Hong Kong Landscapes

Shaping the Barren Rock


Bernie Owen and Raynor Shaw

ISBN : 978-962-209-847-3

Architecture, Urban Planning, Environmental Studies

October 2007

264 pages, 7″ x 10″

  • HK$250.00

Hong Kong has a largely mountainous terrain, very little flat land, no major rivers, no great forests, and a paucity of mineral wealth. The relative poverty of the place led the British Foreign Secretary to remark, in 1841, that Hong Kong was a “barren rock with hardly a house upon it”. Prior to that date, the rugged landscape of Hong Kong had evolved, with little human interference, over about 400 million years. Subsequently, large influxes of people and their farming, building, reclamation, and economic activities have markedly transformed that original landscape. This book explains, in simple terms and with numerous photographs and figures, the origins of these varied landscapes, examining the contributions of different rocks, geological structures, and modern processes, as well as the profound impact of people.

Bernie Owen studied geology at Sheffield and London. He taught geology and physical geography at the University of Malawi before moving to Hong Kong Baptist University in 1991. He has carried out geological research in many parts of the world including: Hong Kong, Kenya, Malawi, British Columbia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and Iceland. Raynor Shaw studied geography and geology at London and Edinburgh, going on to lecture in geomorphology at McMaster University, Canada. He has prospected for diamonds in West Africa and Venezuela. In 1983, he moved to Hong Kong, where he has been producing geology maps and reports. Recently, he has contributed to several Asian travel books.

“So accustomed are we to think of Hong Kong in terms just of surface—of its glitter and glamour and temporary attractions—that we seldom take time to consider its infinitely more fascinating underpinnings, the ancient rocks and their contortions that make Hong Kong uniquely Hong Kong. Now at last, and in a form eminently readable and deliciously colourful, we have the definitive guide: Bernie Owen and Raynor Shaw have stripped the territory bare, from Tai Mo Shan to Po Toi, and in this wonderful book tell us what this most extraordinary of places is really like, underneath it all.” —Simon Winchester, geologist and best-selling author, with three books on geology, who lived in Hong Kong during its final ten years as a colony

“Hong Kong is notable for many things. Particularly its economic success; its human bustle and dynamism; and its unique position as the best harbour on the Southern coast of China. Less well known is its superb landscape, both influenced and, through the Country Parks, protected by human endeavour. Dealing with the impact both of geology and human activity, this book will make a real contribution to showing what makes Hong Kong such a remarkable place.” —David Wilson, former governor of Hong Kong, now Baron Wilson of Tillyorn

“Some of the most beautiful and amazing sights in Hong Kong are in places that many residents, and probably most visitors, never see. Not only are our landscapes stunning to look at, but they have fascinating stories to tell. For fans of Hong Kong’s outdoors, this book will offer a wealth of background information. And for everyone else, hopefully it will inspire them to discover a different side of our city.” —Bernard C. Chan, member of the Executive Council of the Hong Kong SAR, and Chairman of the annual Oxfam Trailwalker event