Laying the Foundation for the Study of Hong Kong Literature

Prof. Lo Wai-luen
The online Hong Kong Literature Archive
Hong Kong Literature Archive
Hong Kong Literature Archive

The geographical location, historical background and political environment of Hong Kong have formed a unique habitat in Chinese-speaking regions for writers, whether homegrown or just visiting, to create resplendent literary works. Whether in the past or in the future, Hong Kong literature would always be a cultural asset that should be treasured.

Prof. Lo Wai-luen (aka Xiao Si), Adviser to the Hong Kong Literature Research Centre of CUHK, is meticulous, careful and serious in her scholarship. She sees the study of literature as her calling and is determined to explore the position of native Hong Kong literature against the backdrop of the historical development of contemporary Chinese literature.

An untiring treasure hunt

Professor Lo found that a good number of major authors in contemporary Chinese literature had lived or taught in Hong Kong, but relevant materials and literary data were fading into oblivion. So she decided to direct her efforts towards the preservation and proper management of materials on this subject, with a view to deriving future parameters and direction for literary research in the territory. She then buried herself in the library collections of various universities, travelled through streets and lanes, visited bookstores large and small all over Hong Kong as well as stalls and shops selling used books to look for materials on Hong Kong literature that were little known. Whether it was old newspapers, news cuttings, literary journals, classical works, books out of print, writers’ reading notes, letters, photographs … she recovered all of these, personally sifted through them, transcribed precious materials word by word, classified them, produced data cards and stored them in shoe boxes and, later, plastic boxes and file cabinets.

Driven by an amazing pedagogic zeal, Professor Lo has dug out, sorted, created, and passed on knowledge to her students. She treats her lifelong collection of literary materials as public assets. When retiring from the Chinese Department in 2002, she generously gave her entire collection of books and journals on Hong Kong literature and culture, files and data on writers, etc., to the University Library to form the Hong Kong Literature Archive. With the assistance of Mrs. Rita Wong, then Deputy Librarian, she established an electronic database on Hong Kong literature. “I myself cannot make full use of these materials,” said Professor Lo, “It is better to sort them out and make them public with the use of technology so that everybody can use them.”

A local canon is born

Further to the bulk donation in 2002, Professor Lo is still sourcing and liaising with various parties for precious materials and important books and journals, and give them to the Library. By now, the Hong Kong Literature Archive boasts over 900 items of letters and documents of writers and academics in manuscript, over 27,000 volumes of books, and over 1,000 titles for periodicals. The online database on the subject consists of over 38,000 entries. It has been widely applauded by both scholars, local and overseas, as the most comprehensive collection for pedagogical study of this subject.

The results of Professor Lo’s half-century of intense scholarship have laid a solid foundation for successors who are called to research work on Hong Kong literature. It is the wish of Professor Lo that researchers can pick from these source materials their areas of interest and do thorough research on them, thus painting a fair and reasonable picture of the literature of Hong Kong.