Which City's Name Means Fragrant Harbor?

Hong Kong's name is sometimes translated to mean "Fragrant Harbor".
Hong Kong's name is sometimes translated to mean "Fragrant Harbor".

Did you know that Hong Kong is sometimes called "Fragrant Harbor"? The city of Hong Kong has a rich history that spans over 6,000 years. It is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and one of the most advanced cities in Asia. Hong Kong boasts one of the largest collections of skyscrapers in the world. It began as a fishing, salt mining, and farming village and later developed into an important seaport in China. Today, residents of Hong Kong enjoy a high quality of life and a long life expectancy. 

Naming Of The City

But where did this beautiful city get its name and how did it come to be called the “Fragrant Harbor?” Well, the territory that is now present-day Hong Kong was first referred to as “He-Ong-Kong” in reference to the small inland between Hong Kong Island and Aberdeen Island. The name was later Romanized and the pronunciation changed to “heung gong” which translates to “incense harbor” or “fragrant harbor.” There are speculations that Hong Kong was initially the name of a small village on the island that exported trees. The village, which is now known as Aberdeen, was famous for exporting incense trees. The Europeans, who were seeking for fragrant trees and tree parts, assumed that the name “Hong Kong” referred to the entire island.

Origin Of The Name

Although the origin of the name “Fragrant Harbor” can only be speculated, there are two theories that try to explain how and why the name came about. “Fragrant Harbor” may have referred to the sweet and fragrant waters of the Pearl River or the sweet smell of agarwood that is popular on the island.

The Small Stream

There is a small stream of water that flows across the city of Hong Kong. Many people are actually of the opinion that the waters of the Pearl River are sweet tasting. For a long time, the stream has provided clean and clear water for the residents of the city. The water has been used for domestic and industrial purposes. Thus, the naming of the city may have been inspired by the fragrant waters of this stream which was named the “fragrant river.” It is from the name fragrant river that Hong Kong received the name “Fragrant Harbor.”

A Harbor For Fragrant Agarwood

The second theory, which is the most popular theory of the two theories, explains that the city was a major harbor for products such as oil, resin, and agarwood. These and many other products were shipped from Guang Dong Province to Chinese Provinces located in the northern side of the country. Agarwood has always been a popular product in Guang Dong Province and is used in making fragrances for herbal medicine. It is also a popular ingredient for perfumes and air fresheners. Besides medicine, the fragrance is added to liquor and wine to sweeten and add a scent to the drinks. Since the city was a major harbor for the fragrance agarwood, it was named the “Fragrance Harbor.”


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