This paper examines the changing understanding, remembering and writing of the history of the cascade at Waterfall Bay, which is Hong Kong’s nostalgic icon with diverse connotations given. British vessels avoided Hong Kong waters until the East India Company discovered the cascade as a fresh water source in the early 1810s. Over the first century of colonization, Britain highlighted the cascade’s historical significance to Sino-British relations and attributed it as the origin of Hong Kong’s name. Such a colonial discourse was repeated until Hong Kong began to decolonize in the late 1960s. On the other hand, migrant Chinese intellectuals in Hong Kong focused on Waterfall Bay’s precolonial history to unite Hong Kong history to the Chinese national one. Since the 1960s, Waterfall Bay and its nearby area was converted to the city’s largest public housing project and a public park. The urbanization of Waterfall Bay coincided the moment when Hong Kong people’s local identity began to consolidate. Recent local-born writers supplemented the existing two discourses by accentuating local inhabitants’ vernacular memory there. Such an additional meaning could be seen as a part of the identity search. A review of Waterfall Bay’s environmental history illustrates the complexity of history and discursive power of a place.
Dr. Gary Wong is a Lecturer in the School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds.