EAST KOWLOON Series – Old Hong Kong Stories through the Lens
Contrasting the pre-colonial and colonial histories of East Kowloon, and the existing landscape of Kwun Tong and Cha Kwo Ling, let us dive into public and private memories of the area at the end of May.
Say ‘East Kowloon’ and many people think of the stretch between Kwun Tong and Choi Hung, without any mention of Sze Shan – Ngau Tau Kok, Sai Tso Wan, Cha Kwo Ling, and Lei Yue Mun – do people know, for instance, about the stone industry?
Remains of quarries still exist in Cha Kwo Ling and Lei Yue Mun, both of which also maintain a village lifestyle, with the annual celebration of Lu Ban’s birthday and some significant stone architecture in Cha Kwo Ling.
The other neighbourhoods have seen huge change: Ngau Tau Kok has evolved into a hub for creatives and hipsters, Sai Tso Wan no longer exists, while two large private housing estates, Laguna City and Sceneway Garden, stand on the former site of the Asiatic Petroleum Company, which in pre-WWII 1940s was the second largest corporation in Hong Kong.
The strategic military location of Devil’s Peak has been largely forgotten. Back in the Qing Dynasty, pirates used it as a lookout to attack passing merchant ships. In 1898, the Qing government and the United Kingdom signed The Convention Between Great Britain and China Respecting an Extension of Hong Kong Territory(The Second Convention of Peking), making the area a British jurisdiction. The British-built Devil’s Peak Redoubt, Gough Battery, and Pottinger Battery protected Lei Yue Mun and the eastern reaches of Victoria Harbour. When the British Army left this location in the 1950s, it returned to wilderness; it is now the third section of the 78-km Wilson Trail.
In the 1950s, the colonial government began to develop Kwun Tong into a satellite town, demolishing ancient Kai Liu Village, building many factories and public housing estates, and establishing Yue Man Square as the centre. Yet, with the recent large-scale urban renewal, many shops there are empty. Under the HKSAR Government’s current promotion of turning Kwun Tong into a CBD under the Energizing Kowloon East Initiative, the geographical and cultural landscape of East Kowloon is continuing to change. The private sector has also effected change, revitalizing many abandoned factory units into restaurants, shops and music studios.
The EAST KOWLOON Series is in 2 parts: Old Hong Kong Stories through the Lens and Let’s Toddle.
Old Hong Kong Stories through the Lens features a presentation by researcher Ko Tim Keung on the histories of East Kowloon through old photographs.
In Cantonese only.
For more information, please visit our Chinese website.
Photo provided by Ko Tim Keung