Diamonds amongst the parked lorries: Ping Shan Heritage Trail

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.

Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda

Tsui Sing Lau “Gathering of Stars” Pagoda

Interior of the pagoda, where Tangs pray for exam success.

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):

Entrance to Sheung Cheung Wai

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.

Inside Sheng Cheung Wai

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.

Inside Ching Shu Hin

Inside Ching Shu Hin

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.

20 responses to “Diamonds amongst the parked lorries: Ping Shan Heritage Trail

  1. I love the narrow laneways, they are somehow comforting … infrastructure built on a human scale. And the moon gate make a beautiful frame around the view beyond (of course here it would be deemed a tripping hazard, sigh).

  2. I love these pics and old sites like this. I was in Hong Kong dating a local for almost a year, and I *still* didn’t make it to some of the places you’ve talked about. So cool! Thanks for sharing. Guess it’s time for me to make a trip back. 😉

    • Don’t worry. Probably 95 percent of the people who live in HK (locals included) haven’t gone out to the Ping Shan Heritage Trail (despite it being awesome).

    • Now that I know what to look for, I’ve started seeing bits of old walled villages all over the place out here. It’s become a bit of a daily treasure hunt. That said, the density of stuff on the Ping Shan Trail makes it a great outing.

  3. sweet! It was indeed very cool to visit but only not another reason to bring me back there again. Perhaps it’s the remote location, making festive events not accessible for most people in the city. Unlike in Cheung Chau and Tai Hang where there’re parades annually in the summer. I think the occasion events really elevate the awareness to the place and give us a sense of belonging.

    Is it the reason why many people in Hong Kong are protesting? I hope not entirely.

    • Now you’ve added two more sites to my wandering: Cheung Chau and Tai Hang. There is a very remote feeling about Ping Shan despite being right on the MTR line. That said, surely the Tang Clan must hold big events there (put perhaps not advertised to the outside-clan world?).

      I like to think Hong Kong people are protesting because they can! (And they want to make a point of taking advantage of this freedom, which their neighbors to the north don’t have.) But I’m just an outsider guessing in the dark.

      • I’m glad I provided you some sites for your weekend family visit. There’re really quite some places to visit within walking distance along the MTR lines.

        My dad is a trail walker, he said Hong Kong has many of the most accessible mountain trails in the world. And if you check how many percent makes up Hong Kong’s country parks you’d know! Although that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s still a nice weekend escape to get good quality fresh air.

  4. Reblogged this on China Heritage Watch and commented:
    An account of the Expatlingo author’s trek along the Ping Shan Heritage Trail in Hong Kong. Along the way, she visits the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda (聚星楼), the only surviving ancient pagoda in Hong Kong, the Sheung Cheung Wai walled village (上璋围), the Tang Clan Ancestral Hall (邓氏宗祠), the Kun Ting study hall (觐廷书室), and the Ching Shu Hin guesthouse (清暑轩), where visiting scholars and dignitaries would stay when visiting Tang clan members.
    More information about the trail can be found here.

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