Hong Kong popular culture

Offer semester
2nd semester

Lecture time
Thursday 13:30 – 15:20

Lecture venue

Course description

Culture is a way of life. Popular culture is about how ordinary people eat, drink, play, think and feel in their everyday life. In the past few decades, popular ways of living in Hong Kong have changed dramatically. Departing from the state of relative poverty in the 1950s, people now participate actively in the world of modern media and consumption. They have fun in malls, sing in “K’s”, play with iPad, watch the latest Hollywood 3-D blockbusters, make friends (and enemies) on Facebook, create and consume through Instagram, and gaze at the colourful adventure of teen models and Hello Kitty with the same eagerness. We adore the “kawaii” Japanese and stylish Korean, but deep down we are the most unstylish Hong Kong yan. We are fanatic about sports, but only during the Olympics. We love China, but only when China loves us.

How do we make sense of the permutations and paradoxes in the lives of ordinary people in Hong Kong? How do pleasure, profit, technology and identity intertwine in the world of popular culture? How many of these happenings display universal features associated with modern media and consumption everywhere in the world? How many of these are bred by unique local structures and histories? How can sociological studies of popular culture help us understand Hong Kong? How can an understanding of Hong Kong help to broaden the global pool of knowledge on the study of popular culture? In this course, we shall review the latest knowledge in the field, and do a multi-level encounter with Hong Kong popular culture.

Course learning outcomes

After completing this course, you should be able to

  • Grasp some of the key concepts of media and cultural studies;
  • Understand the contexts and paths of the development of popular culture in Hong Kong;
  • Engage with the theoretical and empirical debates surrounding certain key topics;
  • Apply the understanding to real life events to analyse how wider meanings are embodied in different facets of popular culture;
  • Get an intimate exposure to Hong Kong popular culture by engaging in hands-on exercises and field projects.


Reflective pieces20%
Tutorial participation10%

Required reading

There is no textbook for this course. However, the following titles will give you a comprehensive review of the current debates on Hong Kong popular culture.

Bordwell, D. (2000) Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment. Cambridge, M.A.; London: Harvard University Press.

Cheung, E.M.K., Marchetti, G. and Yau, E.C.M. (eds.) (2015) Companion to Hong Kong Cinema. Southern Gate, Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.

Chu, Y.W. (2017) Hong Kong Cantopop: a Concise History. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Lo, K.C. (2005) Chinese Face/Off: The Transnational Popular Culture of Hong Kong. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Ma, E.K.W. (1999) Culture, Politics and Television in Hong Kong. London: Routledge.

Course co-ordinator and teachers

Office opening hours adjustment