By Kimberley Rain Miner
July 24, 2009
In the middle of Hong Kong’s bustling Midlevels, there is a jungle. The island of Hong Kong has an amazing dualism of high-rise apartments and offices, alongside green open spaces. This dualism is deeply connected to the dynamic history of a culture nurtured by both the East and the West. Hong Kong was colonized for just under 200 years; a period relatively brief for an English colony. Its long maritime history also made it an important cultural meeting place for people from all over Asia and the world.
Ecologically speaking, the lush island has been transformed by sky scrapers, an intricate system of roads, and the presence of millions of people. Yet so much of Hong Kong’s ecological history remains. Close to Central Hong Kong, from the Midlevels, one is still able to see lush tropical forest surrounding the city. The vertical growth of skyscrapers and multi-storied office buildings has made it possible for the people of Hong Kong to conserve much of the natural ecology of the island. The Hong Kong government has taken phenomenal steps to preserve the dynamic ecosystem so traditionally relied upon by Chinese culture to provide inner tranquility.
Originally conceived and built in 1864 by Sir Arther Kennedy, the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens are an excellent ecological example of the inter mixing of natural cultures. It includes both native and non-native plants and animals, with a generous nod towards culturally significant species. The concept of the gardens and the early pictures of their construction tell of colonialism and a uniquely English need for natural order. Since their creation, however, Hong Kong has changed and the gardens have grown lush and diverse. They have become an ecological mirror of a city built on diversity itself. The gardens boast of over 1,000 species of plants, over 500 species of animals, and an amazing room filled with native and non-native Orchids.
The garden is an ecologist’s daydream in the middle of Hong Kong, with placards displaying the family, genus and species of all the plants in Chinese and in English. The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical gardens have become a congregation of the cultural heritage of Hong Kong, giving new life to a colonial British garden. By taking the steps to expand and grow the ecological and cultural diversity of the park, Hong Kong has added to the vibrancy and culture available to visitors and residents alike. Through the stewardship of such a great diversity of plants and animals, it has given itself a new life as well.
Kimberley Rain Miner is a trained ecologist with a love of botany. She is visiting Hong Kong for the second time, the first stop on a trip around the world. She will also be visiting Thailand, Nepal, India and Europe.
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