Recognition for Walled City's last remains

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 October, 1996, 12:00am

A 150-year-old traditional Chinese building saved from demolition when the Kowloon Walled City was knocked down is to be listed as an historic building today.

The remnants of the city's South Gate, which was about six metres high when built in the 1840s, are also to be designated an archaeological site, the Antiquities and Monuments Office said yesterday. Both are all that remains of the Kowloon Walled City.

The City began as a fort and administrative centre for the Qing dynasty and ended in 1993 as a squalid hideaway for illegal immigrants and businesses, particularly dentists.

The three-hall, 48-metre Yamen building, of traditional design, was built between 1843 and 1847 as an office and residence for the Commodore of Dapeng county when he and the assistant magistrate of Xin'an county were transferred.

At the time it was a military outpost and fort protecting China from invasion attempts, including invasion from the British, who had just taken over Hong Kong Island.

After the British ousted the Qing officials in 1899, Christian groups ran the Yamen as an almshouse, a home for the aged, a home for widows and orphans, a school and clinic and an elderly centre. The famous rabbit-warren buildings of the later city were built up around it until the whole lot were cleared in 1993.

The main South Gate carried two stone plaques inscribed 'Kowloon Walled City' and 'South Gate'. The wall and four gates began crumbling in the 1920s and were demolished during the war by the Japanese, who used the masonry to extend Kai Tak runway.

Archaeological digs during the 1993 demolition uncovered what remains of the gate, including the plaques, the walkway and a drainage ditch, which now form attractions in Kowloon Walled City Park.