This digital humanities project is to apply GIS technology to portray the geographical landscape of the commercial activities on Hong Kong Island from 1900 to 1933. The objective of this project is to convert the conventional archival directories and the historical block-maps into GIS data to provide spatial distributions and visualization of commercial entities on Hong Kong Island in a web-based map.

The GIS datasets are drawn from a Research Project[1] via Dr Michael Ng (Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong), in collaboration with Dr Edwin Chow (Texas State University), Prof David Wong (George Mason University) and Carlo Chan (University of Sheffield). The primary materials adopted from the Research Project to create this web-based GIS mapping project are old directories of Hong Kong[2] and block-maps of Hong Kong in 1901[3]. The historical directories list both public and private entities such as banks, merchants & traders, shipping firms, government offices, schools, churches, hotels, clubs and registered societies and associations. While the historical directories cover both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon side, the block-maps, however, illustrate only the geographical landscape of the urban areas of Hong Kong Island (around today’s Western District to Tai Hang). Therefore only the spatial-temporal data of Hong Kong Island on the early twentieth century is included in this GIS database at the moment. It is hoped that interested scholars will further conducting GIS research analysis on Kowloon Peninsula in the future.

In this GIS database, various business activities are grouped into categories for browsing purpose, names of companies & organizations and keywords of business description can also be searched. Spatial distributions of business entities are displayed with associated spatial data, overlay of the 1901 historical map is provided to visualize the original geographical phenomena.


[1] Michael Ng, Edwin Chow, David W.S. Wong and Carlo Lo,“Historical GIS study of Hong Kong, 1900s-1940s” (funded by Research Grant Council of the Hong Kong Government, project code: HKU 17407214)

[2] The Chronicle & Directory for China, Japan & the Philippines(Hong Kong : Hongkong Daily Press, 1900-1933).

[3] Plan of Victoria 1901, in 29 sheets, ref: HKRS209-1-1 (Hong Kong Public Records Office)


Ng, M., T. E. Chow and D. W. S. Wong, 2016, Geographical dimension of colonial justice: using GIS in research on law and history, Law and History Review. 34(4):1027-1045.

Chow, T. E., M. Ng, D. W. S. Wong, and C. C. Chan, 2019, Exploratory multivariate space–time analysis of colonial justice in Hong Kong during 1900–1930. GeoJournal. doi:


Users are required to acknowledge the followings as a source when data and/or content are used in the preparation of reports, papers, publications, maps.
  • Michael Ng, Edwin Chow, David W.S. Wong and Carlo Lo, “Historical GIS study of Hong Kong, 1900s-1940s” (funded by Research Grant Council of the Hong Kong Government, project code: HKU 17407214)
  • Historical GIS of Hong Kong, the University of Hong Kong Libraries,


While considerable effort has been devoted to conducting quality assurance on digitizing the base map, processing the geocoded directories and compiling the GIS dataset, the Research Project team and the HKU Libraries disclaim any responsibility for the accuracy or correctness of the data. If users encounter apparent errors or discrepancies in using the data, please contact: