Leung's vision for culture must protect last shards of TST's pre-colonial heritage

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 May, 2012, 12:00am


Your editorial ('Cultural heritage worth fighting for', May 6) speaks of the 150 years of colonial history and fine traditions and practices that should be preserved for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike.

On May 6, I attended a very interesting talk given by historian Patrick Hase at the Heritage Discovery Centre in Kowloon Park on the theme 'Tsim Sha Tsui before 1860'.

There was life here before the arrival of the British but almost every trace of it has been expunged.

The audience was astonished to hear that the only indications of the vibrant village community that once flourished at the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui can be counted on two fingers.

One is a shrine to the earth god hidden away at the back of Haiphong Road Temporary Market.

While many in the audience were born and bred in Hong Kong, a significant number were unaware of the existence of the this temple dating back to pre-colonial times. However, locals know that it is a popular shrine with a constant stream of devotees, and it should flourish for centuries to come.

But this is Hong Kong, where any site zoned 'government institution' or 'community', with their associated height restrictions, can be rezoned at a whim, so the shrine should be given monument listing to protect it from any hostile bid.

The only other remnant of pre-colonial inhabitants is one example of feathering that somehow escaped the shotcrete mania that enveloped most of the base of Signal Hill. Feathering, we learned, is a method used to split a large piece of stone.

After the direction of the grain is determined, a number of holes are drilled into the stone. Plug-and-feather sets are inserted in the holes. The plugs are struck with a small stone hammer and eventually the stone cracks and splits apart.

This technique was used in the stone quarries located at the tip of the Tsim Sha Tsui peninsula. Dr Hase explained that the roads at the time were not suitable for transporting heavy material so quarries were situated close to the coast as the stone was transported by sea.

It is obviously imperative that the Antiquities and Monuments Office takes measures to preserve the remaining feathering to keep alive the memory of the original inhabitants.

Our chief executive-elect, Leung Chun-ying, has promised to formulate a holistic culture policy.

Preservation of pre-colonial heritage must be an intrinsic component of this vision.

Mary Melville, Tsim Sha Tsui