The story behind Hong Kong’s Jardine Noonday Gun

Hong Kong (CNN) — Every single day at midday, a big vintage gun is fired in Hong Kong.

No, this has nothing to do with conflict, protests or battle. The Jardine Noonday Gun is about historical past with a aspect of charitable goodness.

It will get its title from its proprietor, the Jardine Matheson Firm, which was based within the early 1830s. The highly effective Hong Kong-based conglomerate, which has pursuits in every thing from retail and actual property to cars, is thought for its dramatic window-dotted skyscraper on Victoria Harbour — just some kilometers away from the place the gun is perched on the calmer waters of the Causeway Bay hurricane shelter.

There are a couple of apocryphal tales behind the gun, however probably the most generally repeated story is that this: through the British colonial period, the gun was fired every time the pinnacle of Jardine Matheson entered or left the constructing.

This man was regionally generally known as a taipan, which is a Chinese language phrase for the non-Chinese language head of a China-based firm. The plot of land the gun sits on, nonetheless owned by Jardine Matheson to at the present time, was the primary piece of land offered to a Western non-public firm in Hong Kong.

This was earlier than the times of the Hong Kong subway or tram system, so the simplest method to get to and from a constructing on the waterfront was by boat, therefore the pomp-and-circumstance feeling.

In response to legend, the sound of the gun being fired — which to at the present time is highly effective sufficient to jolt close by pedestrians like a every day earthquake — made such an impression on the British Navy stationed close by that they ordered the gun fired every day at midday as a manner to verify everybody’s clocks had been on the identical schedule. (The issues we needed to do earlier than smartphones!)

One other model of the story has Jardine Matheson’s taipan being greeted by a 21-gun salute, to the horror of the native army who reserve that custom for top rating officers. Because of this, the Navy “punished” Jardine Matheson by forcing them to institute the every day noontime gun-firing.

Regardless of the correct backstory, it is a uniquely Hong Kong custom that has outlasted world wars, a governmental handover and a number of main climate incidents.

There may be one exception to the strict schedule, although: New Yr’s Eve, when the gun is fired at midnight.

For guests to Hong Kong, a visit to the Noonday Gun checks off a number of containers. It is free — at all times a perk in an costly metropolis — and conveniently situated close to one of many island’s most hotel-packed neighborhoods.

The one time this attraction is open to guests is from 12:00-12:30 p.m. each day, which requires you to time your go to appropriately, but it surely’s the uncommon vacationer spot that’s enjoyable for each little children and historical past buffs.

For a particular deal with, it’s doable for a civilian to have the honour of firing the gun themselves.

The one method to make this occur is by donating a not-small quantity to MINDSET, a psychological well being group funded by Jardine’s. Along with the extraordinarily cool act of firing a large classic gun in a significant world metropolis in the midst of a workday, you may get a commemorative bullet casing (not the one you simply fired, it is a reproduction) as a souvenir. Nevertheless, that is no mere tax writeoff: the minimal donation is $28,000 HKD ($3,600) for particular person donors and $38,000 ($4,900) HKD for company ones.

Past the city jungle there is a greener aspect to Hong Kong, with miles of mountainous routes inside straightforward attain of the town.

One other charity with the same system is Neighborhood Chest, a area people enrichment group that helps needy Hong Kongers. If an individual or enterprise donates not less than $33,000 HKD ($4,250) to the group, they too grow to be eligible to fireplace the gun — though a further utility is required as soon as they affirm their donation complete.

Remnants of Hong Kong’s previous

Probably the most particular issues about Hong Kong is its mixture of recent and historic. Even avenue names can provide you a clue towards what an space’s not-so-recent previous was.

One instance — not removed from the Noonday Gun, among the many shiny exteriors of western luxurious manufacturers — there’s just a little alley referred to as Jardine’s Bazaar. There, yow will discover cubicles full of every thing from feng shui decorations to socks and moveable followers.

The road and the gun might each bear the title of Jardine, however they’re as totally different as two locations will be.

That mentioned, the gun is presumably extra notable for what it is not than for what it’s. Not solely will you be laborious pressed to discover a native attending the firing ceremony, it’s normal to seek out Hongkongers who go working or stroll their canine previous the gun each day with out understanding a single factor about it.

Professor John M. Carroll of Hong Kong College’s historical past division grew up inside earshot of the Noonday Gun, however he says there’s in all probability extra details about it on Wikipedia than in his personal reminiscence.

“Solely a small fraction of Hong Kong’s inhabitants lives on Hong Kong Island, the gun goes off solely as soon as per day, and most (native) individuals in all probability do not know who Noel Coward was,” he says.

Carroll, who can also be the creator of “A Concise Historical past of Hong Kong,” provides: “As a historian, why one thing did not occur, or why individuals do not know something about one thing, is at all times a somewhat odd query. It could be fascinating to know what the individuals dwelling on the boats within the hurricane shelter thought.”

The unique gun was eliminated by the Japanese forces throughout World Conflict II and changed afterward by the same mannequin.

Dan Hodge/CNN

There is a purpose Carroll mentions Noel Coward, the British author, humorist and historian who died in 1978.

The perfect identified English-language popular culture reference to the Noonday Gun comes from Coward’s 1931 music “Mad Canines and Englishmen.” The dated music talks about how solely the 2 titular teams are loopy sufficient to exit within the sizzling noon solar in Asia.

Mad canine and Englishmen

Exit within the noon solar.

The smallest Malay rabbit

Deplores this silly behavior.

In Hong Kong

They strike a gong

And fireplace off a noonday gun

To reprimand every inmate

Who’s in late.

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