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The Intriguing Story Behind Hong Kong's 'Fragrant Harbour' Moniker

The Intriguing Story Behind Hong Kong’s ‘Fragrant Harbour’ Moniker 

Ever wondered why Hong Kong’s called the Fragrant Harbour? Well, lucky you because you can stop wondering. 

Today, we’ll walk you through the fascinating story behind Hong Kong’s nickname – and whom can you trust about it if not the people living amid all that fragrance itself, right?

Why is Hong Kong called the Fragrant Harbour? 

Hong Kong earned its name as the Fragrant Harbour because the phonetic translation of its Cantonese name (“香港”) literally means “fragrant harbour.” That said, people speculate that it’s also because Hong Kong’s harbour was a hotspot for exporting fragrant agarwood before.   

Another fun fact you should know about Hong Kong is that its port at that time was a place largely for traders of agarwood oil, resin, and incense from Guangdong province and other northern Chinese provinces. 

That’s probably how Hong Kong’s nickname, Fragrant Harbour, stuck around and left a fragrant mark for centuries!

What is the origin of Hong Kong’s name?

What is the origin of Hong Kong’s name

Hong Kong’s name is of Chinese origin, but technically, it was the British who used the name for the entire island. This is because from 1842 to 1996, Hong Kong was Great Britain’s dependent territory. 

Nonetheless, when Hong Kong became China’s special administrative region, it retained its name and also its nickname. 

What is the historical significance of Hong Kong’s name? 

What is the historical significance of Hong Kong’s name

The historical significance of Hong Kong’s name comes from its production of agarwood – particuarly agarwood incense, which was known as the “King of Incense.” 

That’s why during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the city flourished as a trading post for agarwood and was known for its Fragrant Harbour moniker. 

During that time, agarwood incense and other agarwood byproducts were shipped via junk boats by the locals. From Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Harbour, the products were exported to other provinces in China, as well as parts of Asia and Arabia. 

Due to the expansive incense exportation, Hong Kong was nicknamed the “fragrant harbour” or “the incense port” by the locals. This was pronounced as “Heung Gong” due to the local’s Cantonese accent. 

Here’s the twist of rumor to the tale: when the British rolled into Hong Kong’s port, they caught wind of the agarwood’s fragrance and decided to tag all the islands as the ”Heung Gong” slash fragrant harbour or, as we all know now – Hong Kong. 

What is the modern significance of Hong Kong’s name?

In the modern context, Hong Kong’s name and its famous moniker, “Fragrant Harbour,” are like a nostalgic appreciation of its vibrant history and culture. Beyond the literal meaning of its name is the reflection of Hong Kong’s role as a historical trading hub and resiliency despite colonization. 

You see, even if Hong Kong has gone through wars and colonizations over the years, it has maintained its fragrant allure and identity. And it’s not just really about the sweet smell of agarwood – the name Fragrant Harbour stuck and persisted until now because it best represents Hong Kong and its rich past and story. 

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