Dark Green all over Hong Kong: revealing the mysterious reasons behind the street colors

Hong Kong is a colorful city, and it is its uniqueness in this regard that attracts many tourists. Among all the colors, dark green is one of the common street colors in Hong Kong. However, they are not due to coincidence. 

Some of us may think that the use of dark green colors is due to the “greening” policy of the Hong Kong Government. Yet, if you observe the street attentively, you may be aware that dark green usually appears on historical objects in Hong Kong. For instance, the cabinets for fixed-pitch hawkers, the gate of the tong laus, and the 3rd generation Peak Tram. Their colors are all attributed to the cheap dark green paint after the Second World War.

Reasons Behind

Dr. Lee, Ho Yin, director of architectural conservation program of The University of Hong Kong, said “a large amount of paint was left after the Second World War and sold at a low price, especially for the dark green paint for tanks or military wheels.” 

 He claimed that Hong Kong was engaged in economic depression in the post-war 50s and 60s. The government tended to reduce expenditure by purchasing low-priced products. Thus, a lot of community facilities and urban infrastructure were furnished with the most economical paint, dark green.

 A similar situation also happened in foreign countries. When we look over the vehicles manufactured between the late 1940s to 1950s in the US or Europe, most of them are in dark green, grey, or black color. All the colors are related to military weapons. 

Dark Green in Hong Kong

Dark green is the signature color of the Star Ferry, no matter the pier, the hull, or the cabin. They were painted dark green between the 1950s to the 1960s. They keep the dark green color even after many times of repainting. 

Green Star Ferry is docking in Central. (Photo: Chloe Leung)
Green is iconic for Star ferry, the cabin of Star Ferry is also painted green. (Photo: Chloe Leung)

Tram Green can be seen as a collective memory of Hong Kong people. Trams turned dark green in the 1940s. Recently, Pantone Color Institute collaborated with HK Tramways to create a new green color that pays tribute to Hong Kong’s cultural significance.

Tram #120 is the traditional post-war type tramcar. (Photo: Chloe Leung)
A green tram without any colorful advertisements is riding in Causeway Bay. (Photo: Chloe Leung) 

Many window frames of old tong laus are also in dark green. It is a significant feature of tong laus built in the 50s to 60s. However, many tong laus were demolished in recent years and some dark green window frames disappeared accordingly.

Remaining green window frames appears on the tong lau in Mong Kok. (Photo: Chloe Leung)
Preserved green window frames appear on the tong lau in Mong Kok. (Photo: Chloe Leung)

Other Street Colors Shaped by Mysterious Stories in Hong Kong

Orange rubbish bins managed by FEHD cover all the districts in Hong Kong. (Photo: Chloe Leung)

Orange is the iconic color of the rubbish bins managed by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. In fact, the rubbish bins managed by FEHD were purple before 2008.

However, in 2008, FEHD converted all the purple rubbish bins into orange ones to celebrate the Olympics Equestrian held in Hong Kong, as orange was perceived as somewhat more of joyful color.


General view of the current appearance of the “Blue House” in Hong Kong 2022. (Photo by Chloe Leung)

Blue House is an “instagrammable” place famous for its blue color. In fact, it is an old tong lau that was grey in color before its rehabilitation. In 1997, the year of the handover, the government decided to rehabilitate this historical building for celebration.

However, as it is an old building, the government believed that it may need to be demolished one to two decades later. Thus, they decide not to spend that much money on it. They tried to use the remaining paint from any of the other governmental departments. At last, they found out that the Water Supply Department had a large amount of blue paint left, hence, Blue House was painted blue. 

(Feature image: Chloe Leung)

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