A Travellerspoint blog

Forays into a Fertile Field.

Exploring the Kam Tin Area.

sunny

Today I took the west rail to Kam Sheung Road MTR Station in the Western New Territories and set out to look around the Kam Tin area. Apparently Kam Tin means fertile field and gets its name from the fact that during a terrible famine in the late sixteenth century, this area was still able to produce large quantities of rice.

I wanted to visit the famous walled village here and several other sights. When I arrived in Hong Kong in the late 1990's, it was possible to get to this village on a New Territories day tour, but it was pretty complicated to get here by public transport. That's why I have never been before. Nowadays the west rail line takes people to within walking distance of it.

Looking back at Kam Tin Station across the bicycles.

Looking back at Kam Tin Station across the bicycles.

The Kam Tin area is quite different from the rest of Hong Kong. The houses are low-rise. While there are several busy roads, many of the streets are narrow and are mainly used by pedestrians and cyclists. There is a peaceful, laid-back vibe. It struck me as a place where people move slowly, acknowledge the existence of others and are not caught up in the headlong rush that's found in the rest of Hong Kong. This is a world away from Central or Mong Kok. I liked it.

I left the MTR by exit B, walked through the cycle park, turned left and crossed a bridge over the Kam Tin River. On the other side of the river, I came to the Richfield Shopping Centre. Now I am not someone who enjoys shopping and I don't normally like shopping centres, but this one is different. It is made up of lots of shipping containers with plenty of open-air spaces between them. There's even a beautiful, flower lined stream running through the centre of it. The shipping containers have been converted into cafes, bakeries, snack stalls, pet-groomers and even a beauty salon.

Kam Tin River.

Kam Tin River.

Kam Tin River.

Kam Tin River.

The Richfield Shopping Centre.

The Richfield Shopping Centre.

The Richfield Shopping Centre.

The Richfield Shopping Centre.

The Richfield Shopping Centre.

The Richfield Shopping Centre.

Mural next to the toilets in the Richfield.

Mural next to the toilets in the Richfield.

After looking at the Richfield, I headed off to the walled village. The first inhabitants of the Kam Tin area built walled villages to protect themselves from bandits, pirates and wild animals. Some of these walled villages had moats and tall defensive towers. Inside the villages, streets were narrow and people lived close together in densely packed brick houses.

Kam Tin has three walled villages. The biggest and most famous is Kat Hong Wai. This is home to about four hundred descendants of the Tang Clan. The Tangs are Puntis, one of the four indigenous groups that had settled in this area before the arrival of the British. The four groups were: the Punti, the Tanka or Boat Dwelling People, the Hakka and the Hoklo. The Punti came mainly Southern China. They were involved in the salt, pearl and fishing trades.

Kat Hing Wai was built in the fifteenth century. It is rectangular in shape and has thick brick walls. There are watchtowers at the four corners of the walls and the village was once completely surrounded by a moat, parts of this are now filled in. In 1899 this and other Punti villages fought a Six-Day War against the British, who had just acquired the New Territories. When the Punti were defeated, the British took the iron gates from the entrance to Kat Hong Wai and shipped them off to the UK. The Tang Clan later petitioned to have these gates brought back. Governor Sir Edward Stubbs eventually agreed to these demands and the gates were returned in 1925.

Unfortunately, when I got to the entrance of Kat Hong Wai, these gates were barred to me. There was a big sign up saying the village was not letting in visitors due to covid 19, so all I could do was photograph the entranceway and walk around the outside.

Kat Hong Wai.

Kat Hong Wai.

Entranceway.

Entranceway.

Entranceway.

Entranceway.

Defensive Tower.

Defensive Tower.

Behind the walls.

Behind the walls.

Behind the walls.

Behind the walls.

Filled in Moat.

Filled in Moat.

I was disappointed at not getting into the village, but not for long. I soon found that this area has been decorated with lots of beautiful, colourful murals.

The idea for the murals came from a visual arts teacher in a local secondary school, Miss Kwok Yin-ming. In 2017 she arranged for her students and a group of volunteers to paint murals all around Kam Tin each weekend and public holiday to brighten the place up. It has certainly worked.

Loving Couple.

Loving Couple.

Jumping Fish.

Jumping Fish.

Trees.

Trees.

Girl walking her dog.

Girl walking her dog.

Dog and cat.

Dog and cat.

Squirrel in autumn.

Squirrel in autumn.

Butterflies, snails, flowers.

Butterflies, snails, flowers.

Dragon.

Dragon.

Horses.

Horses.

Bird with fancy plumage.

Bird with fancy plumage.

Golden Carp.

Golden Carp.

Love Birds.

Love Birds.

Flowers.

Flowers.

Hands.

Hands.

Hong Kong.

Hong Kong.

Hong Kong.

Hong Kong.

Hong Kong.

Hong Kong.

Hong Kong.

Hong Kong.

Hong Kong.

Hong Kong.

A beautiful place to sit.

A beautiful place to sit.

Flowers.

Flowers.

Fruit.

Fruit.

Magic.

Magic.

Fish.

Fish.

Cats.

Cats.

Cats.

Cats.

Cats and Balloons.

Cats and Balloons.

As I wandered around looking for murals, I kept coming across wonderful old Chinese buildings and narrow character-filled streets. Who needs a walled village when history is all around you?

One of the buildings I found was the former residence of Tang Pak Kau. He was an important member of the Tang Clan who played a leading role in getting the gates of Kat Hong Wai back. His residence's outer walls were decorated with murals. I believe Tang Pak Kau's grandson has set up a trust fund for university scholars in his grandfather's name.

Former Residence of Tang Pak Kau.

Former Residence of Tang Pak Kau.

Mural outside Residence of Tang Pak Kau.

Mural outside Residence of Tang Pak Kau.

Mural outside Residence of Tang Pak Kau.

Mural outside Residence of Tang Pak Kau.

Mural outside Residence of Tang Pak Kau.

Mural outside Residence of Tang Pak Kau.

I also enjoyed wandering the narrow village streets and seeing their houses adorned with flowers and the odd piece of decoration that just made them that little bit more colourful.

Village Street with washing.

Village Street with washing.

Narrow street.

Narrow street.

Narrow street.

Narrow street.

Narrow street.

Narrow street.

Narrow street.

Narrow street.

Decorations near a cafe.

Decorations near a cafe.

Decorations outside a cafe.

Decorations outside a cafe.

Bicycle outside a door.

Bicycle outside a door.

Flowers are dotted around everywhere adding a bit of colour.

Flowers are dotted around everywhere adding a bit of colour.

Flowers.

Flowers.

Flowers.

Flowers.

Window with flowers.

Window with flowers.

Characterful letter box.

Characterful letter box.

Doorway.

Doorway.

Doorway.

Doorway.

Doorway.

Doorway.

I thought this looked very fancy, but a Chinese friend tells me these are put up to pass on information. This one is advertising a new shop selling equipment for aquariums.

I thought this looked very fancy, but a Chinese friend tells me these are put up to pass on information. This one is advertising a new shop selling equipment for aquariums.

During my wanderings I accidentally bumped into another sight - the Red Brick House. This is a handicraft market with more than fifty stores located inside a former candle factory. I was early so not much was open, but the building was fascinating anyway.

Kam Tin Red Brick House.

Kam Tin Red Brick House.

Inside the Red Brick House.

Inside the Red Brick House.

Inside the Red Brick House.

Inside the Red Brick House.

Inside the Red Brick House.

Inside the Red Brick House.

Inside the Red Brick House.

Inside the Red Brick House.

Inside the Red Brick House.

Inside the Red Brick House.

Inside the Red Brick House.

Inside the Red Brick House.

After looking around here, I returned to the main Street. I noticed the village shops were a real mishmash of odds and ends all heaped up in fascinating, dusty piles. I particularly liked the look of the old clock.

Village Shop.

Village Shop.

Village Shop.

Village Shop.

Village Shop.

Village Shop.

Village Shop.

Village Shop.

Village Shop.

Village Shop.

Village Fruit and Vegetables Stall.

Village Fruit and Vegetables Stall.

When I had finished exploring the main Street, I went in search of the second walled village, which is called Tai Hong Wai. There was no sign here telling me people could not visit, but I did not venture in too far as I was conscious of the fact that it's not very polite to impose yourself on someone's living quarters during a pandemic.

Entrance to Tai Hong Wai.

Entrance to Tai Hong Wai.

Inside the village.

Inside the village.

Village Shrine.

Village Shrine.

Ornate Doorway.

Ornate Doorway.

Village Street.

Village Street.

Village Street.

Village Street.

I thought this was a decoration, but apparently it advertised a car repair shop. Elaborate or what?

I thought this was a decoration, but apparently it advertised a car repair shop. Elaborate or what?

After looking at this walled village, I wandered around this area for a while and discovered that there are still quite a few fertile fields around behind the village houses so maybe Kam Tin still lives up to its name.

Still home to fertile fields.

Still home to fertile fields.

Earlier I had noticed signs pointing to an old, historical study hall and the Kam Tin treehouse. I decided to follow these and see where they took me. I ended up in an underpass below a busy road, then I crossed another river. I was heading towards the village of Shui Tau Tsuen. This village was founded by the Tang Clan in the seventeenth century. Together with its neighbouring village, Shui Mei Tsuen, this village has several old buildings with prow-shaped roofs decorated with dragons and carp. When I was wandering around, I wasn't really sure what I was looking at, as I only found information in English outside one of the buildings. I don't think many tourists come here.

One of the buildings I saw was the Tang Ching Lok Ancestral Hall which dates back to the fifteenth century. This building is used as a gathering point for descendants of the four oldest branches of the Tang family. Newborn baby boys have their names recorded in the lineage registry here. Girls don't as they will marry outside of the clan. On the roof there is a model of a carp jumping over a dragon's gate which symbolises an increase in prestige coming from hard work. Like all but one of the buildings I found this building was closed so I could not look inside.

The Tang Ching Lok Ancestral Hall.

The Tang Ching Lok Ancestral Hall.

The Tang Ching Lok Ancestral Hall.

The Tang Ching Lok Ancestral Hall.

The second building I found was the Hung Shing Temple. This was also closed and behind high bars. This building is thought to have been built during the Quing Dynasty. The Tang Clan refer to this building as the Big Temple as it is the oldest in Kam Tin. It is dedicated to Hung Shing, a deity who protects those travelling by sea. The high rail is to protect the temple from theft or accidental damage.

Hung Shing Temple.

Hung Shing Temple.

Hung Shing Temple.

Hung Shing Temple.

Next I went to the Tang Kwong U Ancestral Hall. This was the only building I could go inside. I didn't see anyone else in there, though there was an attendant somewhere as I could hear his radio. The Tang Kwong U Ancestral Hall was built in 1701 during the Qing dynasty by Tang Tseung Luk in commemoration of a seventeenth generation ancestor of the clan, Tang Kwong-u. The Tang Kwong U Ancestral Hall was declared a monument in 2010.

Entrance to Tang Kwong U Ancestral Hall.

Entrance to Tang Kwong U Ancestral Hall.

Inside the hall.

Inside the hall.

Inside the hall.

Inside the hall.

Inside the hall.

Inside the hall.

Altar inside hall.

Altar inside hall.

Banner in hall. Apparently also about the car repair shop.

Banner in hall. Apparently also about the car repair shop.

Details of wooden panels in study hall.

Details of wooden panels in study hall.

Details of wooden panels in study hall.

Details of wooden panels in study hall.

There were picturesque narrow streets around here, too and a ruined building that I wandered around inside. I'm not sure what it would have been.

Narrow Street.

Narrow Street.

Inside a ruined building.

Inside a ruined building.

Inside a ruined building.

Inside a ruined building.

Inside a ruined building.

Inside a ruined building.

Inside a ruined building.

Inside a ruined building.

Inside a ruined building.

Inside a ruined building.

Inside a ruined building.

Inside a ruined building.

Then I walked past the Cheung Chun Yuen, which was a school providing martial arts training for village children who hoped to pass the military stream of the Imperial Civil Service Examination. If they passed they gained a lot of prestige for themselves and their village.

Cheung Chun Yuen.

Cheung Chun Yuen.

After this I noticed a tin shack with water behind it. The water turned out to be the Shui Mei Village Pond which is well-known for its still waters that normally have beautiful reflections in them.

Tin Shack.

Tin Shack.

The Shui Mei Village pond.

The Shui Mei Village pond.

The Shui Mei Village pond.

The Shui Mei Village pond.

Not far from here I noted a little pavilion with two bridges next to it: one old and one modern. The old one was the Bin Mo Bridge and there is a legend attached to it. Tang Chun Yuen was brought up by his widowed mother in Tai Hong Wai, the second walled village I visited. When he was an adult, he moved across the Kam Tin River to Pak Wai which is now known as Shui Tau Tsuen. His mother frequently visited him and his wife and children, but to get there she had to cross the river. As this was very difficult for her, Tang Chun Yuen would go to meet her, wade through the water and carry her across on his back. Then in 1710 he built the Bin Mo Bridge for her. Bin Mo Bridge literally translates as bridge for the convenience of mother.

Bin Mo Bridge.

Bin Mo Bridge.

Bin Mo Bridge.

Bin Mo Bridge.

Bin Mo Bridge.

Bin Mo Bridge.

Modern bridge next to Bin Mo Bridge.

Modern bridge next to Bin Mo Bridge.

Abandoned bicycle near the bridge.

Abandoned bicycle near the bridge.

Views of the river.

Views of the river.

Views of the river.

Views of the river.

Views of the river.

Views of the river.

On the other side of the river is the Chou Wong Yi Kung Study Hall, which was built in 1685 by the Tang Clan, in honour of Chou Yu-te and Wang Lai-jen who were two imperial officials who petitioned the Emperor to end coastal evacuation, and let the inhabitants of coastal areas return to their homes in 1669.

Coastal evacuation, also known as the Great Clearance, began in 1661 when the Kangxi Emperor of the Quing Dynasty forced all villagers on the southern coast of China to abandon their villages and move 25 kilometres inland. This was to try and defeat Koxinga, a Ming loyalist who had seized Taiwan from the Dutch and was using it as a base for rebellion.

Chou Wong Yi Kung Study Hall.

Chou Wong Yi Kung Study Hall.

Chou Wong Yi Kung Study Hall.

Chou Wong Yi Kung Study Hall.

Tree near Chou Wong Yi Kung Study Hall.

Tree near Chou Wong Yi Kung Study Hall.

Unfortunately I never did find the Kam Tin Treehouse or the Yi Tai Study Hall which were the signs I had been following, because by this stage I was beginning to feel sunstruck and had to make my way back to the MTR to get out of the sun. Maybe I'll return in winter. The Kam Tin Treehouse is an old house that has become completely enclosed in the roots of a huge banyan tree. One theory about the house is that its owner left during the Great Clearance and never returned.

Posted by irenevt 06:15 Archived in Hong Kong

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Comments

Those advertisements are for sure nicer to look at than the ones we have here! :)

by hennaonthetrek

They made me laugh. They are so elaborate I thought they were something religious,so I asked a Chinese friend what they were. He grew up in the UK, so though he can speak Chinese, he can only read a few characters. He recognised fish and car, but like me he thought they must be religious, so he asked his wife. She said ones for a fish shop, the other is car repairs. Neither of us believed her, so I sent the photos to a Mandarin teacher at work. She said ones buying equipment for your aquarium and the other is getting your car repaired. So over the top fancy.

by irenevt

I liked the murals. Great blog again. Thanks

by alectrevor

Hi Alec, the murals certainly brightened the place up. Actually I really liked Kam Tin except the heat was terrible,even worse than where I live and that's currently unbearable.

All the best, Irene

by irenevt

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