City's history is written in the streets

The origins of place names in Causeway Bay take us down memory lane

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 5:21am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 5:21am

The old buildings may be gone, but the street signs in Causeway Bay still hold clues to the city's rich history.

Many can be traced back to the two Scotsmen who co-founded Jardine Matheson in 1844, when the company established itself in the new British colony to deal in opium, cotton, tea, silk and a variety of other goods.

"Street names we are familiar with, such as Jardine's Crescent, Jardine's Bazaar and Matheson Street, may have nothing to do with the district, but they help us to turn over the pages of history books," said the Museum of History's former chief curator Dr Joseph Ting Sun-pao.

The street names also help modern people to recall vanished trades and industries.

Sugar Street, for example, once housed Jardine Matheson's sugar mills, while Cotton Path was home to the company's cotton mill. The mill was later sold for HK$400,000 to the French order of the Sisters of St Paul de Chartres and developed into a school and a hospital, now known as the St Paul's Convent School and St Paul's Hospital.

Jardine Matheson later also sold much of its primary site to Hysan Lee, one of the city's most significant Chinese businessmen in the 1920s, for HK$3.85 million.

Lee developed the property known as Lee Gardens into a shopping and business area. His family later also developed the Lee Theatre and the Lee Gardens Hotel.

Today, the area includes Lee Gardens One and Two, Lee Theatre and Hysan Place shopping centres, as well as other developments.

Ting said Lee had many interesting ideas in naming four of Causeway Bay's streets in his development. He eventually decided on Yun Ping Road, Sun Wui Road, Hoi Ping Road and Sunning Road - the names of four counties in the Pearl River Delta of southern Guangdong province, which was Lee's ancestral home.

Pak Sha Road and Kai Chiu Road were named after two prominent Guangdong figures of the early 20th century - Chan Pak Sha, a famous Confucian scholar during the Ming dynasty, and Liang Qichao, one of the most significant revolutionaries during the later Qing dynasty.

Hongkongers can take a trip down memory lane at an exhibition which will open at Lee Gardens tomorrow to mark the 90th anniversary of Hysan Lee taking over the area.

As well as interesting street names, there are photos and videos showing the site that is now Hysan Place when it was the Lee Gardens amusement park.