Manneken-Pis, an early 17th century fountain statue and an iconic figure of the City of Brussels, was dressed in his Hong Kong costume on Friday, June 30 (Brussels time) as part of the celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Speaking at the dressing ceremony, a highlight of Brussels folklore, Special Representative for Hong Kong Economic and Trade Affairs to the European Union, Ms Shirley Lam, said that Hong Kong cherished its close relationship with the people of Brussels and Belgium. She thanked the representative of the City of Brussels, who was officiating with Ms Lam at the event, for the city's unfailing support for Hong Kong over the last 20 years.
'The Hong Kong costume is a symbol of the enduring friendship between our two cities,'; Ms Lam said.
The costume was donated to the City of Brussels by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Brussels in 2012. It aims to convey a positive message about Hong Kong as a modern and connected city with a Chinese heritage. The design encapsulates the East-meets-West aspects of Hong Kong in a way that is instantly recognisable. A black traditional Chinese jacket bearing the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's flying dragon logo and its coloured ribbons is teamed with a pair of trendy black jeans and red shoes with white laces. A tablet computer, a symbol of technology-driven modern city life, completes the costume.
After the speeches, the Hong Kong a cappella choral theatre group Yat Po Singers (一舖清唱) performed their unique arrangements of three songs, namely 'Hong Kong Our Home'; (香港・我家), the theme song composed on the occasion of the 20th anniversary, 'Horse Race'; (賽馬) and Michael Jackson's 'Man in the mirror';.
Members of the Order of the Friends of Manneken-Pis, an order founded to preserve and promote Brussels folklore, sang the Manneken-Pis anthem.
According to his custom on festive occasions, the fountain statue briefly sprayed the crowd with water, before producing a typical Brussels beer, Faro, which was served to guests.
Manneken-Pis is a 58cm-high bronze fountain sculpture, depicting a naked little boy standing on a six-foot high stone base, urinating into a fountain's basin. There are records of a stone statue on the site, which is near the city's famous market square, the Grand-Place, as early as 1388. In 1619, the City of Brussels commissioned sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy to create a bronze version. Until the 19th century, Manneken-Pis played an essential role as part of a network for the distribution of drinking water. Towards the end of the 17th century, the statue became increasingly important in city life, gradually becoming a cherished symbol of Brussels folklore and the embodiment of the irreverent spirit and capacity for self-derision of the Brussels people.
The tradition of donating a costume to Manneken Pis and dressing him to mark a special occasion dates back to the end of the 17th century. It is known that in the 18th century, Manneken-Pis was dressed at least four times a year. Nowadays, 130 dressings a year are planned on fixed dates and he regularly receives new suits. He possesses a wardrobe over 900 garments, which are kept in a dedicated building of the Museum of the City of Brussels. A multimedia database allows visitors to consult the whole wardrobe of the famous little boy.
Manneken-Pis will wear the Hong Kong costume for a day, before it is returned to the museum.
The last time Manneken-Pis wore the costume was in October 2015 during the visit to Brussels of Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So.
The Belgium-Hong Kong Society, which has been promoting Belgium-Hong Kong friendship since 1986 supported the event, and was represented by Board Member Ms Sheila Arora.