Old China in Yau Ma Tei

Yau Ma Tei map

While harbour reclamation has made Yau Ma Tei a landlocked neighbourhood, it began life as a waterfront village, with a large Tin Hau temple serving as a hub for trade and activity. When the British gained control of Kowloon in 1860, it laid a grid of mostly numbered streets through Yau Ma Tei. Most of these streets had counterparts on Hong Kong Island, but it wasn’t an issue until the early twentieth century, when Kowloon began to develop in earnest. In 1909, the colonial government formed a committee to rename the streets, which resulted in the interesting assortment of names that still exist today.

Most newer Chinese cities have streets named after other parts of China: massage touts and neon signs compete for attention on Shanghai’s Nanjing Road, some of Taipei’s best coffee can be found on Chengdu Road and Chongqing Road is where all the action is in rustbelt Changchun. With the renaming of Yau Ma Tei’s streets, Hong Kong proved no exception — but what makes it unique is that those streets were named by the British after important treaty ports and British-influenced parts of China. What’s more, their romanized versions are based on Cantonese rather than Mandarin. Canton Road was named for Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong; Woosung Street for Wusong, a trading hub near Shanghai; and Pak Hoi Street for Beihai, a Cantonese-speaking port in Guangxi.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Tuesday April 21 2009at 07:04 am , filed under Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, History, Maps and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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