National Geographic : 1954 Feb
dozen imposing banks of six nations, for Hong Kong ranks high as a financial center in the British Commonwealth. For years the huge templelike Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation building dominated the city's skyline. Then the China of Chiang Kai-shek started to build a similar structure in 1948. It was completed by the Communists, who, for reasons of prestige, built it 20 feet taller than its rival. Side by side stand these skyscraper monuments to finance, representatives of opposing economic systems (page 244). Victoria is squeezed between mountainside and harbor on land mostly stolen from the sea. Main avenues parallel the water, some representing old shore lines. Narrow cross streets begin to climb steeply only a stone's throw inland and end as stone steps. A few daring roads zigzag up the Peak; big apart ment buildings and pretentious homes cling there like swallows' nests. In all Hong Kong there are only 20,000 non Chinese. Streets teem with Oriental life and color. Tall neon signs in Chinese, works of art at night, jut from buildings by the thou sands. Everywhere Chinese characters splash arcade pillars with crimson. Laundry hung on bamboo poles flaps from countless balconies. Huge floral displays on restaurant fronts an nounce weddings or banquets (page 261). Crossroads of the World All day and far into the night milling crowds rub elbows under Victoria's sidewalk arcades. On Queen's Road, the city's main street, you can watch the world go by, for Hong Kong is one of its busiest crossroads. Pretty Chinese girls with bobbed hair and split skirts linger in front of shop windows. Ex-Shanghai businessmen in Western suits hurry to offices or appointments in restaurants or teahouses. Throngs of other Chinese scuffle by in slippers or clack on wooden clogs. Most are dressed in pajamalike garb of a shiny black material they call "fragrant-cloud linen." It is neither fragrant nor linen, but it's practical. India's saris and turbans mix with the Cali fornia sportswear of American tourists fresh from home. British residents stride by, many wearing shorts and carrying parasols of oiled paper. Bearded Sikhs with rifles stand guard before Chinese banks and jewelry stores. American sailors in summer whites gawk like country boys at Oriental sights. So do British Tommies and other soldiers of the Commonwealth. Shoeshine boys call "Hello, shine 'em up" with a Yankee accent. Contact men sidle up to tourists with news of open-handed money changers, or offer cards advertising a "Gentle man's Bespoke Tailor." Squatting ricksha boys solicit fares or play games of chance with small coins. Chinese women, carrying infants pickaback, hawk newspapers or cigarettes. Grandmothers, minding toddlers, sit on sidewalks mending stockings for a living. Workers moving heavy loads with rope and poles shout to clear a path. Others scramble over the bamboo scaffolding of a partly fin ished office building. Flowers and Chinese good-luck wreaths cram its ground-floor shops, just opening for business.