A century in photographs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 June, 2003, 12:00am

South China Morning Post photographers have raced to capture Hong Kong's defining moments in the years since the newspaper hit the streets. In this, the publication's centenary year, our researchers are trawling the archives to illustrate a forthcoming book celebrating 100 years of history as seen through the camera lens. Post Magazine provides a preview of some of the most spectacular images.

May 26, 1963: Instead of punters praying for a win, the Happy Valley racecourse was the scene of a mass prayer for rain. About 300 Buddhist monks and nuns and 3,000 worshippers took to the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club track during a 12-hour ceremony aimed at breaking the long-running drought.

A large altar, decorated with scrolls, banners, garlands of flowers and candles, was set up in the stadium, and priests in bright robes led the chanting of prayers. Afterwards, monks walked solemnly in single file around the course, followed by a group of nuns. Many carried glasses of water, which they sprinkled from green leaves as they sang and paced around the track.

The ceremony was staged as the government appealed to the public to restrict their use of water after months of minimal rain. Hong Kong had received only 3.67 centimetres of rain since January 1, compared to an average of 52cm. An offer of almost 17 million litres of water from the Guangdong Provincial Government was under consideration and five shipping companies were attempting to bring in fresh water supplies. With a population of 3.5 million, Hong Kong needed 152 million litres of water a day to meet demand.

The prayer ceremony was not exactly successful: only two millimetres of rain were recorded that day.