Situated on the southern section of Hong Kong Island in Hong Kong, is Aberdeen. This town has a rich history spanning centuries, and is world-renowned for its floating village populated by the Tanka people, floating restaurants, and harbour. Despite the encroachment of modernity, the traditional lifestyle of “the boat people” prevails in Aberdeen. Yet, Aberdeen is a fascinating combination of the modern and traditional coexisting side-by-side. It is an attraction that cannot be missed.
- Located in the Southern District of Hong Kong, besides the town of Aberdeen, the area sometimes encompasses Ap Lei Chau, Wong Chuk Hang, Tin Wan, Wah Fu Estate, and Wah Kwai Estate.
- The area has a total population of roughly 80,000 inhabitants.
- The Tanka people (sometimes called the “boat people”) are an ethnic subgroup found in various locations in Southern China, including Hong Kong.
- Because most Tanka depended on fishing for their livelihood, they traditionally lived on junks and other boats in the Aberdeen Harbour. Today, several dozen Tanka still reside on their boats in the harbour.
History Of Aberdeen
Boat-dwelling fisherman known as the Tanka, have long inhabited the area of Aberdeen. Since ancient times, the Tanka people pursued their livelihood of fishing in the region. During the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644 CE), “Hong Kong” was the original name for what is present-day Aberdeen Village.
In the early 19th century during the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1912 CE), foreigners began arriving near the settlement of Aberdeen. They mistakenly believed the name of the village “Hong Kong”, referred to the entirety of the island.
In 1841, the settlement was one of the first places where British troops came ashore. After a period of time, “Hong Kong” was used in reference to the island as a whole. Subsequently, the settlement was renamed Aberdeen, after the 4th Earl of Aberdeen, George Hamilton Gordon, who was the British Secretary for War and the Colonies at the time.
“Hong Kong” translates into “fragrant harbour”, and Aberdeen was populated by Aquilaria sinensis, a species of evergreen tree. Known for its fragrant wood and medicinal properties, these trees were exported from the region to other parts of China. Because of this, it is generally believed that Aberdeen is where Hong Kong originally acquired its name.
After the British colonization, the area of Aberdeen began developing industry in addition to fishing. In 1857, Xiapu Shipyard was founded becoming the first shipyard in all of Hong Kong. By the early 20th century, other large industrial and infrastructure projects had been implemented in the Aberdeen area, including a paper mill and reservoir.
During the Imperial Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong in World War II, the name of Aberdeen was changed into the Japanese “Moto Hong Kong”, translating into “the origin of Hong Kong”.
In 2012, a project to improve Aberdeen’s tourism was implemented. This beautification campaign included improving signage and information boards, and the promenades lining the harbour.
Culture Of Aberdeen
Aberdeen has numerous highlights for visitors to enjoy. A popular way to see Aberdeen Harbor is taking a fascinating sampan ride. These traditional boats are often operated by Tanka, and are available at various convenient locations along the promenade of the harbour. They are an excellent method of sightseeing, and give a different perspective of exploring Aberdeen.
Another must-see highlight of Aberdeen are the famous floating restaurants. A popular tourist destination is the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, which is one of the most-renowned attractions located in Aberdeen Harbour. Since 1976, more than 30 million visitors have come to the restaurant including Queen Elizabeth II, David Bowie, and Tom Cruise, among others. This massive restaurant can accommodate an astounding 2,000 diners at any given time.
Built in 1851, Tin Hau Temple is one of the main temples in Hong Kong. It is dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea, and protector of fishermen.
Aberdeen Country Park (known by locals as “Aberdeen Reservoir Park”) offers wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of the urban milieu. This beautiful setting is surrounded by the upper and lower reservoirs that serve Aberdeen. Local inhabitants frequent the park for picnics, social gatherings, and group activities.
Aberdeen Promenade, located on both sides of the harbour is a popular location for visitors and locals alike. It offers an open-air plaza, children’s playground, and basketball court, among other facilities.
- The best time to visit Aberdeen is between March and October, when the weather is usually clement and sunny.
- The Dragon Boat Festival is a must-see if visiting Aberdeen in May or June. The festival takes place on the 5th of the month.
- Aberdeen is easily accessible via Hong Kong public transportation.