The antecedents of the city-state of Hong Kong can be likened to that of a suitcase kid, where the upbringing of a child fluctuates between two separated parents. Hong Kong was and still remains geographically, a part of China and Southeast Asia but became a British colony from 1842-1997. It was also ruled briefly by Japan.
While Hong Kong's situation under British rule is well-documented, its governance by the ancient dynasties of China remains a mystery. Here is a detailed look at how ancient Hong Kong was ruled by the Chinese.
Timeline of Hong Kong Under Imperial Chinese Rule
Prior to the Chinese, Hong Kong was inhabited by an unknown ancient race known as the Yue people. Archaeologists recently discovered a large burial ground and research carried out at the site indicated, they were a tribe of warriors with a non-Chinese religion.
Not much light can be shed on these early Hong Kong inhabitants. But they faced the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who was looking to consolidate all of China under his rule, in 221 BC. The Yue were no match for the powerful Chinese force and were wiped out. Soon, Hong Kong became another part of the vast Chinese empire.
In 210 BC, Emperor Huang died and unrest broke out against his successor's rule. The area of what is now Hong Kong, was staked by a Han Chinese general, Zhao Tuo, who founded his own kingdom and named the area Nanyue.
For a while, his rule reigned but in 112 BC, Nanyue was taken over by the mighty Han Dynasty. This was the first of the Five Clans of China to rule over Hong Kong. The Hans seemingly utilized the area for large-scale salt production, as supported by the archeological items found in a tomb dating from that time.
These settlers heavily influenced the area, with most artifacts and relics reflecting the rich Han traditions and heritage. The descendants of this dynasty remain members of today's Hong Kong population.
The Han Dynasty soon made way for the Tang Dynasty. These rulers realized the key advantage of the area lay in its strategic location and turned it into a highly profitable sea port. This opened up trade between China and the world. Soon the region flourished into a trading port, a key Chinese naval base and an ideal location for pearl farming.
In 1276, Honk Kong became known to the rest of China's populace as the tragic place where an emperor died. The Mongols invaded China at this time, and to escape the horde, child emperor Duan Zong along with his Song Dynasty court, tried to reach Hong Kong.
But sadly, the emperor and his entourage drowned in the Pearl River. For a while, the Mongols ruled over Hong Kong and the populace was a mix of Chinese refugees from various clans.
In the 16th century, the Ming Dynasty was in charge of Hong Kong. This time period also saw the arrival of the Portuguese to Chinese shores, who began trade. But they also built up military defenses on the sly and were soon confronted by the Chinese.
They were subsequently banished and frightened by such interference, the Maritime Prohibition law was levied by the Chinese ruling dynasty, to prevent foreign powers from trading. In this confusing time, the natives of Hong Kong were forced to leave their land and move to mainland China. This forced movement took place from 1661 to 1669.
In 1669, the British arrived in China, in the form of the East India Company. Emperor Kangxi, the then ruler of China, was very wary of the newcomers but wanted to trade with them. So he drew up a strict set of rules and restrictions to be followed by the foreigners and carried out trade with the British merchants in Canton.
Trade flourished between East and the West and soon a trading post was set up. This put Hong Kong on the foreign trade map. At this time, Hong Kong also became the main port for the British to bring opium into China.
Trading away silver for opium at an alarming rate depleted the nation's treasury severely. Also the local population had turned into opium addicts. Opium was subsequently banned by Emperor Chia Ch'ing but its use continued secretly. The arrival of mandarin Lin Zexu saw the end of the secret opium trade and the British were cornered from all sides.
The ban of opium angered the British and they went on the offensive and attacked Guangzhou, then Shanghai and then turned their wrath on Beijing. This was the First Opium War. The power of the British forced the emperor into agreeing to hand over Hong Kong. For a while, peace reigned between the two parties.
However, the Chinese seemed very reluctant to hand over Hong Kong. Once again, the British went on the warpath and this time seized the prime thriving city of Nanking. The Chinese were effectively put in their place and drew up the Treaty of Nanking in 1842.
Now they had Nanking back and the British got Honk Kong, free of cost, to rule as they please and free from any Chinese law. Thus, the area of Hong Kong passed from Imperial Chinese rule into the hands of the British.
The British ruled Hong Kong for 156 years, finally returning it to the Chinese in 1997. The brief history of Hong Kong as a Chinese region, offers a fascinating glimpse into the rule of dynasties, the formation of local populace and how the sprawling metropolis of Hong Kong came into being.