Umbrella Revolution: Hong Kongers appropriate the humble umbrella as a symbol for freedom and democracy.

Forum World Affairs

Hong Kong, Democracy and Cultural Myths

Myths are the way we make sense of our world, they are the stories we are told, and in turn tell to others.

Myths provide a sense of purpose in a complex world, and fundamentally, hope for the future.

During the later years of the Qing dynasty in China, beset by foreign invasions and a failure to modernize, the myth of China’s 4000-year Confucian order unravelled. In its place, new stories competed for dominance: proto-nationalist, religious, and ethnic-factionalist. In the end, a story told by a group of young Chinese, centered on the theme of equality, took hold. This was the beginning of the story of Communist China.

Today, in Hong Kong, another myth has started to unravel: the promise of a truly democratic state. In its place, another group of youth are trying to create new stories about what the future entails. The question remains: will they be able to weave a tale compelling enough, or will Hong Kongers return to the uncertainty of their every day lives, mythless, still waiting for the right story to be told? ●


Graham Candy is a PhD researcher in cultural anthropology at the University of Toronto. Read his cover story on China in the inaugural issue of Peeps Magazine.

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