Hong Kong Doorways: Domestic Life

Cheung Chau Doorway

Cheung Chau Doorway

These doors on the island of Cheung Chau lead to village house apartments. They’re pretty unremarkable at first glance, but if you look at them a second time you begin to realize that they are perfect representations of residential doorways in Hong Kong.

Shoes are clustered around the door, a testament to the cramped conditions in typical Hong Kong home (nobody wants to waste precious living room space on a shoe rack). Nearby are the altars used for burning incense in honour of family ancestors. Special New Year emblems are placed around entranceways for the two weeks after the Lunar New Year. There’s some laundry drying outside next to assorted junk. Finally, there are the gates: just about every apartment door in Hong Kong is protected by a metal gate, which is odd considering that the city doesn’t have a particularly high crime rate. The gates have become such a staple that they are even available in glitzy decorative versions. I’ve never really understood those — if your apartment has a fancy metal gate, doesn’t that just advertise to potential thieves that there’s something worth stealing inside?

Normally all of the things I’ve described above would be found in apartment building corridors, not in the street. But that blend of domestic and public life is of the things I like about Cheung Chau and Hong Kong’s other islands. It’s indicative of a more casual, relaxed lifestyle than in the urban areas. After all, just look at the shoes piled up in front of the doors above: flip flops.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Friday March 20 2009at 10:03 am , filed under Asia Pacific, Society and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Response to “Hong Kong Doorways: Domestic Life”

  • Esther says:

    Hi Christopher! I’m a writer who is writing an article about architecture in Asian immigrant neighborhoods in the US, and I was hoping to use the top photo in my article. It’s for a publication of the Asian American Writers Workshop. Please let me know if it would be possible to get permission to use the photo.

    Feel free to email me at eswang@gmail.com