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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A destination and a journey

Written by: on June 19, 2015

With an upcoming trip to Hong Kong, Louie’s book Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image, provides some context and a baseline of understanding that will help me to make sense of my experience. My knowledge of Hong Kong culture has come through my clouded American lens, and I’m sure is distorted by media exposure and false assumptions. My image is that of a large, cosmopolitan city. In a sense, I think of it as the Asian New York City. According to Louie, the city can be thought of as a cultural fault-line, or a place where Chinese culture is interpreted for westerners. Essentially, Hong Kong carries a hybrid cultural identity that has emerged from an exchange between Chinese and English influences.

I found it interesting that Louie mentions that tourism in Hong Kong used to be primarily westerners, but today tourists are primarily people from mainland China. I have to wonder why Westerners are no longer drawn to the city as in the past. Could it be that the city seems too familiar? The city today shows influences from the Western world through increasing democratic practice, art, and media. Yet, in 1949 a large influx of people from Shanghai contributed to the political and economic landscape. Since the 1980s, Hong Kong has become a New Asian regional identity. The culture seems to be in the flux of rapid change, while at the same time bridging traditional Chinese culture and modern ideas and a globalized mindset.

In the arts scene, the Hong Kong brand has gained space on the international market. My observation is a sense of Chinese tradition propagated in a modern, westernized format. Louie’s book provides context about culture from the perspective of art, by providing essays contributed by participants of an academic conference. Yet, the book doesn’t provide insight into the way that business, political or economic factors have contributed to the culture that exists today or how culture has impacted other factors of society. Consider that there is even a Disney Park in Hong Kong, which opened in 2005. When my daughter was younger, Mulan was introduced as a Disney princess.  I remember much controversy as the Chinese people felt she wasn’t very Chinese. Certainly Western influence can be assumed to impact the culture, but I also assume that changes within Hong Kong have allowed Asian culture to also gain a greater voice the international world.  In a sense, it seems that Hong Kong may be a place, or space, where Chinese culture is being communicated through an international stage.  It makes me wonder how distorted the traditional culture has become in Hong Kong, compared to the rest of the world.

My overall perspective and sense about Hong Kong hasn’t changed dramatically after reading Louie’s book. I still see it somewhat as the Asian NYC. This said, I know that I must engage directly within the culture to truly capture a sense of the city and people. But, I also know that Hong Kong doesn’t represent all Chinese cultures, just as NYC doesn’t represent all cultures in America.  For one to understand Hong Kong, one must experience Hong Kong. It is a destination in a sense for me, yet a city that seems to be on a journey to an unknown destination.

Kam Louie, ed., Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010).

About the Author

Dawnel Volzke

Christ follower, wife, mom, teacher, student, professional...my passion is to serve Christ and my calling is to help organizations become great at fulfilling their mission.

10 responses to “A destination and a journey”

  1. mm Nick Martineau says:

    Dawnel, I also have viewed HK as an Asian NYC. I’ve been encouraged from reading others posts and Louie’s book that there is more there for me to learn and experience but I’m wondering if we are going to have to search for that during our visit or if it will be very obvious. There’s only so much you can learn from others and books. Sometimes you just have to experience it. Looking forward to being together in HK.

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Nick,

      Each time I visit a place, even those I’ve gone to before, I learn something new. I Google “things to see in HK” and look at our itinerary, only imagining what our experience will be like. There is something rewarding about discovering things that are unknown to us. I’m looking forward to seeing our group again!

  2. mm Mary Pandiani says:

    My daughter was in love with Mulan. She was her hero/heroine. It is interesting learning some history, albeit distorted, through Disney. But like Louie’s book, art does reflect a part of culture that books cannot do.
    I was thinking how I was impacted by the Chinese transition because many Hong Kong residents moved to Vancouver, BC, just north of us. They thought Hong Kong would never survive the Chinese transition. I’d be curious what they are thinking now.

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Mary,
      Do you think that Mulan contributed to an openness in your daughter and her generation toward Asian culture? Prior to Mulan, Disney princesses were quite the model of western culture. My daughter’s generation is very open to new cultures, and I have to wonder how much Mulan and other childhood experiences contribute to younger generations ability to accept those that are different than themselves. Their exposure to other cultures often starts in their comfortable home environment, through media and Internet. Hence, there is an already established comfort level with “different”.

  3. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Dawnel, “I have to wonder why Westerners are no longer drawn to the city as in the past. Could it be that the city seems too familiar?” Very interesting thought! I tend to agree with you that the familiarity created by the dominant Western world would produce a less attractive sense to Hong Kong. If it is just another NYC, why not just go to NYC. If McDonald’s, Starbucks, and KFC are on every other corner just like any US city, I feel the appeal to travel and experience that “foreign culture” is greatly reduced. In Cape Town it was interesting to see how “McDonaldized” it was and it was interesting to find some comfort in familiarity yet even more of a bit of contempt. Great comment and I can’t wait to experience Hong Kong and get first hand a tug of the cultural tension.

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Phil,
      I have to admit that my first reaction to HK was “why pay so much to travel to a place that sounds so much like home”. I wonder if that is why American tourism has decreased in HK.

    • Jon Spellman says:

      But is this the “new normal” in an ever-shrinking globe? Just like there is a very real browning of skin tones as more and more ethnicities finally get over their prejudices and begin to marry and have kids, is there a flattening of cultures into a single, less nuanced “normal?”

      I ask with no commentary or opinion of whether it is “right” or “wrong” (although I suppose the story of the tower of babel might have some bearing on the discussion).

  4. mm Travis Biglow says:

    i guess I’m on the same boat. Never going to a city like Hong Kong and reading about it has made me extremely interested in it. Something so diverse from where i am from can only be inluminating and educating.

  5. Jon Spellman says:

    Dawnel, when do you think an entity (be it a city, an organization or organism, etc) become a hybrid and case being transitional? To use the term hybrid indicates that it does have a settled sense of identity, that it is no longer in a transitional form. It may have vestiges of both (or more) other things that were combined to create the hybrid but it is no longer morphing and shifting as would be expected in a liminal state. What would be some characteristics of an organization that has settled into a new identity?

    Curious…

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