15: Signs in Hong Kong

I love signs. They tell us about the history and character of a place. A sign tells us how something wants to be represented. In Hong Kong, signs are everywhere. Written on buildings; jutting out on rusty poles; printed; handwritten; Glowing in neon, or not at all; marking its colonial legacy, or moving forward. What is included and excluded on a sign tells us a lot about the place we live in.

Kowloon City

First of all classic Hong Kong.

Tsim Tsa Tsui

Hong Kong is at home with density. Some signs block others. Is there an arrangement or is it every signowner for themselves?

Sheung Wan

I saw this sign in Sheung Wan. According to a quick google search the company was founded in 1961.

Sheung Wan

Hong Kong has many buildings with these vertical signs that are allowed due to the nature of Chinese characters. They look like giant handwriting. Handwritten rather than printed. Curved rather than straight.

Somewhere in Kowloon (?)

I took this photo from a doubledecker bus.

Mong Kok

Doctor in Hong Kong advertise themselves. They often put their education and specialities in the sign. Institutional trust in Hong Kong and going to the same doctor for many years is rare. Do people read these signs and their qualifications however or do they only care that they are there?

In Europe you can recognize a Church from far away. In Hong Kong however with some exceptions you need a sign to tell you where the churches are. The church blends in with other establishment bringing it down to the level of supermarkets, butchers, cafe’s, barbers. It is simply another service that is provided and signified by the church sign, which like all other services features their telephone number and sermon (service?) hours as well.

Near temple street

What language do we put first? This market stall chose to use english to advertise their service adding in Chinese after almost as something of an afterthought as the characters 維修 get crammed in the end. Perhaps it advertises to tourists more, knowing that the locals will already be familar with the services they provide.

Near temple street

A construction or building advertisement that only caters to the Chinese reading market. On the left we see a faded kiosk sign [發利士多]

Sheung Wan: Do not stick things

Imperfection is beautiful. Normally these signs are associated with power; a government or corporation telling us how to behave ourselves on ‘their’ property. These signs will be perfect, mechanical, printed and cut, a perfect rectangle with perfect proportions. This sign however is none of that. Its shape is wobbly and the characters are uneven. There is a human element behind. Perhaps the owner of this house got tired of cleaning up posters. It is also in simplified which tells us more about the person who wrote this.

<- Barber in Central / Sheung Wan

This is my favourite sign. First of the writing once again beautiful in its imperfection. The colour red matches the chair and shrine and as we have seen is a favourite colour of signs in Hong Kong. The words barber [理髮】have been repainted recently. There is a grey square serving as a base for the words. The Hong Kong government has been zealous in removing any (political) graffiti recently. I can imagine a cleaner painted this sign to the frustration of the barber. Like the other handwritten signs it is placed at eye level. We can interact with it; touch it, it is altered by events taking place and is part of the street.

This imposing sign is a few steps away from the barber sign above. It is located in an alley and I wonder who is supposed to see this. There is a dominating quality to this sign. You have to look up to read it and the metallic surface gives it a cold quality. It is a self referential sign. No phone number, adress, or what kind of building it is. Those that know already know and other don’t need to. It is a sign meant for people who fly around the world looking at the world from above. Far removed from the barber sign only a few steps away that is situated in the struggles of the here and now.

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