Chinese junks in Hong Kong

Chinese junks feature in my novel, The Orchid Tree.

I grew up in Hong Kong in the sixties and seventies and have witnessed the end of the age of sail, something which occurred in the mid nineteenth century in the West.

Sights like these no longer exist:


The cargo ships have been replaced by massive container vessels and the majestic sailing junks have gone, having given way to the diesel engine. I remember a huge fleet of about one hundred junks taking shelter from a typhoon in Hong Kong Harbour in 1975. This was probably the last time they were seen in such numbers.

Nowadays, the Hong Kong Tourist Association organises a pseudo-junk (its sails are purely decorative) to motor across the harbour and provide something for tourists to photograph. You can also pay for rides in modernised junks. Well-off local residents also have ‘junks’, which they ‘sail’ out to secluded islands for beach picnics in the summer months. In the sixties we used to swim in the crystal-clear water, but sadly now the sea is polluted and somewhat shark-infested. Most likely, a boat outing these days is another name for a booze-cruise – an opportunity for business entertaining or spending time with friends. Gin Drinker’s Bay, which has been filled-in during land reclamation of parts of the harbour, was so named because of the launch parties that used to anchor there before the war. But I digress. Those beautiful Hong Kong junks with their butterfly-wing sails: how I wish we could see them still!


4 thoughts on “Chinese junks in Hong Kong

  1. They are like swans, slowly drifting and sometimes pushed by breeze. I watched these make their way through a myriad sampans – but that was in 1956, when I was radio officer on the troopship Dunera en route for Japan to bring home our troops after Korea. How the world does change!


  2. The world does not change for the better when such beauty is lost in the name of progress. Only those who remember will feel the loss, I suppose. Just like at the end of the age of sail in the West.


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