Miniatures, paradoxically, enlarge the details and psychogeography of a place by virtue of their diminutive nature. In this miniatures exhibition, Hong Kong: Through The Looking Glass, visitors get to view iconic locations in Hong Kong from a different perspective and a unique vantage point. This exhibition, co-organised by Hong Kong Tourism Board, is part of the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s establishment, and it is making its Singapore debut following its success across cities in China and Japan.
The effort and attention to detail ooze out of the miniature replicas of buildings and neighbourhoods, which are testament to the skill of the artists and the painstaking effort involved in the project. Many exhibits have moving parts and flashing lights that bring the small piece of Hong Kong to life, and viewing them is not simply a passive act. They call for visitors to observe, explore, and notice the most intricate, everyday details. This is a great opportunity to experience the immersive effect of viewing miniatures and learn about the various facets of Hong Kong that form a core part of its culture and history.
“There are a lot of hidden things for you to discover. It’s like a journey into Hong Kong’s past, present and future. The exhibition takes you through this journey of Hong Kong in 100 steps.”Carmen Poon, President of Joyful Miniature Association.
Yue Man Square (1:76 scale)
The most eye-catching exhibit in the extensive and sprawling exhibition has to be the Yue Man Square, which is the biggest exhibit that the Joyful Miniature Association has handled so far. It is the first time this exhibit has been brought out of Hong Kong, and due to its size, the model had to be broken down into two parts in order to be transported to Singapore.
It depicts the bustling town centre of Kwun Tong with lots of pedestrians, neon lights, traffic lights, neighbourhood shops, hawkers, and staircase shops. The exhibit includes Yue Man Mansion, Yue Wah Mansion, and Bonds Theatre. These are not just familiar buildings, they bring out a certain character that is undeniably Hong Kong. To breathe more life into the exhibit, there are also AR elements that visitors can interact with by scanning QR codes, letting them see pedestrians and buses moving down the street, celebratory fireworks being launched, and more.
Tim’s Toy Shop (1:12 scale)
For those who want to experience a piece of pre-internet childhood, Tim’s Toy Shop is the exhibit that you can easily spend quite a bit of time staring at. It is modelled on a toy shop that existed in the Kowloon Walled City in the 1970s. There are many familiar miniature toys based on Japanese animation such as Q-Taro, Ultraman, and more. Everything from the packaging of the toys, CRT TV (which works!), to the store layout is familiar to many Asian millennials, and with over 200 pieces of miniature toys to pore through, this is an exhibit that’s rich in nostalgia.
For this exhibit, due to the sheer amount of details, the artist had to improvise a lot to get the intended effect. For example, by using LEGO blocks as mini pencil cases. Even now, Hong Kong is still a haven for toy lovers, but the old-school atmosphere of Tim’s Toy Shop is one that exists only in memories, and now, in miniature.
Cheung Chau Bun Festival (1:35 scale)
The Cheung Chau Bun Festival exhibit depicts the highlight of Cheung Chau Island’s annual grand festival. Athletes are seen in the thick of action, trying to get as many lucky buns as possible at the top of a 14-metre bamboo tower covered with said buns. The grandiosity of the festival is clear even in miniature form, featuring 6,000 hand-painted mini buns, capturing every angle of a culturally significant moment.
Bamboo Theatre (1:35 scale)
The Bamboo Theatre celebrates the vanishing craft of bamboo construction, specifically a theatre, which typically serves as Chinese opera performance venues during festivals. It is a very traditional way of building a theatre, and in Hong Kong, there are only three craftsmen left who know how to build these theatres.
The architecture and construction of the theatres are steeped deep in history and folk customs, and the work involved for a bamboo theatre is incidentally mirrored by the miniature artist. For this exhibition, over 1,000 mini light bulbs had to be painted, along with the large handmade flower board that serves as an attention-grabber. The Bamboo Theatre preserves tradition in a way that still allows others to admire it in a material and tangible manner.
China Café (1:18 scale)
The China Café is a familiar location for fans of Hong Kong films, as it serves as a shooting location for many classic films. The exhibit is so detailed that the ceiling fans can turn, the coins are engraved to look like real Hong Kong coins, and even the miniature clock works as a normal clock. The café itself is also a fixture of Hong Kong culture, with familiar food and beverages on the menu that evokes the feeling of home from Hong Kong people. As an easter egg, the artist also made a model of himself as one of the patrons of the café.
The Blue House (1:24 scale)
The Blue House is yet another distinctive landmark in the Hong Kong landscape. It is a typical Lingnan-style house built in 1922, but got its colour during a renovation in the 1990s. The architecture is instantly recognisable, and the building itself used to house a martial arts studio opened by the nephew of Huang Feihong’s disciple, Lin Shirong. Following that, the building was converted into a Chinese medical clinic. The artist worked with a contractor to draw up a blueprint before the model was built. To make the model come alive, they also worked with an electrical company and had professional light fitting done for the entire building. The keen-eyed visitor may also recognise Andy Lau on a motorcycle outside the building, which is intended as a tribute to the movie, 天若有情 (A Moment of Romance).
This is a building that embodies how every piece of architecture holds a depth and density of history that can so easily be forgotten and lost. However, in re-creating the details and capturing it in miniature art, perhaps a more robust longevity can be attained for not just this grade one historic building, but also others like it.
Tim’s Stationery Shop (1:12 scale)
Tim’s Stationery Shop goes hand in hand with the toy shop, as it is a place where students lingered and spent their pocket money. There is definitely a treasure hunt aspect present due to the densely packed nature of the shop, and many of these items enticed countless millennials when we were young. There are postcards, erasers, balls, toys, pencil cases, and more, the sheer intricacies explain why the artists had to spend three years on this exhibit.
“Miniatures are like magic. You put reality into this very small space, and you can see so many details. For example, the Bamboo Theatre has 1,000 light bulbs, and they are all painted with three layers of colours, just for that extra bit of depth. Everything, the full 360 degrees, is presented. It’s not just one single facet.”Carmen Poon, President of Joyful Miniature Association.
Limited edition “Arts in Hong Kong” colouring/recipe books (with sticker sheet) will be given away during the miniature exhibition too for visitors who post a photo or video of the exhibition on their social media page. However, stocks are limited, so don’t sit on this opportunity to fill in the sights of Hong Kong with your colours!
Rich in culture, history, and nostalgia for a bygone era, this is one exhibition not to be missed.
What we have shown here is but just a small sliver of the entire collection of 40 exhibits on showcase. The entire showcase is split into two locations at Suntec City so make sure to visit both locales for the complete experience.
Hong Kong: Through The Looking Glass
Date: Now to 17 April 2022
Location: Suntec City East Atrium Level 1 & Level 3, #03-342 (near playground)
Opening Hours: 10am to 9pm
Check out more photos from the exhibit below:
As we look forward to borders reopening in the near future, Hong Kong makes for a great travel destination for those going through wanderlust. And with so many spots for toy shopping, collectors may want to start planning early for their next holiday.
This article is brought to you together with the Hong Kong Tourism Board.