Take an Alternative Hong Kong Architecture Tour #3
Hong Kong has a totally unique growth and development situation that is complex and surprising to arriving visitors and students of urbanisation. Once the initial “wow” of the usual first-time tourist has been overcome, I like to get them to rapidly understand the historical and cultural influences that have so shaped the city today. To do that, we need to get away from the lecture theatre and to walk the streets, tracks and squares of the ‘alternative city’.
#3 Bike Sharing Heritage
LUNG YEUK TAU HERITAGE TRAIL
Gobee.bike is Hong Kong's first station-less bike sharing company aiming to solve last mile destination problems by making bicycles easily accessible and affordable in users' locality. At the tap of a button, user can simply unlock one of the bright green bikes spotted and ride to destination of choice and drop it off there. Convenience, fitness and leisure can now be integrated into daily commute. With Gobee's latest technology, cycling has once again been made fun and cool again!
A number of stone tablets engraved with the characters “Tai Shan Shek Kam Dong” (“the stone from Tai Shan dares to defend”) have been erected at environmentally unfavourable places. Additionally, others with the characters “lam mo au li to fat” (Namo Amitabha, in homage to Buddha) have been set up at locations where traffic accidents and other serious incidents frequently occur. In both instances, they are designed to protect against and ward off evil spirits. The tablets also serve to alert pedestrians and drivers in the area.
Tsung Kyam Church
In 1903, Mr Ling Qilian, a retired pastor from the Basel Mission Society, preached the Christian Gospel in Fanling. As most of the worshippers lived in the neighbourhood, a village, named Shung Him Tong gradually sprung up. An old house named “Kin Tak Lau”, constructed in 1910 and once used as a church, still survives today. As the congregation grew, he founded the Tsung Kyam Church and a new building was constructed in 1927 in front of the village which was extended to two storeys in 1951.
The two-storey building is a blend of Chinese and Western architectural styles comprising a main building and an annex block. Despite its colonial-style characteristics in the walls, balcony and stone columns, the building has a traditional Chinese pitched roof supported on wooden purlins and battens and is covered by Chinese clay tiles. Another notable feature includes the courtyard, as well as the layout of the rooms, which resembles that of traditional Chinese residences. Located in the middle of the roof parapet is a semi-circular pediment engraved with the characters “Shek Lo”.
Ma Wat Wai
Located northwest of Lo Wai, Ma Wat Wai was built by the Tang Clan during the Qianlong reign (1736 - 1795) of the Qing dynasty. At the entrance tower there is a red sandstone lintel engraved with the two characters “Wat Chung”, which denote the flourishing growth of spring onions. This evidence supports the supposition that the original name of the village was Wat Chung Wai.
The village was originally enclosed by walls, with a watchtower on each of the four corners. The two-storey main entrance was made of granite and grey bricks, and installed with two chained-ring iron gates. All the houses in the village are built along orderly rows, and a communal altar resides at the end of the main alley. Unfortunately, most of the enclosing walls and all four corner towers have been demolished.
The entrance tower of Ma Wat Wai was declared a monument in 1994.
The five renowned walled villages in Lung Yeuk Tau, Fanling were built by the Tang clan, whose ancestors branched out from the main Tang settlement in Kam Tin in the 14th century. Lo Wai was the earliest walled village among the five. The Tangs subsequently established 11 villages in the area, known as the ‘Five Wais (walled villages) and Six Tsuens (villages)’.
Lo Wai is a village enclosed by brick walls on all four sides. The original entrance tower was located on the north side of the village but was later relocated to its present position facing east for fung shui reasons. The walled village still maintains its original layout after several renovations, with most of the village walls intact.
Repairs to a portion of the wall were undertaken in 1991 with funds provided by the North District Office. The full restoration of the entrance tower and the enclosing walls of Lo Wai was completed in 1998.
Tin Hau Temple
Situated between the Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall and Lo Wai, Lung Yeuk Tau, Fanling, the Tin Hau Temple is the main temple in the area, and the construction year of which is not known.
This Temple is a traditional two-hall building with a central courtyard. The facade of the temple is exquisitely decorated with plaster mouldings and murals of auspicious motifs. The main hall of the temple is devoted to the worship of Tin Hau and her guards, Chin Lei Ngan (who is believed to see things a thousand li [Chinese miles] away) and Shun Fung Yi (whose ears can hear sounds as far away as from heaven). The oldest relics surviving in the temple are two cast iron bells which are kept in the east chamber of the rear hall. One of the bells was cast in 1695 as a gift from the Tang clan to thank Tin Hau after having their sons adopted by her. The other bell was cast in 1700 as an offering to Tin Hau so that the young men of the clan could be blessed during their journey to the city for taking the provincial examinations. The temple was declared a monument on 15 November 2002.
The Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall is one of the largest ancestral halls in Hong Kong. It is reputed to have been built around 1525 in honour of the founding ancestor, Tang Chung-ling (1302-1387), and became the main ancestral hall of the Tang clan at Lung Yeuk Tau.
The magnificent ancestral hall is a three-hall building with two spacious internal courtyards. An annex, which serves as the kitchen, is attached to the right side. The whole building is exquisitely decorated with fine wood carvings, elaborate plaster mouldings, ceramic sculptures and murals of auspicious Chinese motifs, reflecting the superb craftsmanship of the period.
Full restoration of the ancestral hall was completed in the middle of 1992 under the supervision of the Antiquities and Monuments Office and the Architectural Services Department.
Tung Kok Wai
Tung Kok Wai (Eastern Walled Village) was established by the 13th generation ancestor Tang Lung-kong (1363 - 1421). The village has a history of more than 500 years and received its name due to its location in the east of the Lung Yeuk Tau area.
Tung Kok Wai was constructed on a raised platform to protect it against flooding. The houses inside the village are primarily arranged in four rows and face northwest. Originally, the village was enclosed by a moat and grey brick walls with watchtowers at the four corners and an altar at the end of the main alley, but only the entrance tower and part of the enclosing walls still survive. The existing entrance tower was reconstructed in 1953. Inside the tower are four red sandstone column bases and two large granite square blocks. According to local legend, these are the remains of a temple that was built around the time that the village was constructed.
Wing Ning Tsuen
A branch of Wing Ning Wai and located to the northwest of that village on what it is said used to be Red Sand Hill, which got its name from the red soil in the area, Wing Ning Tsuen is also known as Tai Tang and has a history dating back some 300 years. The houses in the village face northeast and are mainly in three rows, with those at the front lower than those at the back in order to generate good feng shui. A fish pond that was once situated in front of the village has now been replaced by a playground.
Wing Ning Wai
Wing Ning Wai is said to have a history dating back 400 years. It originally had enclosing walls, but only part of them still survives. Inside the village are three rows of houses facing northeast, many of which have been rebuilt or vacated. The altar situated at the end of the main alley was disappeared. The entrance tower was built in 1744 with red sandstone blocks.
Shin Shut Study Hall
The Shin Shut Study Hall, situated in San Uk Tsuen, was built in 1840 to commemorate Tang Wan-kai, the 19th generation ancestor of the Tang Clan. The building was used for ancestral worship and educating the clan members, and is the only existing study hall along the Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail. The hall had been used as a school before 1938 and ancient weapons such as long-bladed knives, swords, halberds, bows and arrows were also kept there. It housed a kindergarten after the Second World War.
The building features two halls and a courtyard flanked by covered aisles. A kitchen is located on one side of the entrance hall, while outside the main entrance is a threshing ground with small chambers on both sides.
San Wai is also known as Kun Lung Wai with the characters “Kun Lung” and “the jiazi year of Qianlong reign (1744)” engraved on the stone lintel of the entrance to the village.
San Wai is a typical local walled village which is enclosed by grey brick walls with loopholes. A watchtower was constructed at each of the four corners of the enclosing walls to defend the village. The exterior of the tower was made of granite while two chained-ring iron gates were installed at the front entrance. The moat that originally surrounded the walled village has been filled in. Houses inside the village are laid out along the central axis with a communal altar situated at the end of the main alley. Unfortunately, most of the old houses have been replaced by new buildings.
The entrance tower and the walls, including the watchtowers, were declared monuments in March 1988 and April 1993 respectively.
Kun Lung Walls
Some years after the declaration of the gate house of Kun Lung Wai as a monument, the managers of the walled village further agreed to the protection of the enclosing walls and corner watch towers under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. The walls and watch towers were then in a dilapidated condition, which were subsequently fully restored in 1994 with funding from the Government.
Kun Lung Wai, presently known as San Wai, is one of the eleven Tang villages in Lung Yeuk Tau, Fanling. Although this village was reportedly settled by members of the Tang clan during the 14th century, the walls of San Wai were believed built in 1744 as the stone lintel above the main entrance to the village is engraved with 'Kun Lung, dated this Jiazi of the Qianlong reign'. Kun Lung Wai is enclosed with brick walls on all four sides. It is the most authentic and undisturbed walled village left in the area. The gate house of the walled village was declared a monument in 1988 and has since been properly restored.
Siu Hang Tsuen
Situated northwest of San Wai, Siu Hang Tsuen has a history of about 200 years. The Tang Clan of Siu Hang Tsuen originally came from Lo Wai, but a lack of living space later prompted them to move to Lung Tong. When they first settled in Lung Tong, it was said there were only 10 houses. After living in Lung Tong for three generations, the clan moved back to Lung Yeuk Tau as the village was frequently harassed by bandits, and established the present-day Siu Hang Tsuen.
The wall in front of the village, together with the archway at the eastern entrance, was built around 1960 to generate feng shui that was better suited for producing male offspring. A small temple called Fuk Tak Tsz, dedicated to worshipping the Earth God, is situated outside the archway.