The haunting stories behind four Hong Kong urban legends
Two bodies of water and two housing developments evoke death and curiosity
In a city defined by its unique marriage of East and West, names and labels hold special significance. A place’s name can shed light on its poetic, tragic or legendary origins as well as define how people view it. This week, City Weekend explores places in Hong Kong with colourful backstories and fascinating names.
In the warm light of day, this sun-dappled pool and waterfall located near Tai Mei Tuk in Plover Cove Country park paint quite the idyllic picture. However, when darkness and thunderstorms encroach, the once pleasant spot turns eerie.
According to legend, a bride was being carried in a sedan to meet her groom during a thunderstorm. But as the entourage passed by the water, one of the four porters slipped in the rain and the group was washed into the swollen pool, where the woman drowned due to her heavy clothing. Villagers were never able to recover her body or carriage. Until now, some have claimed to have seen a woman dressed in a red cheongsam brushing her hair at the nearby Mirror Pool.
Allegedly named after this tragically deceased bride, Bride’s Pool is thought to be one of the most haunted places in Hong Kong. Rumour has it the evil spirits of Bride’s Pool drag their victims into the water to ease their loneliness. It is believed the bride’s spirit constantly wanders the area, especially a section of winding road nicknamed “deadly curve”, where a number of fatal accidents have been reported.
In February, a car slammed into a tree on Bride’s Pool Road and exploded into flames. Last November, a 12-year-old boy was hospitalised after a biking accident on Bride’s Pool Nature Trail. As a result of these accidents and many more, the Civil Aid Service and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department included Bride’s Pool Waterfall on the city’s list of “black spots”, or high-risk locations. Still, the place remains popular among tourists and local residents alike for hiking, barbecues, and swimming.
How to get there: Get on the MTR’s East Rail Line, take the train to Tai Po Market station. Take bus 75K or 20C to Tai Mei Tuk, then get a taxi to Bride’s Pool.
Tiu Keng Leng
Originally called “Diu Keng Leng”, or “hanging the neck hill” in Chinese, this is an area in Sai Kung district in the northeast New Territories.
First established on June 26, 1950, Tiu Keng Leng was once a refugee village that housed former Kuomintang officials and supporters who escaped from the mainland to avoid persecution by the Chinese Communist Party.
Fleeing by ferry from Mao Zedong’s newly established People’s Republic of China, 7,000 nationalist refugees arrived at the once abandoned place.
According to a long-time urban legend, the area was named after retired Canadian official Albert Herbert Rennie, who was said to have hanged himself in 1908. Another version states, however, that his failing business had prompted him to jump into the sea at Lei Yue Mun, located several kilometres away.
The earliest traceable name of the area was “Chiu Keng Leng”, or “ridge of mirror reflection” – derived by the Tanka residents, or boatpeople, who were inspired by the tranquillity of the adjacent waters.
The refugee encampment was shabby but self-sufficient with its own management and schooling system.
In 1961, the Hong Kong government declared Tiu Keng Leng a part of the Resettlement Department, thus allowing the then slum-like area to develop facilities and infrastructure. With its strong ties to the Taiwanese government, the area was sometimes referred to as ‘Little Taiwan’, and considered a stronghold against the spread of Communism during the cold war.
The original Tiu Keng Leng village was cleared before the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Residents were evicted to make space for developing the Tseung Kwan O New Town. There are also three old public housing estates in the area: Kin Ming Estate, Choi Ming Court and Shin Ming Estate.
In recent years the area has been redeveloped as a modern high-rise residential district. In 2006, Metro Town, a nine-tower, private housing estate was built atop the shopping mall podium and Tiu Keng Leng MTR station. Developed jointly by Cheung Kong Holdings, Nan Fung Group and the MTR Corporation, it provides about 3,700 private flats.
How to get there: Get on the MTR’s Kwun Tong Line and change to the Tseung Kwan O Line to arrive at Tiu Keng Leng station.
Lotus Pond at CUHK
Visitors to the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) should make a point to visit the famous Lake Ad Excellentiam at Chung Chi College, affectionately called the Lotus Pond by many because of its rich history.
The body of water was built in the late 1960s, and according to legend, a tragic story of heartbreak and failed love transpired there. Rumour has it a girl with braided hair wandered around the pond one night, waiting for her lover to come for their planned elopement. When the boy did not show up for their 10pm meeting time, the heartbroken girl leapt into the pond and drowned herself. It all took place when the pool was filled with blossoming lotus, a flower symbolising beauty and spirituality.
These days, almost every CUHK student is told this tale and that the girl could approach those walking near Lotus Pond to ask for the time. However, the unspoken rule is that a man should never answer her question, for if he does and it is after midnight, she will take him by the hand and leap into the water with him in tow.
In 1997, the school did work on the lake, which is fed by stream water, because it had gone turbid with from sewage.
Lake Ad Excellentiam is also known as Weiyuan Lake, which means “not complete”. The phrase is a Chinese footnote to Chung Chi College’s motto of “In Search of Excellence”. It sums up the belief that one is never finished in the quest for knowledge.
The site is arguably the school’s most recognised landmark, combining the vivid legend of the lake with the attractive surrounding scenery. Drawing even non-students, the setting is idyllic and serene, featuring cascading trees and crystal-clear water accentuated by floating lotus flowers. The charming spot has served as a backdrop for many wedding and graduation photos. In autumn, red leaves line the water’s edge. It is also a popular picnic destination for students and tourists. Couples can often be seen walking along the lake at night – the girl with braided hair supposedly leaves couples alone – and some daring students even break the rules late at night just to swim.
How to get there: Get on the MTR’s East Rail Line and take it to University station. Follow the exit for the CUHK campus. The lake is located right next to the station.
Sau Mau Ping
This area of Kwun Tong district in Kowloon was a squatter village when a serious landslide took place in the early afternoon of June 18, 1972. In all, 71 people died, and many of those killed were children. The area was once referred to as “So Mo Ping” – in Cantonese, a “tomb-sweeping” place – as it had been the site of a cemetery during the second world war.
Officials later changed the area to its current name, conferring a new connotation of “nice and prosperous”. In fact, it is home to Sau Mau Ping Estate, one of the oldest public housing developments in Kwun Tong. Construction began in 1964, and it now has 18 residential blocks, providing 12,310 apartment units for more than 35,000 residents. Because of its tragic history, the nearby public hospital is often named as one of the most haunted places in Hong Kong.
How to get there: Get on the MTR’s East Rail Line and take it to Hung Hom station, then change to bus 11X to Sau Mau Ping (Upper).