New Territories Heritage Walk
Kam Tin and Ping Shan area, New Territories
When the British took possession of Hong Kong Island in 1841, it was derogatorily referred to “as a barren rock with scarcely a house upon it” by the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston.
However, the area a few kilometres to the north beyond the Kowloon Hills – after 1898 to be known as the New Territories – was a different matter. In this area, the fertile plains dissected by hills had, for centuries, been settled and farmed by migrant peoples who had moved south from inland China.
Five dominant clans were involved in this migration and settlement. The first of these clans was the Tang family who are said to have arrived in the Kam Tin area as early as 1069 AD, having moved south from Jiangxi Province to Guangdong Province in 973 AD. This tour follows their traces.
Members of the Tang family established two villages, Shui Tau Tsuen (Water Head Village) and Shui Mei Tsuen (Water Tail Village) in the early 12th century, both just north of the Kam Tin River. These are probably the oldest extant villages in Hong Kong.
Despite development and destruction of the landscape around these old villages, several buildings of historical and cultural interest have been left extant. These include temples, clan halls and study halls that contain fine examples of woodwork and decorative pottery. The Yi Tai study hall at Shui Tau Tsuen is a particularly fine example of its kind.
We will also visit one of the best examples of a walled village in HK: Kat Hing Wai, which was established in the 15th century.
From Kam Tin we drive to Yuen Long to walk the Ping Shan Heritage Trail. One of the highlights of the trail is the Tang Si Chung Ancestral Hall, built about 700 years ago. It is the main ancestral hall of the Tang clan in Ping Shan and is still used for worship, festivals and ceremonies, and clan meetings.
The only ancient pagoda in HK, the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda, will mark the end of our tour. Built more than 600 years ago for fung shui purposes, it was meant to counter destructive forces from the north (floods & evil spirits!), and to ensure clan’s success in imperial examinations.
Highlights: Visit buildings at the oldest villages in Hong Kong, established in the 12th century.