Friday, March 1, 2024
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Preserving the light

HONG KONG (AFP) – A fuchsia sign for a bridal shop, the Chinese “double happiness” character, a cool-blue flying dragon – luminous lights of dozens of neon signs removed from the streets of Hong Kong flickered on once again at a downtown exhibit.

The show at Hong Kong’s Tai Kwun – a historic police compound-turned-cultural centre – was curated by Tetra Neon Exchange, a group focused on conserving the city’s neon signs that are slowly being taken down due to building safety concerns.

“Neon lights like these are becoming fewer and fewer… so I wanted to come here to take pictures to leave a memory for myself,” said 18-year-old student Mei Yan dressed up in a traditional Cheongsam dress – befitting of the exhibit’s retro vibe.

Another visitor surnamed Chan said the exhibit serves as a reminder of Hong Kong’s past.

“We saw these signs when we were young, but as time goes by, many of them disappear,” Chan told AFP.

Tetra Neon Exchange’s general manager said she’s hopeful that their conservation work – and the exhibit, which runs until September 3 – could help boost awareness to preserve the few shimmering signs remaining in the city.

ABOVE & BELOW: Construction workers remove a neon sign of Tai Ping Koon Restaurant from a building in Hong Kong; and a neon sign sits on the ground after it was removed. PHOTO: AFP
PHOTO: AFP

“Hopefully that will slow down the disappearing… of neon signs,” Cardin Chan said.

But across town in Kowloon Sunday, electrical technicians worked carefully to remove a towering sign for the famed Tai Ping Koon Restaurant – one of Hong Kong’s oldest eating establishments.

Its multi-coloured billboard was erected in 1964, making it the city’s oldest preserved sign on record, said Andrew Chui, the fifth-generation owner of Tai Ping Koon.

“I still remember the day when the sign was put up, my grandfather was here, and I was here, witnessing the history,” Chui told AFP. “Today, my son will be here to witness the sign being taken down.”

He added that the restaurant is seeking government approval for a new, slightly smaller sign to be put up.

“Neon signs are a part of Hong Kong culture… I want to keep this a tradition as long as possible.”

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