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One of the oldest districts in Hong Kong, Sham Shui Po has played a huge role in shaping the local way of living. The district’s East-meets-West character has influenced the architectural style of the residential buildings and landmarks and it was also the birthplace of Hong Kong’s public housing. Discover the buildings that shaped the community as well as the remnants of its manufacturing boom days, which cemented the character of the neighbourhood. Also, be sure to explore Sham Shui Po’s places of worship, many of which were built by early immigrants from Mainland China who wanted to honour the deities that they worshipped back home.
Originally part of the Shek Kip Mei Estate that was constructed after a massive fire left nearly 58,000 homeless in 1953, Mei Ho House is a physical symbol of the beginning of Hong Kong’s public housing policies. The building has been awarded an honourable mention by the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation and now serves as a popular youth hostel. To celebrate the history of Sham Shui Po, the building also houses the Heritage of Mei Ho House museum, which documents the development of public housing and living conditions in Hong Kong from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Theplayed an important role in the welfare of the community when it opened its doors in 1929. Not only did it provide shelter and free medical care to the poor, it was also an orphanage for abandoned babies. Today, the neoclassical building is not open to the public, but it can still be admired from the street, where it stands as a symbol of charity and commitment to those who are in need.
A Grade II historic building,is what is known as a tong lau — a type of tenement building that was prevalent in South China in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Built in the 1920s, the ground floor formerly acted as a shop for a frame-maker, while the floors above served a residential function. Business has long ceased but the building’s windows — distinctive of old tong laus across Hong Kong — and the calligraphic signs advertising the old framing business remain icons.
This medical centre gave Yee Kuk Street its name (‘yee kuk’ means clinic in Cantonese). A Grade II historic building, this construction was built in the 1930s after its former site, also on Yee Kuk Street, was deemed insufficient to meet the medical needs of local residents. The building is no longer open to the public, but you can still admire the stunning art deco architecture from the outside; the building’s pillars are adorned with Western classical motifs while the balcony railings feature bamboo-shaped Chinese ceramic tiles — a beautiful example of Hong Kong’s East-meets-West ethos.
This four-chambered tomb was discovered in 1955 when a hill was being levelled in preparation for the construction of resettlement buildings. Inscriptions found within suggest that it dates back to the Eastern Han dynasty (AD 25-220). Although the tomb is closed to the public for conservation reasons, visitors can still get a glimpse of this remarkable relic from behind a glass panel, and can also learn more about the tomb’s history by looking at pottery and bronze pieces that were excavated from the site.
Sitting on a lush hillside in Lai Chi Kok (and just a few minutes’ walk away from MTR Mei Foo Station), is a shining example of Hong Kong’s revitalisation efforts done right: the. This large-scale, century-old compound boasts a colourful history. First built as a customs station during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), it later became labourers’ quarters, a quarantine station, a prison, a hospital for infectious diseases, and after that, a psychiatric rehabilitation centre. Now, the site serves as a cultural landmark that hosts thematic exhibitions, workshops, seminars, festive events and educational programmes etc within its tranquil grounds. Enjoy the available food, buy souvenirs and stay overnight at this historic site at The Heritage Lodge, which houses 89 guest rooms.
At Tai Po Road Rest Garden, scan the decorated pole to download the CITY IN TIME app and see what Mei Ho House and the nearby area looked like in the 1950s.
The JCCAC building was once a factory estate that housed the city’s cottage industries. It was given a facelift and a new lease on life when it reopened in 2008 as a bustling creative hub, providing venues for burgeoning and established artists alike to display their creations. The space also houses a theatre, craft shops and the Heritage Tea House, where visitors can enjoy a traditional brew while they explore this nine-storey building.
Hong Kong’s pawnbroking industry exploded after the government legalised it in 1926. Built during that decade, theis a reminder of this once-flourishing business that helped fuel the city’s economy. Today, the Grade III historic building still boasts many traditional features, including the saloon doors at the entrance and the iconic pawnshop sign featuring the auspicious symbol of an upside-down bat holding a coin.
Constructed in 1891,is the only place of worship in Kowloon dedicated to the God of War and Righteousness. This Grade II historic building is a great example of traditional Lingnan architecture and includes many stunning features, including a giant bronze bell and crescent blade. The temple is open to the public on most days but it becomes a real spectacle on the 24th day of the sixth lunar month, when crowds arrive in droves to celebrate Kwan Tai’s birthday.
Two temples in one complex, Sam Tai Tsz Temple is a Grade II historic building originally built in 1898 by Hakka immigrants to honour their patron deity, Sam Tai Tsz, after a particularly deadly plague swept through Sham Shui Po. Full of fascinating details, the temple houses cultural relics that date back to the late Qing dynasty (1644-1911). After exploring this fascinating site, head next door to Pak Tai Temple — a Grade III historic building built by local fishermen in 1920 to honour the Emperor of the North, the eponymous Pak Tai.
A popular spot with Instagrammers, this building is unlike anything else in Sham Shui Po. It’s home to, an institution established in 1931 that offers a range of services from the medical to the spiritual and religious. Its colourful green tiling is in stark contrast to the neutral blocks sitting on either side, and its eye-catching design is topped by a 3D dragon, cranes and deer emerging out of the frescos on the roof.