In 2017, the 4th generation Union Church (佑寧堂) at 22A Kennedy Road, a 68-year Grade III listed historical building, was brutally torn down for a highly controversial real estate redevelopment. Despite efforts from conservation groups, architects, politicians, church members, media, and local community groups, the government refused to list the church as a Grade I historical building, and the Union Church refuses to back down from the project. The upcoming 22-storey mixed use building, which includes a new worshiping space and 45 luxurious apartments split between real estate developer Henderson Land Development (恒基兆業地產) and Union Church, exemplifies another bitter defeat of architectural heritage conservation in Hong Kong. Perhaps no government in 1890 (the time when Union Church acquired the site) could predict how insanely expensive land prices would become in a hundred years’ time, especially in the affluent Mid-Levels district. The original reasoning for letting missionaries to acquire land at relatively low cost may no longer be justified. Today, this has become a convenient tool for any religious institution to secure commercial profit by selling its own properties. Union Church is not the first such case and certainly won’t be the last either.
The scene of a lonely Gothic Revival church encircled by highrise apartments or commercial towers ten times its height is not uncommon in Hong Kong. Well known for its high urban density, many neighborhoods in Hong Kong appear like monotonous forests of highrise buildings. Engulfed in glittering reflections of curtain wall glazing, old churches in the city have become precious features. Each architectural detail is full of history, collective memories, and a melancholic beauty. Well worth checking out, several churches in the Mid-Levels represent some of the oldest surviving structures in Hong Kong. Churches were some of the first permanent buildings constructed after the British arrived in 1841. The 180-year heritage of church architecture tells the story of Christianity in Hong Kong, which is as old as the city itself. Early missionaries, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, built churches and used Hong Kong as their base to spread the gospel in China and beyond. They also set up local charity networks, schools and hospitals, at a time when the colonial government had little interest in lives of the locals. Today, about 1.2 million Hongkongers or roughly 16% of the population are Christians. While churches and their affiliated institutions continue to thrive, some churches, like the Union on Kennedy Road, have reached the dilemma on how to compete and expand in the era of tremendous commercialism and sky-high property value. Each big decision a church makes may lead to the daunting risk of losing a part of Hong Kong’s architectural heritage. Every time a historical church is being torn down and moved into one of the city’s 9000+ highrise buildings, it represents one irreplaceable loss for not just today’s Hongkongers, but for the next generations to come.
May 27, 2021 | Categories: Central & Western District, HK Island, Hong Kong | Tags: Anglican, Basel Mission, Bonham, Caine, Cathedral, Catholic, Central, Christian, Christianity, church, cruciform, 理雅各, 第三街, 道濟會堂, 聖約翰座堂, 聖母無原罪主教座堂, 般咸道, 花園道, 西邊街, 高街, garden, Hong Kong, Hop Yat, Immaculate Conception, James Legge, Kau Yan, Kau Yan Church, Kennedy, Mid Levels, nave, organ, Palmer & Turner, Protestant, Raimondi, relics, Roman, Rudolph Lechler, Sai Ying Pun, Shrine, St John's, St Joseph, stained glass, Theodore Hamberg, Theodore Joset, To Tsai, transept, Tsung Tsin Mission, Union, Virgin Mary, William Morris, 公和洋行, 半山, 合一堂, 基督教香港崇真會, 堅道, 堅尼地道, 救恩堂 | Leave a comment
A few years ago, Dutch photographer Marcel Heijnen published a beautiful photo book Hong Kong Shop Cats. The book was an instant hit and captured the heart of people both in Hong Kong and abroad. Lovely images of cats and shop owners with backdrops of traditional shops in Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun manifest a certain universal charm even for non cat lovers. It is the affection between shop cats and their owners that truly touch people, revealing a kind of human-animal bonding enrooted in the old shopping streets of Hong Kong. In the old neighborhoods, shop cats that linger at shopfront often become magnets that draw people from close and afar. Thanks to the social media, some celebrated shop cats (and owners) are even appear in foreign magazines or websites. While the need of mouse catching fades, the role of shop cats have shifted to sunbathing at shopfront, napping on cashier counter, patrolling the back alleys, and serving as social ambassadors to promote the business.
Other than old dried seafood or herbal medicine shops, cats also fit in well with all sort of businesses in the younger generation. Recent TV shows “Cat Shopkeepers” reveal that shops cats have become quite a phenomenon spreading to many businesses: bookstores, cafes, gyms, music schools, nail polishers, design shops, dance studios, musical instrument workshops, you name it. The cool yet lovely character of cats somehow become a perfect compliment to the warm-hearted and neighbourhood friendly identity of local small business. For returning customers or chance pedestrians, surprised encounters of shop cats may feel like discovering some sort of momentary antidotes to their otherwise stressful and monotonous daily life.
May 20, 2021 | Categories: Central & Western District, Eastern District, HK Island, Hong Kong, Wanchai District | Tags: bookstore, Caine, cat, 炮台山, 皇后大道西, 第三街, Dai Lee Hong, Dried Seafood Street, 聯華茶餐廳, 銘記南貨店, 英皇道, 西營盤, 馬寶道, 駱克道, 高陞街, 貓, 貓店長, 輝煌快餐店, feline, Fortress Hill, Glorious Fast Food, Guang Chong Hong, Hong Kong, King's Road, Ko Shing Street, Ladder Street, Lockhart, Luen Wah Cafe, Marble Road, Ming Kee Southern Goods, North Point, Po Hing Fong, Queen's Road West, Sai Ying Pun, Sam Kee Bookstore, Sheung Wan, Sutherland, Third Street, Tin Yin Coconut, Wing Shun Lei, 堅道, 大利行, 天然椰子號, 廣昌行, 普慶坊, 森記圖書, 樓梯街, 正街, 永順利, 海味街, 上環, 修打蘭街 | Leave a comment