Northeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Landscape of Imperial War Memories in a Postcolonial City: Hong Kong’s Cenotaph

Friday, July 6
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Kadamba, Lower Ground Floor

This research explores the aesthetical and spatial landscape of Hong Kong’s earliest imperial war monument, the Cenotaph, from the city’s colonial past to its post-1997 present. Hong Kong’s Cenotaph, a smaller replica of London’s Whitehall Cenotaph, which was designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens, reveals how Britain establishes its network of imperial symbolism in its colonies in the early 20th century. Meanwhile, the research especially underscores how the meaning of the monumental space has been transforming in relation to its neighboring environment. In Hong Kong, the grand unveiling ceremony of the Cenotaph after WWII symbolizes the “rebirth” of a Hong Kong, which got rid of the Japanese occupation, in the resumed British colonization. Since the 1970s, nevertheless, its visibility became increasingly low. This is because, on the one hand, war commemoration in a colony like Hong Kong proves ambiguous, as the usual intention of war monument to unify the nation doesn’t find its place here. On the other hand, after the 1997 handover, a new WWII memorial square built a self-enclosed space in front of the City Hall, moving the major WWII commemorative space from the Cenotaph. I argue that from the time of being a British colony to a Special Administrative Zone in the People’s Republic of China, early war commemorative artifact in Hong Kong always remains forgotten or marginal in the city’s major narrative. Neither the normative intention of war monument nor memories of colonial style commemorative relics can find its place in the city’s immediate present. 

Lu Pan

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

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1 - Landscape of Imperial War Memories in a Postcolonial City: Hong Kong’s Cenotaph



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