These fragments I have shored against my ruins.Rise and Fall chronicles the melancholy recent history of Sham Chung, which was the most populous village in the Sai Kung peninsula in 1970 but now has a population that can be reckoned on the fingers of one person’s hands. Nature has almost totally reclaimed what was once the village’s ‘main street’, and because the main hiking path keeps to the cleared area that functions as an ersatz golf course, that main street is now almost completely overgrown and difficult to penetrate.
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land.
The first of the following photographs was taken in November 2007, when it was still possible to walk along the main street without impediment, and the rest were taken after fighting through the undergrowth in February this year.
Paula contemplates the fate of a traditional Chinese house.
There is an almost Marie Celeste feeling about some of the houses, as if the occupants had left in a hurry. This is a typical rural kitchen.
Traditionally, Chinese houses had double doors. These would originally have been locked but are likely to have been forced open by passing hikers looking for souvenirs.
These houses will not last much longer, now that trees have got themselves established.
As can be seen in this photo, many of the village’s less substantial houses were merely stuccoed mudbrick, making them easy prey for the encroaching vegetation.
No, this wasn’t a prison, but it must have felt like one for the occupants. Barred windows were a standard security measure.
There is little difference between indoors and out in a house that no longer has a roof.
Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.If anyone is wondering why Paula and I cycle the 45 miles from Fanling to Sham Chung and back every Saturday, weather permitting, the final picture should be explanation enough. A cautionary word if you plan to check the place out though: Tom Li is a friend of ours, so the plate he prepares for us is about half as large again as his ‘standard’ chow mein. This photograph shows last Saturday's lunch, our first at Tom’s place since I came back from the UK a month ago.
‘Special chow mein’ in England is never like this: pan-fried noodles topped with prawns, pork strips, choi sum (a Chinese brassica), sliced Chinese mushrooms and bean sprouts.