Why are guns fired every day in Hong Kong?


Hong Kong (CNN) – Every day at noon, a large antique gun is fired Hong Kong.

No, it has nothing to do with war, protest or conflict. The Jardin Noonday Gun is about history with a side of charitable goodness.

First things first: Jardin’s Noonday Gun gets its name from its owner, the Jardin Matheson Company, which was founded in the early 1830s.

The mighty Hong Kong-based conglomerate, which has interests in everything from retail and real estate to automobiles, is known for its dramatic window-dotted skyscraper on Victoria Harbor – a few kilometers from where guns are held on calm waters. Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter.

There are some apocryphal stories behind the gun, but the most commonly repeated story is this: during the British colonial era, whenever Jardin Matheson’s head entered or left the building, the gun was fired.

This person was known locally as a taipan, a Chinese term for a non-Chinese head of a company in China. The land on which the gun sits, which is still owned by Jardin Matheson today, was the first piece of land sold to a Western private company in Hong Kong.

This was before the days of the Hong Kong subway or tram system, so the easiest way to get to and from a building on the coast was by boat, hence the pomp and feeling of circumstance.

According to legend, the sound of the gunshot – powerful enough to shock nearby pedestrians like a daily earthquake to this day – had such an effect on the British navy stationed nearby that they fired guns daily at noon. ordered to run. This is one way to make sure everyone’s clocks are on at the same time. (Things we had to do before smartphones!)

Another version of the story greets Jardin Matheson’s Taipan with a 21-gun salute, to the horror of the local army who reserve that tradition for high-ranking officers. As a result, the Navy “punished” Jardin Matheson, forcing him to begin gun-firing daily afternoons.

Whatever the exact backstory, it is a distinctly Hong Kong tradition that has endured world wars, a government handover, and several major weather events.

There is one exception to the strict schedule, however: New Year’s Eve, when guns are fired at midnight.

For visitors to Hong Kong, a visit to Nunday Gun checks many boxes. It’s free—always an advantage in an expensive city—and conveniently located near one of the island’s most hotel-packed neighborhoods.

The attraction is open to visitors every day from 12:00-12:30, which requires you to time your visit appropriately, but it is a rare tourist destination that is fun for both young children and history buffs.

For a special treatment, it is possible for a civilian to have the honor of owning a gun.

The only way to do this is to donate a small amount to mindsetA mental health organization funded by Jardine. In addition to the insanely cool act of firing a giant vintage gun at a major global city in the middle of a workday, you’ll also get a commemorative bullet casing (it’s a replica of the one you just fired) as a memento. will get. However, this is not the only tax writeoff: the minimum donation is $28,000 HKD ($3,600) for individual donors and $38,000 ($4,900) HKD for corporate ones.

There is a greener side to Hong Kong beyond the urban jungle, with miles of mountain trails within easy reach of the city.

There is another charity with a similar system community Chest, a local community promotion organization that supports Hong Kongers in need. If an individual or business donates at least $33,000 HKD ($4,250) to a group, they also become eligible to own a gun – although an additional application is required after verifying their total donation. is required.

Relics of Hong Kong’s Past

One of the most special things about Hong Kong is the combination of modern and historical. Even street names can give you clues as to what an area’s recent past was like.

One example – not far from Noonde Gun, among the glitzy exteriors of Western luxury brands – is a small alleyway called Jardin Bazaar. There, you can find booths filled with everything from feng shui decorations to socks and portable fans.

Both the street and the gun may have the name Jardin, but they are as different as the two places can be.

That said, the gun is probably more noteworthy for what it isn’t. Not only would you be hard pressed to find locals taking part in the firing ceremony, but it is common to find Hong Kong people who run or walk their dog behind a gun every day, knowing a single thing about it. Without.

Professor John M. Carroll of the University of Hong Kong’s Department of History grew up early in Noonday Gun, but says Wikipedia probably has more information about it than his own memory.

“Only a small fraction of Hong Kong’s population lives on Hong Kong Island, guns are only turned off once per day, and most (locals) people probably don’t know who Noel Coward was,” he says.

Carroll, who is also the author of “A Brief History of Hong Kong”, says: “As a historian, why something didn’t happen, or why people don’t know something about something, is always a strange question. It would be interesting to know what the people living on the boats in the storm shelters thought.”

The original gun was dropped by the Japanese military during World War II and later replaced by a similar model.

Dan Hodge / CNN

There is a reason that Carroll mentions Noel Coward, the British author, humorist and historian who died in 1978.

The most famous English-language pop culture reference to nonde guns comes from Coward’s 1931 song “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”. The dated song talks about how the only two eponymous groups are crazy enough to go out in the hot afternoon sun in Asia.

mad dog and english

Go out in the afternoon sun.

smallest Malay rabbit

Condemn this foolish habit.

in Hong Kong

they hit a gong

and fire the afternoon gun

to reprimand every prisoner

Who’s late

.



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