Kam Tin – Heritage

Kam Tin valley has probably the most interesting heritage in the Hong Kong SAR. It has probably the largest expanse of flat land in the territory, so historically the rich soils were fertile farming land. When southern China starved before the British occupation, Kam Tin valley provided rice and vegetables.

Kam Sheung

I was told by no less an authority than AFCD that there were no paddy fields left in Hong Kong. This is therefore an illusion.

‘Tin’ in a name like Kam Tin or Sha Tin means rice field, or rice paddy.

Kam Tin valley

Still actively farmed in the mid-1990s

KT works 3189024

The last of the Kam Tin farmers?

Ho Hok Shan

New fruit tree plantations sprang up in the late 1990s on long abandoned agricultural land, as farmers smelt a quick profit of compensation from the huge civil engineering projects which were about to rip through the valley.

Kam Tin Valley

The view north across Kam Tin Valley towards Lam Tsuen Country Park

The indigenous people were also preyed upon by bandits and warlords, so they built walled villages as a defense. The largest British army camp (Sek Kong) was situated in the middle of the valley, complete with an airstrip. When the British withdrew in 1997, the PLA took over the same camp.

The valley still has well preserved temples and shrines and relics – unfortunately, ‘progress’ and ‘development’ have, or are, destroying or overwhelming heritage.

Kam Tin

The walled village of Kam Tin. Wholly inappropriate ‘Spanish style villas’ now occupy most of the interior. This is fairly typical of unplanned, unregulated development in the ‘new territories’.

Kam Tin

The gatekeepers of the Tang clan walled village. They are smiling in the photo because they’d been paid. No one escapes the village without crossing their palms with paper!

The four ladies standing are wearing traditional ‘Hakka’ hats which keep the sun off the face during long days in the fields. They are probably the last generation to wear this clothing in Hong Kong. Back in the office, I mentioned to a Chinese colleague about the hassle the old girls had given me. He roared with laughter and told me I should have told them to take a hike. His name was William Tang, they were his relatives, and he was about to become the head man of the village and the clan!

Kam Tin

I found this fabulous old abandoned building along Kam Sheung Road. I presume it was knocked down and redeveloped soon after, as I could never relocate it.

Ma On Kong

Rice grinders are quite common in remote or abandoned villages (like this one in Ma On Kong). Desirable they might be to Western antique collectors, it would take four strong men to share the load over a long walk back to a vehicle. So they stay gathering moss.

Yuen Kong San Tsuen

Near Ma On Kong is another barely inhabited village, Yuen Kong San Tsuen. I was surprised to find this small christian church there.

Yuen Kong San Tsuen

Old is not esteemed in Hong Kong.

Yuen Kong San Tsuen

Yuen Kong San Tsuen – the detailing under the eaves is a common feature on old residences and temples

Banyan tree

Banyan trees though are believed to be inhabited by spirits and are revered.

Banyan tree

Banyans can grow to an enormous size. A type of fig, they drop roots from the branches which become new trunks

Banyan shrine

When found on the edge of villages (such as this tree at Sheung Tsuen), there is usually a fung shui shrine nearby.

For the poor old banyan, being nominated as a fung shui tree isn’t always a good thing. This is probably the most famous ‘lucky tree’ at Hang Ha Po on the Lam Kam Road. At every traditional festival, but particularly at New Year, people travel from all over the New Territories…

Hang Ha Po

…good luck messages tied to oranges are lobbed onto the branches of the tree. Combined with candles and fireworks, this proved indendiary. This tree was burned – not so lucky for the tree.

Kam Tin

This very large grave was on the banks of one of the rivers in the Kam Tin valley

Sheung Che

The village of Sheung Che

Kam Tin Temple

The huge cage on the front of this temple at Shui Tau adds little to its aesthetic

Temple

A brightly decorated temple in the Kam Tin valley

Kam Tin

One of several temples in the Kam Hing Wai and Shui Tau area. Not so brightly coloured, but the roof is nicely detailed

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13 responses to “Kam Tin – Heritage

  1. There’s still some farming left in Kam Tin area, or in the general Pat Heung valley area but it’s smaller scale now. Farming nowdays is mostly a “hobby” for old people, not a real means of living – or so I heard an old woman say in Kam Tin. But it’s nice to see the fields around, especially since such scenery is getting less and less common in HK. I’ve noticed a trend of organic farming in Hong Kong, however, so hopefully the farms will remain at least in some shape or form.

    I buy my vegetables (when possible) from an old woman who sells them on the street next to my lightrail stop.

    Kat Hing Wai (the walled village above) with its spanish style houses is terrible. It’s only gone worse and I’ve heard many residents complaining about that. You don’t get any sunlight in to the streets, and you don’t get any natural wind there. I almost moved there with my wife (whose aunt is married to a Tang) but decided against it in the last minute. Glad we did.

    • When my colleagues and I were surveying the Kam Tin valley, we met an old woman who asked us to pick some fruit for her from her trees, which we were only too happy to do. She then insisted that we took most of it for ourselves. We didn’t think it was fair but she was most insistent.

      • Do you know if such things still exist there?

        I JUST heard about this place when I was searching the net for places where i could buy fresh goat milk…

      • There’s a place in a village along Route Twisk near Pat Heung called 農場鮮奶有限公司 where they sell fresh goat milk and other simple goat milk products. You can get close to it with KMB bus 51, or green minibus 72.

        There’s a goats being raised quite close to where I live in Hung Shui Kiu too. Not sure the numbers or what they’re for but few times I’ve been hiking in the hills close by, I’ve seen them being herded around.

  2. Pekka, would u tell me where i can find the rice paddles field in Kam Tin Valley? I am looking for a Rice Paddle field.

    bernie

    • I have opened a group on Linked-in for Hong Kong cultural heritage, I encourage readers to join and openly debate there. Currently, there are members numbering about 30, but no contributions, sadly.

    • Bernie, I don’t remember seeing any rice paddies in Kam Tin in use anymore. Mostly you can just see some hints of old paddies up in the hill-sides, but they’re nothing more but a shadow of the past now. Mostly the farmlands you’ll find in Kam Tin and in Pat Heung Valley in general are just normal farms.

    • Hi Karen, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. I spent a lot of time wandering around Kam Tin valley over the course of 7 years and despite the pollution, I always found it a fascinating place.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m not 100% sure. I took the photo in around 1995-6. For the next 7 years I did a lot of survey work in the Kam Tin Valley during which time highways, railways and channelisation were thrown in along with a lot of in-fill development. I was never able to find the place again. I suspect either the route 10, railway extension or river destruction took care of it.

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