With an intact enclosure and an intriguing history surrounding its iron gates, Kat Hing Wai is one of the highest-scoring villages in the government's grading exercise of historic sites.
The town of Kam Tin is the principal settlement of the Tang clan in the New Territories and consists of several villages, with Kat Hing Wai being the oldest. It was founded by Tang Pak-king and two other clansmen between 1465 and 1487 during the Ming dynasty.
The 6-metre wall was built 200 years later to protect the inhabitants from bandits and pirates.
The Wai was planned symmetrically and on the traditional axis terminated by a shrine in the north and an entrance gate in the south. The enclosure walls intersect at four square corner towers.
"The Wai scored a higher mark than most other villages because of the moat and the Iron Gate Incident," said Anthony Siu Kwok-kin, a historian who sits on an expert panel that is grading more than 1,444 heritage sites in an exercise steered by the Antiquities and Monuments Office.
In 1899, a year after the New Territories was leased by China to Britain, the Wai inhabitants resisted British occupation and after several battles, withdrew behind the iron gates. The British prevailed and the gates were shipped to then governor Sir Henry Blake's home in Ireland as booty.
They were returned in 1924 after village leaders petitioned the British government. As a gesture of goodwill, then governor Reginald Edward Stubbs went to the village for the ceremonial return.
The gates still guard the village today.
Visitors are asked to give HK$3 each to one of the old women sitting there for "pocket money", village head Tang Kwok-ki said.