With the gradual disappearance of neon signs over the past two decades, it’s important to capture photos of any you may come across, as they are becoming increasingly rare. Safety concerns have led to the removal of many of these signs in recent years, resulting in a 90% decline in their presence. Shockingly, local neon cultural conservation statistics indicate that only 500 neon signs will remain by 2022. In this article, we’ll explore ten of the most significant neon signs that have disappeared, all of which held significant historical value or represented a collective memory. We will also take a closer look at three iconic neon signs that continue to evoke memories of old Hong Kong.
Disappeared neon signs
Hong Kong’s bustling streets have long been known for their bright and vibrant neon signs, their bold colours and striking designs capturing the attention of passers-by and drawing them into shops and restaurants. Sadly, in the last two decades, nearly 90% of these iconic signs have disappeared, erasing an important part of the city’s cultural heritage. Many of these neon signs have significant historical value and were undoubtedly visited by older generations and are worth preserving. As such, several groups have emerged to preserve them, including M+'s "Conserve Neon Culture" and "Tetra Neon Exchange", providing us an opportunity to see these commemorative neon signs again. Here are ten neon signs that have disappeared from Hong Kong’s streets:
1. Tai Tung Bakery
Tai Tung Bakery, a beloved institution known for its Cantonese biscuits, has been a fixture in Yuen Long since it first opened its doors in 1943. With several branches throughout the city, the bakery has been a favourite among locals and visitors alike for generations. Unfortunately, in the wake of the Mid-Autumn Festival in 2022, the bakery’s iconic neon sign was removed, much to the disappointment of its many fans. The sign featured a green border with red lettering set against a yellow background, with the border designed to resemble the traditional lantern patterns that were once a hallmark of old Hong Kong. The sign’s arching shape was intended to complement this design, while the calligraphic style rather than computer style lettering added to its distinctive character.
Address: 57 Fau Tsoi Street, Yuen Long, New Territories
(Photo credit: Instagram @Tai Tung Bakery)
2. Koon Nam Wah
The well-known "Koon Nam Wah" neon sign is a beloved fixture of Yau Ma Tei, having adorned the shop selling Chinese-style dresses and near the intersection of Kansu Street and Nathan Road for over 40 years. Its cheerful design earned it the nickname of the "happiest neon sign" and made it a familiar sight to locals and visitors alike. However, in August 2022, the "Koon Nam Wah" sign was dismantled, leaving many in the community saddened by its loss. The shop’s owner reached out to the M+ Museum in hopes of finding a new home for the sign, but unfortunately received no response. With no other options, the owner was forced to discard the sign.
Address: G/F and 1/F, 16 Alhambra Building, 383 Nathan Road, Kowloon
(Photo credit: HK01 (Photo by Lee Chak Tung))
3. Nam Cheong Pawn Shop
The corner tenement building in Sham Shui Po is a pre-war building and has been recognised as a Grade III historical building. The distinctive neon signboard is shaped like a bat hanging upside down, holding money, which is auspicious and represents the pawnbroking industry’s glory days. However, in mid-January 2023, the Buildings Department issued an order to the owner to remove the two neon signs overhanging the external walls within 30 days.
Address: 117 Nam Cheong Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon
(Image source: Wikipedia)
4. Oriental Watch Company
The Oriental Watch Company was recently invited by Tetra Neon Exchange, a neon conservation organisation, to preserve the neon signboard of its branch in Des Voeux Road Central. This opportunity not only preserves the company’s history in Des Voeux Road but also the craftsmanship and local culture of Hong Kong. Despite the many challenges faced by the city, this is a remarkable blessing that highlights the importance of preserving Hong Kong’s unique cultural heritage. The font used for "Oriental Watch Company" is square and elegant, reminiscent of the Regular script and Bei Wei fonts and is accompanied by English translations. This combination of traditional and modern elements creates a stylish and timeless appearance that reflects the company’s commitment to excellence.
Address: 133 Des Voeux Road Central, Hong Kong
(Photo credit: Oriental Watch Company)
5. Tsui Wah
In August 2020, the iconic neon sign at Tsui Wah was unfortunately demolished. However, the Tetra Neon Exchange was able to save the entire giant sign of Tsui Wah located on Parkes Street. In 2022, the Central Waterfront Event Space hosted the "Central Harbourfront SummerFest" summer event, which featured an exhibition on neon culture conservation called "Hong Kong Neon - The Unfinished Business". The exhibit showcased various classic neon signs, including Satay King and Tsui Wah. Among these, the Tsui Wah sign was particularly striking, standing several storeys high and featuring Roman columns at the top. Its colourful description of " King of Fish Balls, Emperor of Curry" added to its lively and vibrant appearance.
Address: 77-83 Parkes Street, Jordan (Closed)
(Photo source: Facebook - Tetra Neon Exchange)
6. Sammy’s Kitchen
The iconic neon sign of Sammy's Kitchen in Sai Ying Pun has been a fixture since approximately 1979. The owner, Sammy Yip, designed the magnificent sign himself, which is an enormous 10 feet high and 16 feet wide, in the shape of a bull, making it truly unique. Sadly, in 2013, the sign had to be dismantled as it was so large that it posed a risk to public safety. However, fortunately, the sign was donated to the M+ Museum, where it can now be appreciated as a piece of Hong Kong’s cultural heritage.
Address: 204-206 Queen's Road West
(Photo credit: M+)
7. Tan Ngan Lo Herbal Tea (Closed)
Tan Ngan Lo, formerly known as Chun Wo Tong Herbal Tea, has been serving customers at its head office on Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei since the 1950s. Back then, most herbal tea shops in the market had used gramophones and television sets to lure customers. However, Tan Ngan Lo opted for a large yet straightforward neon sign to attract passers-by. Sadly, the neon sign was taken down after the shop shut down.
Address: 151 Temple Street, Jordan
(Photo credit: Ming Chow Culture)
8. Satay King
The Satay King branch on Shantung Street was officially closed in 2020 and its neon sign was removed as well. However, thanks to the efforts of Tetra Neon Exchange, an NGO dedicated to the preservation of neon signs, the signboard was saved and put on display in an exhibition on neon culture preservation. This exhibition aims to revive the collective memory of Hong Kong residents. The below is the Satay King neon sign on display as of August 2022.
Address: 1/F, 48 Shantung Street, Mongkok (Closed)
(Photo credit: HK01)
9. Hop Hing Hot Pot
After the signboard of Hop Hing Hot Pot was removed, it was fortunate that the "Tetra Neon Exchange" organisation managed to preserve it. It took more than three years of negotiations to secure its preservation! The neon sign of Hop Hing Hot Pot is particularly unique, featuring a smoky old-fashioned copper hot pot on the top left, brimming with live fish, crabs, vegetables and fish balls, complete with a pair of chopsticks on the side. The ingredients of the hot pot on the signboard are abundant, and the word "satay" is also used, making it a clever and lively representation of the restaurant’s menu.
Address: G/F, 60 Woosung Street, Jordan
(Photo credit: Facebook - Tetra Neon Exchange)
10. Shun Hing Restaurant (Closed)
The neon sign at Shun Hing Restaurant features a calligraphic design personally created by the restaurant's owner, Mr Lo Yue Cheung. On closer inspection of the green border, you will find it adorned with Chinese ornaments, reflecting the traditional Chinese cuisine served within. The restaurant first opened in 1936 and operated for 80 years before closing in 2016 due to renovation difficulties. Although the sign had been proudly displayed since 1979, it was removed in 2017 due to safety concerns and is now part of the M + collection.
Address: 95A Kweilin Street, Sham Shui Po
(Photo credit: HK01)
Neon Signs that have Survived
1. Mido Restaurant
Standing more than a storey high, the neon sign of Mido Restaurant protrudes from the first floor with an irregular green border and the words "Mido Restaurant" written in straight orange and red. The restaurant has been around 70 years and its neon sign has become an iconic symbol of Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei. Fortunately, the sign still stands, allowing visitors to relive some nostalgic memories.
For more information on old-style cafes, please visit our article: Hong Kong’s Disappearing Neon Signs
Address: 63 Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei
(Photo credit: Wikiwand)
2. Luk Yu Tea House
The neon signage at Luk Yu Tea House perfectly captures the essence of a traditional Chinese teahouse. Its distinctive yellow carved border and a smooth oval frame, instead of square lines, give the sign a more refined and elegant appearance. The characters, written in a straight yellow frame on a red background, blend in well with the sign’s overall design, making it less obtrusive. Established long ago, Luk Yu Tea House is a must-visit spot, not only for its tea and dimsum but also for the chance to take a photo of its iconic neon lights.
Address: G/F to 3/F, 24 Stanley Street, Central
(Photo credit: Neonsigns.hk)
3. Tai Ping Koon Restaurant
Tai Ping Koon Restaurant, established in 1860, is a well-known Hong Kong-style western restaurant with four branches operating in the city since the early 1970s. The restaurant still proudly displays its original neon sign, featuring a blue border and orange lettering that reads "Tai Ping Koon Restaurant," which evokes nostalgia for old Hong Kong.
- 40 Granville Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (neon sign has been removed)
- 6 Pak Sha Road, Causeway Bay
- 19-21 Mau Lam Street, Jordan
Jordan Restaurant（Photo credit: Facebook: Wandering and Streetphotos)
Despite the emergence of M+ museums, community exhibitions and new restaurant-themed decorations, the most effective way to preserve neon signs is by leaving them shining in the streets to shine and allow visitors to admire, reminisce about their childhood and experience the nostalgia of old Hong Kong. Even though neon signs will eventually become obsolete, memories of them will be treasured forever. It is crucial to keep distinctive neon signs visible through photographs so that they can be cherished in the future.
At Capture.HK, we are passionate about preserving memories and are committed to helping countless families digitise their photographs and videotapes. We firmly believe that the stories captured in these mediums are significant to the individuals involved.
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