Study Chinese Culture and Language in Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Education

 

 

Study Chinese Culture and Language 

at Chinese University of Hong Kong

 

Hong Kong has long been a fascinating place in which  to study Chinese culture and language, and to interact with Chinese people in a multi-cultural context. Although the territory was a British colony for more than 150 years, its population is 98% Chinese, and that group itself is by no means homogeneous. 

The many different worlds and subcultures within the Chinese community include urban poor, the educated middle class, jet-set multi- passport holders, Putonghua (Mandarin) speaking emigre intellectuals, Shanghai- native businessmen, young intelligentsia, civil servants, old village families and recent arrivals from the China Mainland. The foreign community, although numerically small, is equally varied. Within it, one finds business people, professionals, educators, missionaries, craftsmen and laborers from many parts of the world. 

With in  the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's (SAR) 1075 square kilometres, one can observe many of the paradoxes of modem Chinese life and development. Modem urban industrial centers, for example, with their frenzied pace and congestion, are juxtaposed with traditional farming and fishing villages. Cultural performances from every continent take place in the same halls as traditional Chinese operas. The most experimental international art shares gallery walls with Chinese calligraphy and mountain and stream paintings. 

Most of the Hong Kong SAR's seven million inhabitants live on the 82 square kilometers of Hong Kong island and the nearly 25 square kilometers of the adjacent Kowloon peninsula. The New Territories, comprising 740 square kilometres that stretch to the Mainland border and scores of islets, contain thriving 'New Towns' such as Sharin and Tai Po, as well as hilly and sparsely populated areas. Scattered throughout the region are  communities of fishermen and agricultural workers, whose clans trace their Hong Kong ancestral lines back for centuries. 

The SAR boasts eight government- funded universities and teaching institutes. These include comprehensive, world-class institutions, including the colonially-established University of Hong Kong (now nearly a century old), the forty-year old Chinese University of Hong Kong, and institutions originally established by missionaries, such as Lingnan and Baptist Universities. The newer Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has built itself over a very short period into a creative innovator in many scientific special- ties, information technology and business. Most of these tertiary institutions have lively programs of student and scholar exchange with international partners. 

Hong Kong's 'mother tongue' is Cantonese, one of China's eight major dialects and the predominant  language of what is known as the South China region. Like all of China's dialects, it is tonal. But an unusual feature that it has developed in Hong Kong is its script, within which are characters resembling standard Chinese writing, but which are actually idiosyncratic representations of unique features of Cantonese. Hong Kong's writing system is alone in China in this respect, where everywhere else the script is uniform. It allows Hong Kong's literature to have a special  character of its own, beating the richness of speech of ordinary Cantonese. Putonghua, the standard language of China, was largely ignored throughout the colonial period. However, in recent years it has played an increasingly prevalent role. The ever-more seamless business context between Mainland China and Hong Kong has boosted its prominence, as has a swell in Mainland immigration and tourist numbers. In the past, large numbers of students began their serious study of Putonghua upon entering college. Now, Putonghua is taught as a standard subject in the K-I2 curriculum, and universities are adjusting their Putonghua classes to more sophisticated levels. The future pattern is clear, one in which Cantonese will remain the language of comfort and Putonghua the lingua franca. Both can be studied with profit at the several well-developed language programs at universities in the SAR.

Today, Hong Kong appeals to students and scholars of political science, business, language and culture even more than before. On the basis of its mini- constitution, the Basic Law, and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the SAR has been guaranteed autonomy for fifty years beyond 1997, the date of decolonization. How the economy, the political, social and cultural structure will develop in its new capacity, and how China's 'One Country, Two Systems' policy will evolve are enticing topics of study. China itself is undergoing dramatic changes of a startling scope and pace. This process will inevitably affect other countries; in particular those in immediate proximity. Hong Kong, with its singular political, economic and geographical vantage point, its world-class communications infrastructure and its free flow of information and ideas is the ideal place to study and observe this unprecedented unfolding.

Contact

The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Shatin

 New Territories
HONG KONG SAR


Tel: +852 2609 7000 / +852 2609 6000

Fax: +852 2603 5544

   

Contact

The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Shatin

 New Territories
HONG KONG SAR


Tel: +852 2609 7000 / +852 2609 6000

Fax: +852 2603 5544

 

 

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