The British Dependent Territory of Hong Kong consists of Victoria (commonly known as Hong Kong Island), the Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, and 235 outlying islands, totalling 1,078 sq km. It is situated on the southeastern coastline of China, facing the South China Sea. To its north is the province of Guangdong (formerly called Canton) whose provincial capital of Guangzhou (Canton City), is 135 km away from Hong Kong. China’s capital city of Beijing (Peking) is about 2,000 km further north. The territory measures 38 km from north to south and 50 km from east to west.
Hong Kong Island is 77.5 sq km; urban areas are concentrated along the northern shore, its centre and south coast being dominated by mountains.
Kowloon, although only 45.5 sq km, is flatter and therefore more urbanised. Containing most of the territory’s land mass (955 sq km including the Outlying Islands), the New Territories is mostly rural, but has growing regional centres which are self-sufficient “New Towns”.
More than 70% of Hong Kong is countryside, and 21 official country parks account for 40% of the rural land area.
“Fragrant Harbour” Hong Kong’s English name is derived from two Chinese characters, Heung and Gong, usually translated as “Fragrant Harbour,” though the actual origins of the name are obscure. Originally it was only the name of a small settlement near Aberdeen, the main fishing and entrepot port on pre-colonial Hong Kong Island. Some historians suggest that Hong Kong’s Chinese name was inspired by its export of fragrant incense.