Hong Kong is perched on the fault line between China and the West, a Special Administrative Region of the PRC. Leo Ou-fan Lee offers an insider’s view of Hong Kong, capturing the history and culture that make his densely packed home city so different from its generic neighbors.
The search for an indigenous Hong Kong takes Lee to the wet markets and corner bookshops of congested Mong Kok, remote fishing villages and mountainside temples, teahouses and noodle stalls, Cantonese opera and Cantopop. But he also finds the “real” Hong Kong in a maze of interconnected shopping malls, a jungle of high-rise residential towers, and the neon glow of Chinese-owned skyscrapers in the Central Business District, where land development, global trade, capital accumulation, consumerism, and free-market competition trump every value—except family.
Lee illuminates the relationship between Hong Kong’s geography and its colonial experience, revisiting colonial life on the secluded Peak, in the opium-filled godowns along the harborfront, and in crowded, plague-infested tenements. He examines, with a critic’s eye, the “Hong Kong story” in film and fiction: romance in the bars and brothels of Wan Chai, crime in the walled city of Kowloon, ennui on the eve of the 1997 handover.
Whether viewed from Tsing Yi Bridge or the deck of the Star Ferry, from Victoria Peak or Lion Rock, Hong Kong sparkles here in all its multifaceted complexity, a city forever between worlds.
A rich and fascinating introduction to the life and cultural history of Hong Kong, City Between Worlds will add considerable depth, excitement, and, dare I say, glamour to the material available to readers interested in learning something about Hong Kong beyond a guide to the usual tourist traps. Leo Lee draws on his knowledge of Hong Kong's literary, film, and popular culture, along with his personal experiences, to make these places imaginatively inhabited by the past, and by a people who continue to draw on the city's multifaceted history.
A decade after it was handed back by the British to the Chinese, Hong Kong continues to occupy a unique space where China and the West appear to come together rather seamlessly. In this book, Leo Ou-fan Lee goes in search of the "real" Hong Kong and reveals a remarkable city and its multiple identities--the indigenous, the colonial, the modern. A must read for anyone planning to visit and explore this multifaceted city.
Anecdotes and vignettes pepper Lee‘s book. Yet this is no elegiac history of a colony-that-was; rather, his gentle, personal musings read more like a declaration of love for a city full of contradictions...Lee takes the reader on a ramble through Hong Kong, starting at Pedder Street and ending in the New Territories. His stance is that of the flâneur chronicling the life of a beloved city.
Uncertainty and transience is part of [Hong Kong’s] character and in City Between Worlds Leo Ou-fan Lee uses a variety of techniques--travelogue, revisionist history, cultural deconstruction, and personal essay--to pin down what he calls this “confusion and contradiction” while uncovering the deep communal roots that often go unnoticed by outside commentators...City Between Worlds balances probing intellectual analysis, fierce criticism, and gentle warmth, all imbued with the frustrated love any city dweller will immediately recognize as the elusive grasp to define where one lives.
This sparkling and sometimes profound work is a guidebook in the best sense. As Lee glides up the world's longest escalator in central Hong Kong, he says something interesting at every stage...This is a genuinely felt, well-informed book.
Assuming the double-identity of archaeologue and flaneur, Mr. Lee mixes a wealth of allusions and historical research with an intimate understanding of Hong Kong's lived culture and recent political developments. The resulting peripatetic narrative takes a freely interpretive look at the city's past and culture, as the reader follows Mr. Lee's explications across Hong Kong's map, from old red-light Wan Chai to modern-day Central Business District and Tsim Sha Tsui. Refreshingly, Mr. Lee focuses on "local" Hong Kong...It would be the greatest testament to Mr. Lee's loving, rigorous reflection on his adopted home, if in another 10 years he is forced to write a new book to answer the questions that face a Hong Kong taking the first step down the road to self rule.
[Lee's] observations, illuminated by his insightful readings of Shanghai as well as his experiences at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, also draw intelligent connections between society and urban form and literature and film, including both local and foreign observers...An extremely well-illustrated volume.
[An] excellent book about the island city...Lee knows and loves this place, which translates as "fragrant harbor." He takes the reader through the streets and explains the history, the culture and the sociological significance of the city. Travelers wanting to discover the essence of Hong Kong will find this rich and well-written book better than any conventional guide.
- Belknap Press
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