Thursday, 9 January 2020

hidden history #2

When I wrote about an abandoned Hindu temple in Hidden History, I gave that report the title I did because it was hidden in the jungle, and you would never come across it by accident. Someone would have to show you. I recently came across another example of hidden history, although in this case the ‘someone’ was Google Maps, which featured a ‘balloon’ that sounded interesting in Fanling’s industrial district that you wouldn’t know was there unless you went looking for it.

I’ve been unavoidably vague in the last sentence, because when I checked Google Maps, the relevant ‘balloon’ appeared to have been removed. And what I found when I checked out the location wasn’t even remotely as dramatic as a temple. Just two stone tablets:

It’s just about possible to make out that Chinese characters have been carved into the tablets, but they are now completely illegible. However, there is a polished metal plaque in front of the tablets with a complete rendition in Chinese, and an English translation. This is what is written on the right-hand tablet:
This path directs to
Tsung Him School, Shung Him Tong Tsuen
So it was merely a way marker. There is a long-abandoned school in the area, which is what is being referred to here. And this is the entrance to the school’s now overgrown sports ground:

Tsuen is Cantonese for village and doesn’t usually form part of the formal name of the village, which still has some interesting traditional buildings, and a modern church!

Incidentally, you may think, after looking at the photograph of the tablets, that the date is ‘1960’, but that is merely the effect of almost a century of accumulated lichen.

This is the English translation of what is written on the left-hand tablet:
District Office, Taipo, Notice No. 10
Notice is hereby given that it is prohibited to tether cows on this path leading to Shung Him Tong from On Lok Tsuen, so as not to obstruct pedestrians and cause damage to the path. All are to obey and not to violate this instruction.
T. Megarry,
District Officer
8th March, 1934.
The tablets may be located in what I’ve described as an ‘industrial area’, although there are no factories, just godowns (the Hong Kong word for a warehouse) and workshops, but in the 1930s, this was still countryside, and I imagine that this notice was issued in response to complaints.

You would need to know something about colonial administration to spot the other interesting thing about this notice. Taipo is the next new town to the south of Fanling, and it was probably the only significant population centre in the New Territories by the standards of the 1930s, while Fanling was still a village and is now part of North District (both are located on the old Kowloon–Canton Railway line, and the old Taipo station is now both a declared monument and a railway museum).

The Taipo District Office also once had jurisdiction over Shap Sze Heung (‘fourteen villages’), where we lived between 2005 and 2008. These villages are clearly part of Sai Kung District, but until the early 1970s, they were not connected by road to anywhere, and they would have been much more easily accessed by sea (both Taipo and the villages are on the shores of Tolo Harbour).

As I acknowledged earlier, you would never come across these relics of a bygone age unless someone told you about them, given their location in an area not frequented by casual visitors, so I’ve included a map in case you want to see for yourself:

The tablets are located on On Kui Street, diagonally opposite Jetta House, as indicated by the red circle.

other posts in this series
Hidden History.
Hidden History #3.
Hidden History #4.
Hidden History #5.


  1. can't imagine what it was like 90 years ago amongst the concrete blocks of buildings in this area...


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