Wan Chai, literally meaning ‘little bay’, began as a fishing community in the 19th century. Due to its physical location in the lower ring of Hong Kong Island, Wan Chai was also named ‘Ha Wan’.
Lancelot Dent, a British merchant, chose the location as the base for his shipping company, establishing a port, a warehouse and a huge mansion named the ‘Spring Garden’. This prompted many other foreigners from Europe and Japan to start their businesses along the port.
The development of modern Wan Chai began in the 1840s with the Government’s plan to build an upscale residential and commercial centre in Praya East along its shoreline, the area now known as Johnston Road. To ease land congestion in Central and Sheung Wan, the Government started the first-ever Wan Chai reclaimation project from 1921 to 1929, establishing or extending a number of streets. Later reclaimation works extended Wan Chai to Convention Avenue. The establishment of commercial buildings, hotels and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre marked the emergence of a new Wan Chai in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Wan Chai has since evolved into the city’s thriving Central Business District, and continues to reclaim and revitalise itself as the modern face of Hong Kong.