With my interest in old walled villages piqued by Fanling Wai, we headed off to the Ping Shan Heritage Trail, which connects sites important to another one of the five major New Territories founding families, the Tang Clan.
Arriving near the crossing of the MTR and light rail systems in Tin Shui Wan, we puzzled over how the trail begins, before spotting our tall starting point: Tsui Sing Lau (“Gathering of Stars”) Pagoda, the only surviving ancient pagoda in Hong Kong.
The pagoda was built for feng shui reasons to ward off bad spirits, but to also ensure success to Tang Clan members sitting the highly important imperial civil service examinations. A reason more practical but less romantic than Fanling Wai‘s reason for building its key feng shui feature: a fish pond to appease “the phoenix” should he take offense at a nearby eagle-like named ridge.
After peeping inside (no, sadly, you can’t climb up), the kind “security guard” handed us a trail map and pointed us down a narrow road past an enormous truck parking lot. Luckily we soon came to a guide post which turned us away from the trucks and toward Sheung Cheung Wai (walled village):
While entering a private inhabited place would usually be intimidating, I was armed with two young “good will ambassadors” so we quietly walked through the walled village. Small lanes and folks living in very tight quarters. Not a soul in sight. Only the muffled sound of radios and smell of bleach hinted that a few people were home.
From Sheung Cheung Wai, we made our way past: an old algae-filled well, the modest Yeung Hau Temple, a busy local cafe, village dogs wearing human coats, and blocks of new-ish “Spanish-villa-style” houses of the type that dominates the New Territories.
Wandering through it all, I was struck by how much it just feels like an old village anywhere in the developing world, despite being located in the middle of one of Hong Kong’s “New Towns.” Substitute the surrounding truck parking lots, high rises and MTR station with rice paddy, and you have any old village complete with village mentality: this is the lot where we all throw our old kitchen appliances, this is where we park our old cars, old men hang out here, that tin lean-to is where the “village big man” parks his Lamborghini (ok, village with Pearl River Delta, new money twists).
I loved it.
Sadly my camera battery was on red, so you’ll have to go look for yourself to enjoy these nuisances.
Completing the whole one kilometer circuit, we also visited the imposing Tang Ancestral Hall (hanging cured meat available for sale outside), the very shiny and informative “Ping Shan Tan Clan Gallery cum Heritage Trail Visitors Centre,” Hung Shing Temple (closed due to termite infestation), and the Kun Ting Study Hall where many aspiring imperial civil servants must have spent hours at work on exam prep.
We ended at our favorite site: Ching Shu Hin, where visiting scholars or other VIPs could stay when visiting the Tang Clan. Small, but filled with dark passages, side rooms and round doors, we thoroughly enjoyed our explorations.
In Hong Kong? Go and have a look.
More information, about the Ping Shang Heritage Trail, which is located in Tin Shui Wai (Yuen Long), can be found here via Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department.