View of Spring Gardens
Murdoch Bruce and A. Maclure
Lithography and Paint
20th August 1846
Hong Kong Museum of Art
This image is one of a series of prints by Murdoch Bruce and A. Maclure. It depicts Hong Kong as stylised towards British taste. The architectural style is influenced by and heavily resembles European architecture, including Greek columns, and is absent of any Chinese forms of architecture, such as roof ornaments taking the form of dragons or lions.
The society in British Hong Kong was racially segregated into two main groups, the local Chinese, and the foreigners, mainly the British but also included other Europeans. The land was separated, allowing the British to enjoy ‘elite’ Victorian style luxuries in the Eastern portion of Hong Kong, while racial laws were erected, forcing the natives to live in crowded living spaces in the Western portion of the island. This racial segregation materialised through mutual animosity between the two races. This animosity is disguised in the image whereby the artists portray the British as superior to the Chinese by having a local Chinese man bow to a group of foreigners, which are likely to be British — in Chinese culture, bowing is a way to show respect to one’s superiors.
While the image, at first glance, portrays a grandeur Colonial Hong Kong, it also highlights the immense difference in the socio-economic status between the two races. The British are seen as the elites of the nation, dressing in splendour, while the local Chinese are dress in simple, traditional clothes and are depicted as the working class, serving the British.