The 111th Anniversary of The University of HongKong (HKU) was celebrated with the release of its first-ever digital art works, honouring the momentous year of 1911, a period shaped by scientific discovery, political uprising, and cultural progress. HKU was founded in that year for the "promotion of learning, arts, science, and research", providing opportunities for students of all races, nationalities, and creeds to achieve a better life.
To commemorate this significant milestone, the HKU 111 Digital Collectibles Project was launched, paying tribute to the women and men who have committed their lives to the University, as well as the current generation of academic leaders who use their skills, knowledge, and compassion to serve their communities.
The Digital Collectibles were created using rarely seen images from the HKU Archives, documenting people, places, and moments, such as an embroidered satin scroll presented to Sir Frederick Lugard, the original architectural drawings of the Main Building, and the visit by Dr. Sun Yat-sen in 1923. Each work told a unique story.
With the successful conclusion of the HKU 111 Digital Collectibles Project, the University has set up the HKU Heritage Fund, which aims to further promote its heritage while leveraging the opportunities that technology provides. We would like to express our gratitude to everyone who supported HKU through this dynamic journey of art, culture, and discovery. Your contributions have helped preserve and celebrate the University's rich heritage and will continue to inspire future generations.
To this day, the Main Building represents the historic center of HKU. This Edwardian, Baroque-style building was designed by Alfred Bryer of Leigh & Orange, the architectural firm responsible for many of the historic structures in Hong Kong today. It took two years to construct from 1910 to 1912, and was a gift from Sir Hormusjee Mody, a distinguished Indian Parsi businessman and philanthropist who lived in Hong Kong for 50 years. He is remembered today at HKU by a sculpture of his head on the staircase leading to Loke Yew Hall, and by Mody Road in Tsim Sha Tsui named in his honor.
The First Degree Congregation was held on December 14, 1916 at the Great Hall. This photograph shows the graduating students with Professor Middleton Smith, Dean of Engineering. It was an historic year: earlier in 1916, Li Yuanhong, President of the Republic of China met Sir Charles Eliot, HKU’s first Vice-Chancellor. He sent a special message of congratulations to the First Degree Congregation pictured in this NFT. At the ceremony, five people were awarded honorary degrees including Dr. Wu Lien-teh who invented the Wu mask, forerunner of today’s N95 respirator.
Built in 1912, this image of Loke Yew Hall shows the historic heart of the main campus in different periods. Originally known as the Great Hall, it was renamed in honor of the Mr. Loke Yew, a Malaysian businessman born in China’s Guangdong province. He was an early supporter of HKU when it was founded, and saved it from near financial ruin with a loan of $500,000 in 1915. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Loke Yew Hall it was transformed into a community vaccination center.
The people of Hong Kong suffered deeply during the Second World War when Japan invaded and occupied the city. At this time, Loke Yew Hall was still known as the Great Hall, the oldest structure at HKU and today a declared monument. Following the outbreak of war, it served as a relief hospital, while timber from the roof was later used for fuel. Its transformation from an ornate ceremonial structure was remarked on: it had become a “roofless skeleton, stripped of equipment, furnishing and fittings, floors and stairs”.
This second NFT of the Main Building is important not only for the structure itself, but also as a record of the HKU as it came into being. This proposed sketch shows the façade of the North Elevation and, in the smaller images, how it would connect with the engineering laboratories, workshops, drawing offices, and lecture rooms once completed. In the lower right-hand corner, the drawing is stamped ‘Leigh & Orange, Civil Engineers and Architects, Hong Kong’. The Main Building was opened in 1912 and is a declared monument today.
This historic image captures the visit on February 20, 1923 by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a graduate of the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese, a forerunner of HKU. By this time he was a global figure, credited with helping lead the Xinhai Revolution that ended imperial rule, at which point he was elected Provisional President of the Republic of China. He delivered a public address at the Great Hall, starting his speech with these immortal words: “I feel as though I have returned home because Hong Kong and The University of Hong Kong are my intellectual birthplace.”
This NFT combines an archival photograph of the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Frederick Lugard, as he prepares to lay the foundation stone of the Main Building with the gold trowel used on this historic occasion. The stone is suspended in front of Sir Hormusjee Mody, whose generosity brought HKU into existence. He presented the trowel to Sir Frederick who used it to lay the foundation stone of the Main Building. HKU is closely associated with the month of March: in addition to the foundation laying ceremony in March 1910, the university was incorporated by ordinance in March 1911, and its first building was opened in March 1912.
The Mace is a ceremonial staff and carried in university processions as a symbol of authority. It is highly ornamental with sterling silver gilt, with a design of ribbons, panels and rods, and set with stones including red amber and green jade. It measures 40 inches long. The first Mace was donated by Mr. Ho Fook, younger brother of Sir Robert Hotung, and was used from 1918 until it was lost during the Second World War. A replacement given by Mr. Leung Yew, a member of the HKU Court, is a near replica of the original piece and has been in use since 1951 to the present day.
The HKU Anthem was first performed at the Opening Ceremony in front of the Main Building on March 11, 1912. The music was composed by Denman Fuller and scored for the occasion for chorus (Hong Kong Philharmonic Society), military band (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) and choir (St. John’s Cathedral where Fuller was organist). The lyrics were presented in Latin verse by Cecil Clementi, who was later appointed Governor of Hong Kong. The printed program from 1912 included translations of the original words in English and Chinese.
This Qing dynasty silk scroll was originally stored in a red sandalwood casket and silver mounts, and is on permanent loan to HKU’s University Museum and Art Gallery. This image shows the highly detailed embroidery against a pale yellow background with auspicious motifs including butterflies, peacocks, and mandarin ducks. It was originally intended to have been delivered at the Foundation Stone Laying Ceremony, but was not completed in time. The satin scroll was presented later on 28 April 1910 to Sir Frederick Lugard, a soldier, explorer, and colonial administrator who was Governor of Hong Kong and HKU’s first Chancellor.