Tuesday, 17 March 2020

hidden history #3

Although the subject of my first post in this series—a Hindu temple—is hidden in the jungle, and you would never see it unless you went looking for it, and the subject of my second post—two stone tablets—is located in Fanling’s industrial district, and you would never go there without a specific reason to do so, this post is about a stone tablet that is merely hidden in plain sight.

The unnamed road that runs past our house joins Sha Tau Kok Road—the only road leading east out of Fanling—after about 400 metres, and just before it does so, this is what you will see:


The object of this discussion is the rectangular granite block, about 1.2 metres high, just beyond the notice board (which no longer appears to be in use).

This is what it looks like when viewed from the opposite direction:


I hardly ever cycled this way before 2016, when I learned that the section of the so-called ‘frontier closed area’ around Ta Kwu Ling had been opened to the public, and I wanted to check out the cycling possibilities (The Final Frontier). However, cycling around here requires that your attention be focused on the road ahead, and although I probably clocked ‘a nondescript block of concrete’ by the side of the road at some point, I’ve an excuse for not noticing that it was actually something significant. On the other hand, Paula and I have been walking out this way quite a lot recently because I’ve not been well enough to get the bike out, and neither of us spotted anything unusual. As you can see from the above photos, this granite block doesn’t grab your attention.

However, a couple of days ago, Paula suddenly exclaimed:

“Look! There’s writing on that stone.”

We didn’t want to stop to read it all, so I took some photos, and we continued on our way:


The first four horizontal lines of the Chinese section, reading in columns from right to left, is a translation of the English part of the inscription, but it’s difficult to make out after more than half a century of weathering. However, the remainder of the Chinese appears to be a list of people who donated money to the project. This is a closer look at the English part of the inscription:


In case you still can’t read it, this is what it says:
THIS ROAD WAS CONSTRUCTED BY 1ST BATTALION, 6TH QUEEN ELIZABETH’S OWN GURKHA RIFLES, 1ST BATTALION, 7TH DUKE OF EDINBURGH’S OWN GURKHA RIFLES, 59 INDEPENDENT GURKHA FIELD SQUADRON AND THE VILLAGERS OF LUNG YEUK TAU WITH MATERIALS SUPPLIED BY DISTRICT OFFICE TAI PO. 1967.
At the end of this description, there is an addition in a smaller font:
LIE YUK KEE STONE FACTORY
MADE IN LUEN WO MARKET.
I’ve added some punctuation to make it slightly more intelligible. The first word of the added part may be a ‘misprint’, because I’ve never seen this romanization before. Perhaps it should be ‘LEI’.

Behind the tablet is the former British Army barracks known as Gallipoli Lines, and the road follows the perimeter of the barracks before veering away shortly after it passes our house. Incidentally, the old name sign next to the main gate of the barracks, which I’ve known about for years and is just around the corner from this stone tablet, is still there:


The sign is now about 20 metres from the entrance, which I surmise was moved back when Sha Tau Kok Road was converted to a dual carriageway. There is a roundabout here now, which probably forced the retreat and allowed the old sign to retire into overgrown obscurity.

The Gurkhas responsible for building the road are unlikely to have been based in Gallipoli Lines though, because the Hindu temple that I described in Hidden History, which I assume was built for their benefit, is located in the nearby former British Army base of Burma Lines. The People’s Liberation Army, which took over every other British Army facility in Hong Kong, must have felt that Burma Lines was surplus to their requirements, and it was abandoned, hence the encroachment by the surrounding jungle.

Lung Yeuk Tau is not the name of a specific village; it refers to the general area, which includes six tsuens (‘villages’) and five wais (‘walled enclosures’), all of which were established by the Tang clan during the Ming and Qing dynasties. This road leads to just one of each. As you can probably see from the first photo above, Sha Tau Kok Road is a dual carriageway, but it cannot have been in 1967, because the road is now inaccessible for anyone approaching from the east.

Luen Wo would have been separate from Fanling in 1967 but is now regarded as part of the latter. And it’s now known as Luen Wo Hui (hui is Cantonese for market). Fanling is no longer part of Tai Po District. It is now in North District, which was established in 1981.

The original road would have been concrete, but it had deteriorated to such an extent that it was broken up last year and replaced by tarmac, except for a short section about 250 metres from the memorial tablet, which presumably was considered good enough to remain untouched:


I now find myself wondering whether there are any more pointers to the area’s history that I’ve missed.

other posts in this series
Hidden History.
Hidden History #2.
Hidden History #4.
Hidden History #5.

4 comments:

  1. There are many historical traces if we look CLOSELY ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. You may search the history of the railway ran from Fanling to Sha Tau Kok. I know only a small part of the rail can still be recognized.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I already know about this railway. There's an abandoned station next to Sha Tau Kok Road, between the junctions with Lau Shui Heung Road and Ping Che Road, but it's behind a fence and therefore not accessible. The railway closed in the 1920s.

      Delete

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