1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Rivers and Lakes: Other Spaces of Hong Kong


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The dichotomy between the safe, organized and familiar, and the risky, uncertain, and uncanny is deeply grounded in the Chinese culture. In Chinese fiction, this tension between order and disorder is thematized through the notion of jiānghú, literally meaning “rivers and lakes,” and vaguely denoting “a world outside”.

Film is a dominant cultural form in Hong Kong. Partly due to tightness of budget and schedule, Hong Kong movies are often shot on location. While the film sets include places of great social value and acceptance such as diners and public buildings, the locations, which are more easily available, are those which are openly accessible, leftover, or underused. These places form the imaginary locations for jiānghú fiction, and at the same time the filmic narratives reveal the otherness of these spaces in contrast to the efficient, convenient and safe city of Hong Kong today.

Starting from the notion of jiānghú, this talk explores the spaces and spatial practices represented in Hong Kong movies, which escape mainstream categories in society or current trends in the city’s architecture and urban development. Film serves here a powerful tool to illustrate the externalisation of danger and disorder in Chinese society and its reciprocal effect with the spatial dichotomy between controlled and jiānghú spaces in the city of Hong Kong. 


Reception follows in Brooks Commons, 1st Floor
Event Date: 
Friday, 25 October 2013 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Esther Lorenz
Speaker Title: 
Lecturer, Department of Architecture, University of Virginia