Build museum in MTR station, society urges

Archaeology enthusiasts say ancient structures should be preserved – and tout innovative idea

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 3:47am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 3:47am

An archaeology group says a museum should be built to display relics dating back as far as the Song dynasty dug up on an MTR construction site - perhaps even as part of the railway station.

The Hong Kong Archaeological Society made the suggestion yesterday amid a heated debate over the artefacts and ancient buildings found around the site of the To Kwa Wan station on the Sha Tin-Central link.

Members of the government's Antiquities Advisory Board visited the site last week and saw a nullah, a well and a house structure dating back to the Song era (960-1279).

"This is the first historic nullah discovered in Hong Kong … It demonstrates there was some early urban planning in the Song dynasty," archaeological society spokesman Stanley Ng Wing-fai said. Such a structure was unlikely to have appeared in a common village and Ng suggested the area was a government or military site.

The discovery has triggered debate over whether the railway link should be realigned to preserve the site.

Ng, a town planner and vice-chairman of lobby group the Professional Commons, said the site in Kai Tak should be preserved and could form a single archaeological area with the nearby Longjin stone bridge.

A museum could be part of the MTR station, he added.

"In stations in Athens, Rome and Paris, people walk past a level with a museum housing heritage sites before they go down and take the trains," he said.

Antiquities board chairman Andrew Lam Siu-lo said any decision on how to handle the relics would have to await further investigation by an expert team.

The dig, commissioned by the MTR Corporation as a requirement of the planning process for the railway, was supposed to end last year, but will continue until September.

Lam questioned how much interest there would be in the relics.

"How devoted are the public [to archaeological sites]? How much are they willing to pay for them?" he asked without directly responding to the museum idea.

"Even though we carefully preserved the Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb, only 30,000 to 40,000 people visit it each year," he said, referring to relics in Cheung Sha Wan that may date to the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220AD).