Monday, 13 February 2017

disappearing world #3

I have rarely visited the village of Heung Tuen Wai, mainly because it lies at the end of a cul de sac, but I recalled that it does have an interesting architectural feature, a tower that I conjecture once served a defensive function, and it therefore seemed likely to be a good location for the latest instalment in my Disappearing World series. Consequently, I detoured from my usual Sunday bike ride yesterday to take a closer look:

I took several photographs of plaster mouldings and painted friezes and was just about to continue on my way when I spotted another row of houses about 60–70 metres away across what would once have been the village’s paddy fields, now no longer cultivated. To be honest, it wasn’t the houses that attracted my attention but the way to get there, a sinuous path with more meanders in its short length than the Irrawaddy (I flew over this river a couple of years ago en route to Hong Kong and was struck by its sinuosity).

That looks like fun, I thought. And it was. The path was only about 50cm wide, making it a good test of my bike-handling ability. And I was in for quite a surprise. Only one block of houses was visible from the road, but as I drew closer I became aware of a second block, hidden by trees. It is the more south-westerly of the two blocks that I’ve circled on this map:

Because of the trees, it wasn’t possible to photograph the whole building, so what follows is somewhat piecemeal, but the first thing to notice is that unlike the buildings that I photographed for earlier posts in this series, this is a two-storey structure. There are three doors, and the painted friezes above the doors are in remarkable condition:

Because of the position of the sun, it was necessary to take these photos from closer to the doors than I would have liked, and even then some glare has been unavoidable. On the walls between the recesses housing the doors, there are some incredibly intricate plaster mouldings:

I was unable to photograph the entire block satisfactorily, but the next two photos show something of how these features relate to each other. I will be looking to replace these pictures if I’m in the neighbourhood on not such a sunny day:

Of course, I still wanted to take a closer look at the building that had originally attracted my attention from the road. In fact, only the nearest house is occupied, and if you look closely, you will see that it has simply been tacked onto the end of the original terrace:

Actually, the remainder of this block is merely a faƧade. The rest of the building is already a ruin! However, the friezes above the two main doorways are still in quite a good condition, although I cannot imagine them ever being renewed:

I will conclude this report with a view of the watchtower block from the buildings that I’ve featured here.

Of course, there are unanswered questions that I intend to pursue if possible. To begin with, the first building I’ve described seems to be rather grand to be merely a row of village houses (it has two storeys for a start). And does the existence of the watchtower indicate that this village was once more important than others in the area? If I can find answers to these puzzles, I will post a report.

other posts in this series
Disappearing World
Disappearing World #2
Disappearing World #4
Disappearing World #5


  1. Great post Dennis! I love the detail on these buildings. See photos like these (or in real life) always fill me up with questions. Who was there? What happened? Where did they go? What will happen to them?

    1. I have the same questions Pat. These are just ‘ordinary’ village houses, and in almost every case they’ve simply been left to fall down. I'm trying to record as much as I can before that happens.

      Most New Territories villages consist almost entirely of modern buildings that were constructed in the last 20 or 30 years nowadays.


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