sides of the road. To the east, one can reach SOHO by crossing the pedestrian bridge in Central. Hollywood Road used to be bustling with activity, but it has somewhat faded under the shadow of the recent pandemic. Many storefronts are now vacant, with some owners only opening for half a day due to the absence of significant tourist influx, resulting in challenging business conditions. Nevertheless, the optimistic shop owners persevere, eagerly awaiting economic recovery in the latter half of the year.


As a frequent visitor to Hollywood Road, I've come to know some of the shop owners over the years. Some elderly acquaintances have retired, and their next generation is uninterested in continuing the business, resulting in closures and turnovers, reflecting the ever-changing landscape. However, there are also new entrants in recent years, and I hope they thrive, contributing to the cultural and artistic landscape and reaping rich rewards.


One particular shop run by a couple specializes in antique porcelain and Han dynasty jade, boasting a dazzling array of collections. Many Han dynasty jade artifacts bear inscriptions of poems related to Emperor Wu of Han, offering a refreshing perspective. Another friend is a respected figure in the antique industry, a Jewish man in his seventies, whose collection of Shang and Zhou bronzes and Tang tri-color pottery is distinctive. His collection of Song and Ming porcelain and Buddhist statues also brings immense joy.


China's 14th Five-Year Plan positions cultural and artistic endeavors as a third industry for development, mirroring Hong Kong's direction. If laws and regulations can protect the rights and interests of collectors and ensure fair transactions, the market prospects are vast. Internationally, art is a part of wealth distribution among affluent individuals, typically comprising 10% of their assets. I believe China is still at the nascent stage, with a long journey ahead.


Many people believe that collecting antiques is an easy way to make money, but this is a misconception. For ordinary collectors lacking specialized knowledge, there's a risk of substantial losses. Even if they make the right purchases, avenues for selling are limited. Major auction houses generally don't accept items from ordinary households, and transactions among collectors often fetch low prices. Many collectors end up with significant inventories, tying up funds. Therefore, prospective collectors should carefully weigh their decisions. However, if one collects for the enjoyment of culture and art, it can be rewarding. Imagine having a masterpiece in your home, instantly elevating your taste and cultural ambiance. Interacting with art daily is fulfilling and, according to statistics, collectors tend to live longer due to the spiritual solace and satisfaction it brings, altering their demeanor positively.


Since the establishment of the West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong has been enriched with various cultural facilities, particularly the M+ Museum and the Palace Museum, which are highly attractive. However, organically formed cultural districts like Hollywood Road deserve appreciation too. Notable tourist spots in Hong Kong include Ladies' Market and Temple Street, and Hollywood Road could be positioned as a cultural and artistic district, promoted accordingly. Businesses within the district could form associations to advocate for social rights and status. Together, we can brainstorm ways to develop Hollywood Road into an even more appealing destination. Previous programs organized by the Tourism Board mainly focused on Hollywood Road's historic buildings, but incorporating more content on antique culture and art would likely be welcomed.


Hong Kong, as an international financial center, possesses unique cultural gems like Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan. We should cherish them! With industry efforts and government support, Hollywood Road can evolve into a distinctive cultural district with a bright future, providing delightful cultural and artistic experiences for locals and tourists alike. Here's to a brilliant future for the Hollywood Road cultural district!



Mr. Robert T Li graduated from the Economics Department of the University of Hong Kong and has served as the Head of Liability Insurance in the Greater China region for an international insurance company. He has a passion for traditional Chinese culture and enjoys collecting art. He is actively involved in promoting awareness of traditional Chinese culture, music, and art among young people. He can be contacted at litaichai@gmail.com.


Uploaded on 2024.3.14