Small Houses, Big Impact

Sam Wan was 10 years old when his father, an officer in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force, died in the line of duty. Reeling from his death, Wan’s family moved from their Tsim Sha Tsui apartment back to their ancestral village, Tai Po Tsai, where they owned a small tile-roofed house. The year was […]

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A Walk Through Kam Tin

Sometime in the late tenth century, a Sung Dynasty bureaucrat named Tang Hon-fat left his hometown of Pak Sha Village in Jiangxi province atook a trip south, to the coast of Guangdong. When he passed through the lush valley now known as Kam Tin, he was so taken by its natural beauty and the friendliness […]

The Death of a Village

It was bound to happen. 26 months after Tsoi Yuen Village received its death sentence, 100 police officers burst into the remaining villagers’ houses and told them to leave. The villagers were incredulous. “I was negotiating with the government peacefully only a few days ago,” one man, Cheung Sun-yau, told the South China Morning Post. […]

Shenzhen from Above

Thirty years ago, Shenzhen was a collection of farming towns and fishing villages home to not much more than 300,000 people. It is now a sprawling metropolis of several million, with around 3.5 million in the city centre and another five or six million in the suburbs and industrial towns that stretch for miles beyond. […]

The Last Walled Village

Two and a half years ago, my girlfriend and I were walking through a housing estate near Kowloon City when we happened upon something completely unexpected: a walled village. At first glance, we actually thought it was an old shantytown, surrounded as it was by street hawkers, outdoor barbers and houses made of sheet metal. […]

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House Plants

Built with recycled sheet metal, its tin roof held down by bricks, this shack in Hong Kong’s Tai Wai Village is covered by potted plants — an improvised take on the sophisticated green walls pioneered by people like Patrick Blanc.

Shek O in the Off Season

Shek O is a seaside village on the southeast corner of Hong Kong Island. It’s home to one of Hong Kong’s most popular beaches, which gives it a holiday atmosphere in the summer, when thousands of people flock there from across the city to sunbathe, swim, barbecue and drink. In the cooler months, though, it’s […]

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Life in Hong Kong’s Birthplace

The layers of irony in Nantou can be hard to appreciate. Here is a town that reigned supreme over the surrounding lands for hundreds of years; when China lost the first Opium Wars, it was here that British emissaries met Chinese officials to claim the nearby island of Hong Kong. Later, as a result of […]

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The Shenzhen Flâneur

It’s easy to spot Mary Ann O’Donnell in a Shenzhen crowd. She’s the one wearing a pink-and-orange linen scarf and flowing dress. She’s also white — a rather rare sight in a wealthy city that is still off the radar of the roving crowd of expatriates that have settled in Shanghai and Beijing. Don’t let […]

Ting Kau

Ting Kau Village, Hong Kong

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The Son’s House: Hong Kong’s Plexes

Ding uk in Kam Sham Village, Tai Po I never thought I’d find a triplex in Hong Kong but it turns out there’s thousands of them. While Montreal’s triplexes were mostly built in the early twentieth century, the ones in Hong Kong, known in Cantonese as ding uk, are actually fairly recent. While ding uk […]

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Tai Po Tsai

For the next month or so, I’ll be staying in a village on Hong Kong’s Sai Kung Peninsula named Tai Po Tsai. Tucked between Razor Hill and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, it’s a likable little place of narrow lanes and typical village houses. Although it is traditionally home to members of […]

Villages in the City

It’s not unusual for a place to be referred to as an “urban village,” often referring to a particularly tight-knit neighbourhood or a commercial district whose merchants’ association has tried to foster a sense of small-town nostalgia. In the case of Hong Kong, however, actual villages do exist in the midst of a large metropolis. […]

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Urban Village, Shenzhen Style

The rapid urbanization of Shenzhen since 1980 has generated a contemporary landscape dotted with a series of urban villages, enclaves of buzzing urbanity and street life situated on land owned by Shenzhen’s original rural residents. These areas house much of Shenzhen’s floating population of workers from across China. The local farmers or fishers who are […]