We decided to travel to Tin Shui Wai (which is on the West Rail line from Hung Hom) to visit the first heritage trail in Hong Kong. It was opened in 1993 is located in the North West New Territories on the fringes of the new town of Tin Shui Wai.
Off the train and out exit E3 we crossed the road to the first sight, the Tsui Shing Laug Pagoda. The Pagoda of Gathering Stars was originally several stories higher but according to the local Tang clan – whose ancestors built it – various natural elements have conspired to reduce its size. It could have been either lightning strikes or typhoons depending on what you read.
Walk past the the outside of some sort of car park/concreted industrial space to make your way to the next stop which is a very large Earth God Shrine.
Earth Shrines are a common sight all over the New Territories and almost invariably have a rock in the middle of a usually small altar to allow the villagers to worship the earth god, who is responsible for protecting the area and villagers to which he belongs.
Sheung Cheung Wai (built around 1800) is the only walled village along the trail. The gate house, shrine, parts of the wall and some old houses still remain.
The gate house has recently been renovated but the old walls next to it still crumble. They are supposed to be green, but nowadays they are only grey.
Next stop we move to the old well. Wells were common place in the territory – obviously the main source of water before any sort of infrastructure was created for the fresh water supply.
The Hang Tau Tsuen Old Well in Ping Shan is said to be over 200 years old, but nowadays the water is green and covered with plants and leaves. I hope no one drinks from it anymore.
Just up on small slope behind the well is the Yeung Hau Temple and it’s main deity is Hau Wong with two side deities: Kam Fa and To Dei.
Next on the trail are the two ancestral halls of two sides of the Tang Clan who live here. They are still at the heart of the village, but unfortunately nowadays they are surrounded by cars parking in front of them.
To the left is Tang Si Chung hall and on the right is the Yu Kiu Clan hall.
The Tang Si Chung is supposedly 700 years old and built by a Tang Fung Shun, whereas the Yu Kiu hall was built much later (sometime in the 16th century). The Yu Kiu Ancestral Hall is also a three-hall building with two courtyards, completely renovated in 1995. Both ancestral halls are open 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm daily. Closed on first three days of Chinese New Year – however, the doors to Tan Si Chung hall were open, so we could go inside and look at the shrine.
The Yu Kiu Clan hall was closed, but its painted door guards were nice to look at too.
Next on the agenda is the Kun Ting Study Hall and the neighbouring Ching Shu Hin Guest House. Unfortunately, both were closed because of the Chinese New year.
I did some reading and found out that Study Halls can be found all over the New Territories and usually have two purposes: the first being to help clan members prepare for the imperial examinations and the second of course was to impart status on the clan. Any clan that could afford to build one (as opposed to using the ancestral hall for the same purpose) for its members was obviously one that was rich and powerful.
The Shut Study Hall, originally a traditional two-hall building but the rear hall was demolished in 1977, leaving just the entrance hall where elaborate roof ridge decorations, murals, carved brackets and eave boards still remain. Normal flats are now to the left and right of the study hall.
We also wanted to see the Hung Shin Temple, which was built in 1767, but due to a termite problem it was closed. It is a two-hall building with open courtyard and would have been nice to look at – but maybe next time.
At the end of the 1 km trail we walked back to the Tin Shui Wai MTR station but the other option is to walk to Ping Shan Light Rail Station and take the 761P Light Rail back to Tin Shui Wai MTR station.