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The City of Victoria - Old Maps and Photos of Hong Kong

British troops first landed in Hong Kong at Possession Point (present Western District) in January 1841 during the First Opium War.  Hong Kong Island was officially ceded to Britain by the Qing Government through the Treaty of Nanking on 29 August 1842 which concluded the war.  It was created as a Crown Colony named Victoria with Sir Henry Pottinger appointed as its first governor.  Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island were later ceded to Britain after the Second Opium War under the Convention of Beijing (24 October 1860). 

The British set up a local government in Hong Kong and immediately started planning and developing the city. Sheung Wan, Central District and Wan Chai, as the earliest developed areas of Victoria after 1841, were the center of the colony.  The Chinese resided mainly in Sheung Wan in two-storey Chinese-style houses.  Central District became the economic and political center, with Western-style buildings built on the waterfront as well as on the slope.   Wan Chai was developed into a splendid waterfront residential area for the European elite. 

As Hong Kong prospered in the late 19th century, reclamation projects were carried out and gave the waterfront a new look.  In 1903, the Government marked out the boundaries of Victoria, known in Chinese as “Four Circuits and Nine Districts”.   

Through a selection of historical photographs, the exhibition reveals the everyday life of early Hong Kong and its local scenery.  A place of honour is given to the first printed map of Hong Kong, first published in 1843 by the British Admiralty, based upon the surveys of Sir Edward Belcher.  It is known by its colour and shape as “the black diamond” and it shows the dramatic changes in the island’s waterfront since its early colonial days. 

We would like to thank the University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong and The Pottinger Hong Kong for their generosity in lending us most of the photos for this exhibition.  Hong Kong collectors generously contributed some precious maps in their possession. The remaining photos and maps come from the HKUST Library Special Collections.    

The Four Circuits included: 

  • Ha Wan: Lower Circuit (from Wan Chai Road to Arsenal Street) 
  • Chung Wan: Central (from Murray Parade Ground to the junction of Wellington Street and Queen’s Road Central) 
  • Sheung Wan: Upper Circuit (from the junction of Wellington Street and Queen’s Road Central to Civil Hospital) 
  • Sai Wan: Western Circuit (from Connaught Road West to Kennedy Town) 

The Nine Districts were: 

  • The first district: from Kennedy Town to Shek Tong Tsui 
  • The second district: from Shek Tong Tsui to Sai Ying Pun 
  • The third district: Sai Ying Pun 
  • The fourth district: eastern half of Connaught Road West 
  • The fifth district: from Western Market to Central Market 
  • The sixth district: from Central Market to Arsenal Street 
  • The seventh district: from Arsenal Street to Wan Chai Road 
  • The eighth district: from Wan Chai Road to Bowrington Canal 
  • The ninth district: from Bowrington Canal to Causeway Bay