January 5, 2014 — I spent a couple of hours on Sunday morning wandering around Hong Kong Cemetery with my daughter Lindsey. It was something that we had been planning to do for some time, and the cool, dry weather made it a perfect day. We decided to skip the famous graves and explore some of the corners and niches of the cemetery, which is built into a hillside in Happy Valley, next to the race track.
The first thing that strikes you is the age of the graves — many date back over 150 years.
Hong Kong’s role as a port shines through, with sailors from the U.K. as well as the U.S., Denmark, Norway, Russia and other countries buried here. It’s also reflected in the causes of death, which include drowning and battles with smugglers and pirates. Many headstones commemorate men buried at sea and several people died in Japan or China and were interred in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s civil servants — including colonial administrators, warders, firefighters, police and even a sanitary inspector — are also well represented. Hong Kong has always been a place for people looking to build a career, and this is reflected in the tombstones of engineers and insurance executives as well as missionaries from a variety of groups including the Salvation Army. Officers of the Salvation Army don’t die, it seems. Instead, they are “promoted to glory.” The Masons, who are also well represented, “pass to the grand lodge above.”
There is a strong military presence, including servicemen from the First and Second World Wars, as well as prisoners of war. The graves also mark other important events, like fires and typhoons.
We finished up with a quick look around St. Michael’s Catholic Cemetery, which is next door. It’s much more crowded, and we’ll be back for a better look before the weather turns hot and sticky.
To see more photos of the Hong Kong Cemetery and St. Michael’s Catholic Cemetery click on this link to a Flickr set.