After casually mentioning that I wanted to visit some of Hong Kong’s old walled villages, I fortuitously stumbled into one today: Fanling Wai (粉嶺圍).
On a sunny but bitterly cold day (by Hong Kong standards) I herded my little ones into the car and headed to the well-groomed “North District Park” which lies between Fanling and Sheung Shui. Our main goals were to avoid my husband’s phlegmy cold and to get out of the house. We tottered around the playground, spotted swimming turtles, and smiled at a handful of locals out for the exercise (I even got the chance to say “I don’t speak Cantonese” in Cantonese! Sigh…).
On our way out of the park, we decided to see what the big open space and pond on the other side of the car park was all about. I took a few pictures of this place not realizing until later what exactly we had bumped into: the old north entrance to Fanling Wai (walled village).
Subsequent sleuthing reveals that the village is the ancestral home of the Pang Clan, among the New Territories’ largest settling clans, who came down from Guangxi Province in the late Song Dynasty sometime between 1120 and 1280. (Source: Hong Kong Planning Department “Planning with Vision: Fanling & Sheung Shui Historical Background,” 2002).
Looking more closely at the old village entrance, the banners on each side of the entrance read:
“前環鳳水 , 後擁龍山”
Which, according to the “Pang’s Family Website,” means:
“In front lie the phoenix water! And behind, rest the dragon hills!”
Rather romantic imagery, I’d say! My own hometown’s “motto” is “This is the place!” which is shamefully unimaginative by comparison.
The tale of the fish pond that sits in front of the village entrance only adds to the allure. According to a centuries past feng shui master, while it is very fortunate that Fanling Wai is located on a “phoenix site” it is very unfortunate that it also faces a nearby ridge whose name in Cantonese sounds like “eagle.” After all the phoenix might take offense that an eagle is so close by! The fish pond was built at the feng shui master’s advice as a sort of on-going reparation to the phoenix. (Source: “The story behind the scriptures on the Fanling Wai’s old Village Entrance.“)
But there is still more. Between the old village entrance and the fish pond, three old cannons are on display. Reading the inscription, it seems that these three cannons, once used by the village as defense, were buried by the Japanese during their World War II invasion of Hong Kong to keep them out of the villagers’ hands. They were subsequently rediscovered and put on display when part of the village’s historic watchtowers were re-built.
So our cold morning, when we simply sought to escape the house and my husband’s hideous cold for a few hours, turned into a fortuitous adventure into Hong Kong’s past.
Here’s to more lucky days in 2013!
Happy New Year!