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Explore Hakka culture on scarcely inhabited island, Yim Tin Tsai

Time Out Hong Kong
  • Written by Time Out Hong Kong

Fancy getting out of the hustle and bustle of city life to enjoy some serenity and calm? The perfect place to take a break from the crowds, relax in the fresh air for a few hours and take in some local Hakka history is just a short jaunt away from the centre of the city and a 15-minute speedboat ride from Sai Kung Town.

 

An early Hakka migrant settlement over 300 years ago and now a popular destination, Yim Tin Tsai is a small offshore island accessible by boat from Sai Kung Town. The island saw changes 20 years ago and parts of the island began a painstaking preservation process after receiving UNESCO recognition, which has revived the customs, heritage and folklore of its people. With the island so close and with such rich history to explore, this is an ideal day trip.

The Yim Tin Tsai Saltpans

The Yim Tin Tsai Saltpans

With yim tin tsai translating to ‘small saltpan’ in Cantonese, it’s clear to see that the island’s prominent industry had a significant impact. Hakka settlers developed salt farms on the island and made their living from its sale. The saltpans were used to dry out the salt before it was used as a prime trading good. However, with international competition, Hakka villagers were eventually priced out of the global market. Today, the saltpans have been restored and are fully functioning, making it a prominent site for day trippers. The revitalised saltpans are for demonstration purposes only, but the finished product can be taken home as souvenirs by its visitors.

St Joseph’s Chapel

St Joseph’s Chapel

Built in 1890, St Joseph’s Chapel was erected in Romanesque style by visiting missionaries who developed a strong relationship with the Hakka Chan clan. Before the turn of the century, the Hakka people had largely converted to Catholicism under the influence of the Roman Catholic priest Joseph Freinademetz. Some years later, the entire village was baptised in a ceremony. The chapel was dedicated to the island’s patron saint, and has since been named a UNESCO-listed heritage building, standing as a physical reminder of the impact St Joseph made on the villagers.

Yim Tin Tsai Heritage Exhibition Centre

Yim Tin Tsai Heritage Exhibition Centre

The Heritage Exhibition Centre is next to St Joseph’s Chapel and occupying a section of the village’s former primary school, Ching Po School. Home to a small collection of artefacts, from ceramics and homeware to everyday items, showcasing the village’s unique history and what life was like in its heyday.

The Mangroves and ‘Jade Bridge’

The Mangroves and ‘Jade Bridge’

Though the island is small — just 0.24sq km — there are several places to explore throughout, making it more than worthy of a day trip. Once you arrive, explore the surrounding coastline, which is encompassed by marshy mangroves. After getting yourself acquainted with the island’s heritage and culture, explore its surrounding scenery. Elsewhere on Yim Tin Tsai, the ‘Jade Bridge’ connects Yim Tin Tsai to Kau Sai Chau, its larger neighbouring island that is best known today as the site of a popular public golf course.

Yim Tin Tsai artwork

When visiting the island, don’t miss the selected artworks co-created by local artists and villagers during the Yim Tin Tsai Festival. The open museum integrates art, religion, culture, heritage and green elements that are still visible on the island today.

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