Feeling too lazy to venture into the bustling centre of HK, but wanting to make the most of the day; Ry and I took a 10 minute ride over to Tin Shui Wai to do the Ping Shan Heritage Trail.
There really isn’t much to do in our neck of the woods as it’s mainly residential, but we figured this could be interesting.
The trail was completed in 1993 and is the first of its kind in Hong Kong. Stretching about 1.6 km in length, it links up a number of traditional Chinese buildings to provide visitors with an opportunity to learn more about traditional life in the New Territories.
Our first stop was the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda, also known as the ‘Pagoda of Gathering Stars.’
It is the only ancient Pagoda in Hong Kong, built over 600 years ago!
Pagodas are traditionally Buddhist structures; however some are built to improve the feng shui of a particular locality. This pagoda was originally situated at the mouth of a river to ward off evil spirits from the North and to prevent flooding.
After settling in Ping Shan, the Tang clan (a major clan in the New Territories) established ‘Three Wais (walled villages) and Six Tsuens (villages).’
They also built many traditional Chinese buildings, such as ancestral halls, temples and study halls.
This is a shrine dedicated to the Earth God (To Tei Kung), who is known to the villagers as She Kung. These altars are commonly found in traditional Chinese villages, as She Kung is believed to be the protector of villagers. They are usually simple brick structures on which a stone is placed to symbolize the presence of the god.
This was taken from the inside of the walled village by the name of ‘Sheung Cheung Wai.’
Our next stop was the Yeung Hau Temple, dedicated to the deity of Hau Wong (Emperor Hau).
The identity of Hau Wong is debated, but the Ping Shan villagers believe that he was a Song Dynasty general who gave up his life to protect the last two Song emperors; therefore he is worshipped for his loyalty and bravery.
The temple is a simple structure divided into three bays, housings the statues of Hau Wong, To Tei (the Earth God) and Kam Fa (patron saint of expectant mothers).
Here we have the Tang Ancestral Hall (the main ancestral hall of the Tang Clan) on the left, constructed around 700 years ago. As in the past, the ancestral hall is still used regularly as a venue for worship, festivals and clan meetings.
Next door is the Yu Kiu Ancestral Hall, constructed in the early 16th century. In addition to serving as an ancestral hall, the building was used as a teaching hall for children of the villages. The layout and design is identical in both halls, comprising of three halls with two courtyards, and ancestral tablets on the altar in the rear hall.
The main ridges and roofs are decorated with Shiwan dragon-fish and unicorn pottery figures.
Life by the halls…
Here are a few details from the Ching Shu Hin, a building that served as a guesthouse for important visitors and scholars.
The whole building was decorated with carved panels, murals and carved brackets to demonstrate the elegance of the residences.
This was our favourite part so far!
Traditional life in the New Territories.
The penultimate stop on the trail was the temple dedicated to Hung Shing, who is widely worshipped by fishermen and people whose livelihoods depend largely on the sea.
Ryan’s great at doing impressions.
Finally we made our way over to our final destination – the Ping Shan Tang Clan Gallery.
We passed some koi fish on the way…
…as well as religious ornaments dotted around in the same way as chocolate eggs in an Easter Egg hunt.
Making our way up the steep hill, we found the only colonial building on the trail.
Converted from the Old Ping Shan Police Station, it is one of the few remaining pre-war police stations in the New Territories.
The gallery was surprisingly modern-looking compared to the rest of the trail.
Typical wedding dress in Ping Shan.
This is the bridal palanquin used to collect the bride on the wedding day.
Heavy curtains were used to protect the bride from running into people or objects that could cause her harm.
This was the massive rock that was used as a stone weight by the villagers to practice weight lighting in order to pass the military part of the Imperial Civil Service Examinations. Mental!
Most of the other rooms were filled with photos of traditions held by the Tang Clan, which reflects the unique characteristics of life in Hong Kong’s New Territories. The villagers attach special importance to honouring their family lineage and have always organized ceremonies to worship their ancestors and deities. You may have noticed that this was an ongoing theme throughout each building on the trail, you big ol’ smartiepants 😉
Traditional festivals, rituals and customs are still carried out to this day. Here are a few examples:
1) Villagers light incense sticks on their altars or in front of their household shrines every morning and evening
2) At the start of every day, the teacups and ‘water bowl’ of the deities are washed and refilled so that the deities can have a wash and some tea (as the villagers believe that the deities live among them)
3) During major festivals, all the villagers gather together to participate in various rituals and enjoy basin meals. As villagers living elsewhere will also return for the festivities, the ceremonies also act as a force that strengthens the bonds among the members of the lineage.
Poon Choi, also known as a basin feast, is often served during religious rituals, festivals, special occasions and wedding banquets in an open area of the village.
This custom of eating food communally originated in the New Territories about 600 years ago!
Traditional basin cuisines include: pork, bean-curd, squid, pig-skin, dried mushroom, chicken and fish-balls.
All the villagers take part in the preparation of the basin cuisine; women prepare while the men cook.
However basin feasts are no longer limited to villages, but are a popular food choice over Chinese New Year all over the city!
We hope you enjoyed the tour of the Ping Shan Heritage Trail 😀