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Hong Kong Literature: The Book Scene

Tiny Hong Kong may not strike you as having the most internationally-renowned literary tradition. Nevertheless, you will soon find out that the city does have its own distinct ‘Hong Kong’ literature style, with a large variety of books waiting to be discovered.
Reading is popular in Hong Kong, with its abundance of Cantonese and international literature.

The English-language literature scene in Hong Kong has produced a number of fascinating books on the region’s everyday life and its people. Most large chain stores will sell a decent range of such English books, alongside the steadfast authors of Hong Kong literature.

Furthermore, you can get books in Hong Kong from one of around 70 public libraries – and since libraries are funded by the government, you do not even have to pay for borrowing books. The only time when all libraries and book shops are closed is the Chinese New Year – people in Hong Kong tend to be superstitious, and in Cantonese, “book” sounds exactly like the word for “lose”.

Hong Kong Literature: A Short History

If you are looking for translations of books from the Hong Kong literature scene, you are most likely to be disappointed: books from Hong Kong have not yet successfully developed a reputation in the Western world. Nevertheless, Hong Kong literature is developing rapidly, influenced by its historical circumstances.

Since Hong Kong was a British colony for most of the 20th century, it did not suffer from severe censorship. Literature, as well as other arts, especially film, could develop much more freely in Hong Kong than in the surrounding countries.

Today, Hong Kong literature is comprised of writings by natives and foreigners. Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, which was founded in 2007, is one of Hong Kong’s first English literary journals. It publishes poetry, fiction, and book reviews from and about all of Asia.

Hong Kong Literature: Book Fairs

The Hong Kong Book Fair attracts more than 900,000 visitors every year. More than one out of every ten Hong Kong residents regularly heads there, joined by a large number of tourists from nearby countries. The vast majority of books presented here are tributes to Hong Kong literature, or Chinese literature in general. 

Most international attention rests on the smaller Hong Kong International Literary Festival, which takes place annually in March. Since its establishment in 2000, the International Literary Festival has hosted internationally acclaimed writers from all over the world.

Hong Kong Literature: Buying Books

Whether you are specifically looking for Hong Kong literature, or the latest English language thriller, you will probably find it in Hong Kong’s countless bookstores. Most of the larger ones are operated by chains such as Dymocks, Page One, the Commercial Press and the Hong Kong Book Centre.

Ordering books online is the easiest way for expats to buy their Hong Kong literature, or any other type, for that matter. Try the following links to avoid the expensive stores:

Hong Kong Literature: Borrowing Books

The cheapest alternative for acquiring books in Hong Kong are the public libraries. The largest is the Hong Kong Central Library, a paradise for all book lovers with 12 floors full of reading material, ranging far beyond the limits of Hong Kong literature.

The use of libraries is free for any Hong Kong resident. You will only be charged if you lose your library card, or if you bring your books back late. The online catalogue and reservations services are available at the Hong Kong Public Libraries Website in both English and Chinese.


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