Monday, 5 June 2017

disappearing world #3: update

At the end of Disappearing World #3, I wrote the following:
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.
Two months after my initial visit, I returned to this location to show Paula what I’d discovered here. I took more photos of the friezes over the doorways and the mouldings between the doors, but they weren’t as good as the ones I’d taken originally, so if you want to take a closer look at the decorative features of this building, then the photos in the original report are the best I can do. This is a general view:

The three doorways are effectively barred, but there is a door in the back of the building that provides an entry to the left-hand house. When we investigated, we found that this door is kept closed by a crude bolt, but it isn’t locked. The first photo, of a small window in the rear of the building, provides a reason for Paula’s belief that this was once a prison, but bars on windows were a common security feature of older village houses:

When we entered, we were surprised to find that old agricultural machinery was being stored here:

Other points of interest include the bars that can be slid into place to reinforce the main door, which I would describe as a kind of horizontal portcullis:

All the floors/ceilings have been removed, so it’s possible to see the roof beams from ground level:

And this is a moulding above one of the internal doors:

A few weeks before I left Hong Kong, I heard the history of this ‘rather grand’ building. Apparently, the patriarch of the Pang clan, whose village this is, swore that he would never sell any village land. Unfortunately, his daughter, the youngest of fifteen children, disobeyed her father and sold the land on which this building stands to a developer. The old man was furious and blockaded the site so that it couldn’t be occupied. So, despite its grandeur, this building has never been occupied. What a waste!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

disappearing world #4

I cycled through the village of Chow Tin almost every Sunday last winter, and on a couple of occasions I stopped to photograph architectural features that I noticed as I rode past. The first photo shows the ‘front’ of the village—all the houses face the same way, and it seems likely that there would once have been some kind of defensive wall here. The red arrow indicates the position of the gatehouse.

The next photograph shows a group of traditional buildings at the left-hand end of this frontage. The building on the right has been modernized, but the two in the centre have obviously been abandoned and are now derelict:

The building in the next photo has also been abandoned. Note that the moulding above the entrance is in poor condition, and, bearing in mind the much better condition of the mouldings above other doorways, I conjecture that whoever occupies these buildings at least attempts to preserve the mouldings on their building.

The gatehouse is featured in the next photo, while the following image provides a closer look at the frieze above the entrance.

Further along the village frontage, two more traditional houses have survived. There would once have been a small open-air courtyard behind the door of the house on the left, but I suspect that this has now been roofed in.

…and this is a close-up of the mouldings on the house on the left:

The next two old houses have also been modernized, with stainless steel outer doors that suggest the courtyards behind have also been roofed in.

…and these are close-ups of the mouldings above the doors:

Some time after I’d taken the above photographs, because I approach the village from the left as seen in the first photo above, I noticed several more traditional houses in the first alleyway running parallel to the frontage. The mouldings above the doors appear to be more elaborate than those at the front of the village and are featured here in the order I encountered them from left to right. The second photo is of a painted frieze between the first and second doorways.

There are other villages in the Ta Kwu Ling area that have interesting architectural features, but I won’t be able to report on them until next winter. However, I intend, in the next couple of weeks, to post an update to Disappearing World #3, having recently heard an interesting story about the origins of the building featured in that post.

other posts in this series
Disappearing World
Disappearing World #2
Disappearing World #3