ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Kau Yan Church

OLD NEIGHBOURHOOD CHARM, Sai Ying Pun (西營盤), Hong Kong

East of Shek Tong Tsui, between the foothill of Victoria Peak and Victoria Harbour lies Sai Ying Pun (西營盤), one of the oldest neighborhoods in Hong Kong. Sai Ying Pun is well known for several things: very steep streets, a well mix of old and new shops, Dried Seafood Street, and perhaps the most famous of all, High Street Haunted House (高街鬼屋). In 1841, the British first set up a military camp in the area, and hence the Chinese named the area “Sai Ying Pun”, which literally means “West Camp Site”. Between 1855 and 1861, the colonial government expanded the City of Victory by establishing Sai Ying Pun adjacent to the old Chinese quarter of Tai Ping Shan. Different from Tai Ping Shan’s labyrinth of ladder streets (stepped alleys) and winding roads, the government adopted a grid street system in Sai Ying Pun, attempting to create a healthier living environment. The grid of Sai Ying Pung centered at Centre Street (正街), a steep thoroughfare that runs straight up the hill from the waterfront. On the slope, Centre Street bisects a number of horizontal streets, from First Street (第一街) near the bottom, Second Street (第二街) and Third Street (第三街) in the middle, to High Street (高街) near the top. These horizontal streets are bounded by Eastern Street (東邊街) in the east direction, and Western Street (西邊街) in the opposite. Applying this urban layout to the sloped site had created some really steep streets. Centre Street, with the steepest part at 1:4 slope, is one of the steepest streets in Hong Kong. With parts at 1:5 slope, Eastern Street is not too far behind.

With its 160+ years of history, steep streets, mix of locals and expats, and a rich variety of street shops, Sai Ying Pun presents a diverse urban scenery that is hard to find elsewhere in Hong Kong. After the MTR metro system extended to Sai Ying Pun in 2015, the area has become an instant hit for photographers and tourists, or anyone who looks for a cafe to chill out. In between the curtain wall apartments from recent years, and the postwar tenement buildings whose ground shops generate most of the area’s vibrant street life, there lies a much tranquil side of Sai Ying Pun, another half of the jigsaw which contributes to the unique identity of the neighbourhood. Behind bustling market and dining scenes, there is a range of colonial buildings standing like silent backdrops. Without notice, they have become the cornerstones of collective memory for the community. These remnants from the colonial past scatter across the entire neighbourhood. Masonry buildings of former hospitals, anonymous century-old retaining walls, stone wall trees, iron railing, historical gardens, churches, school complexes, courthouse, police station, all aged structures that have somehow managed to survive waves of urban redevelopment up to this point. On a quiet morning before the bustling day begins, wandering in Sai Ying Pun offers a poetic experience as if walking back in time, that is, for anyone who don’t mind climbing up and down some of the steepest streets in Hong Kong.

View of Sai Ying Pun in 1873. [Photograph by William Pryor Floyd. Credit: Wellcome Library, London, public domain]
Looking down to the Harbour along Eastern Street in 1890 [Photographer unknown, public domain]
From Des Voeux Road West, the steepness of Eastern Street reminds some Americans of San Francisco. [2022]
Similar to Peel Street in nearby SoHo, Centre Street is one of the steepest street in Hong Kong. Like SoHo, a set of escalators has been installed at the upper part of the street to enhance pedestrian circulation. [2022]
Shops along Centre Street are accessible from stair landings. [2021]
Cascading down Centre Street, the multi storey Sai Ying Pun Market can be entered from different levels. [2021]
The steepness of Centre Street may cause nuisances for pedestrians in the area, but nonetheless these sloped streets are part of the unique characteristics of Sai Ying Pun. [2021]
Sai Ying Pun Market is also connected by bridge to the Centre Street Market further down the street. Instead of supermarkets that are dominating the grocery business in many new neighbourhoods in the city, the vibrant scenes of the indoor markets and the adjacent meat shops and fishmongers suggest Sai Ying Pun is in fact an old neighbourhood established long time ago. [2022]
Targeted at the local community, a plumber at Queen’s Road West covers their shopfront with all kinds of signs describing their multiple capacities. [2022]
The emergence of cafes and bars adjacent to traditional restaurants and shops indicate gentrification has already arrived in Sai Ying Pun. Adjacent to a dried seafood shop and a roasted meat restaurant on Queen’s Road West, the cute coffee shop TIL (Today is Long) attempts to introduce the coffee scene of Melbourne to the community. [2021]
As the population of expats increases, cafes like TIL have mushroomed across the neighbourhood in recent years. [2021]
Looking eastward from Third Street, the view of the International Financial Centre (IFC) reminds everyone that the financial district is just 2km away. Given its close proximity to the downtown, Sai Ying Pun has become popular with expats. [2022]
Referring itself as a French Wine Library specialised in Rhone Valley and Burgendy wines, the establishment of Premier Cru on High Street reflects a significant population of expats living in Sai Ying Pun. [2022]
A diverse drinking and dining scene has emerged since the opening of Sai Ying Pun MTR Station in 2015. Since 2016, Bali hospitality group Potato Head opened its delightful restaurant in the neighbourhood. Potato Head Hong Kong consists of an Indonesian restaurant, cocktail bar and audiophile listening room. [2021]
Some cafes or bars intend to incorporate the aged characteristics of the neighbourhood with their shop design, 2015, including this lovely cafe Sol High at the corner of High Street and Centre Street. [2021]
Between century old colonial buildings and contemporary residential towers, there are still a large amount of postwar tenement apartments in Sai Ying Pun. Compared to other areas in Hong Kong, buildings in Sai Ying Pun are relatively old. A 2017 study indicates that the average building age in the neighbourhood is 43.4 years. 94 buildings are over 50 years old. Such scenario is indeed very attractive for real estate developers for redevelopment projects. [2022]
The metal railing at the middle section of Hospital Road is believed to be over a hundred years old, according to some history enthusiasts who managed to dig up old photographs of the area. [2022]
Following the death of King George in 1936, a memorial park was built on the site where the former garden of the Government Civic Hospital stood. Across the street stands the new Tsan Yuk Hospital, which has been serving the community at this location since 1955. [2022]
The retaining walls, stone steps, and majestic old trees of King George V Memorial Park are some of the most iconic features of Sai Ying Pun. [2020]
Sai Ying Pun was once a hub of medical services for the City of Victoria, including Government Civic Hospital, Western Public Dispensary, Tsan Yuk Hospital, Lock Hospital, Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital, etc. [2022]
The western boundary of King George V Memorial Park is Eastern Street, one of the steep streets of Sai Ying Pun. [2022]
Near the top of Eastern Street stands the preserved facade of the former Nursing and Staff Quarters and Lunatic Asylum. [2021]
Due to its use as a mental hospital and rumored to be an execution ground during the Japanese occupation in 1940’s, accounts of ghost sightings began to emerge after the building was abandoned in 1970’s. Two decades later, the government decided to replace the vacant building with a new community complex, but preserving the old facade on High Street. [2022]
Despite its new use, the former Nursing and Staff Quarters and Lunatic Asylum (舊精神病院) is probably still the most famous haunted house in Hong Kong. [2022]
Nursing and Staff Quarters and Lunatic Asylum in the colonial time. [National Archives UK, public domain]
Founded in 1922, the old Tsan Yuk Maternity Hospital (贊育醫院) offered Western labour and delivery services for Chinese women. [2022]
The service proved to be very popular because of its lower mortality rate compared to traditional Chinese delivery methods. This led to long queues outside the hospital. After WWII, Tsan Yuk Maternity Hospital was moved to a larger establishment on Hospital Road. The old hospital building has been converted into a community centre ever since. [2021]
Behind the Old Tsan Yuk Maternity Hospital stands the Old Western Public Dispensary, a former clinic to treat patients affected by the bubonic plague at the end of the 19th century. [2022]
The former plague clinic is now home to The Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage (長春社文化古蹟資源中心, an NGO that advocates heritage conservation in the city. [2022]
At the intersection of Western Street and Bonham Road (般咸道), the iconic entrance vestibule of King’s College (英皇書院) has been around since 1926. [2021]
The grey granite columns, red bricks, arched colonnade and sunken garden of King’s College have become the collective memory of local residents for several generation. [2021]
The school building was damaged and used as a military mule and horse stable during the Japanese Occupation in 1940’s. [2022]
Visually hidden from street pedestrians, several 1930’s tenement houses on Yu Lok Lane were preserved while all other buildings on the lane were demolished for a luxurious residential development. [2021]
The preserved houses offer a glimpse of the living conditions of Sai Ying Pun residents ninety years ago. [2021]
Kau Yan Church (救恩堂) originates from the German speaking Basel Mission led by Theodore Hamberg and Rudolf Lechler. They had successfully established a Hakka Christian community in Sai Ying Pun in the 1860’s. [2022]
At the intersection of Pokfulam Road and Queen’s Road West, the yellow sign of “Chiu Sing Nam” (趙醒楠) traditional bone setter marks the boundary between Shek Tong Shui and Sai Ying Pun. [2022]
Across the street from Chiu Sing Nam, the Western magistracy building elegantly guards the western gateway of Sai Ying Pun since 1965. [2022]
On the other side of Chiu Sing Nam, the white walls of the third generation of Police Station no. 7 is also another prominent fixture in the neighbourhood since 1952. [2022]

ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE AT RISK? Churches in the Mid-Levels (半山區), Hong Kong

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.

Union Church (佑寧堂) was founded by Reverend James Legge (理雅各), a Scottish member of the London Missionary Society, who was also the founder of Ying Wa College (英華書院), and suggested the government to set up Queen’s College (皇仁書院) in Hong Kong. Union Church began with a English chapel on Hollywood Road, then moved to the intersection of Staunton Street and Peel Street, before relocated to 22A Kennedy Road (堅尼地道). [Photograph of the second generation Union Church at Staunton Street and Peel Street in Central, by John Thomson Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Union chapel, Hong Kong. Photograph by John Thomson, 1868/1871. 1868 By: J. ThomsonPublished: 1868/1871. CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0%5D
The 4th generation Union Church was considered as a unique example of Modernist architecture from mid-20th century. After 68 years of service, the building was demolished for luxurious real estate development. [Photographed by Ceeseven, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons]
Opened in 1849, St John’s Cathedral (聖約翰座堂) at Garden Road (花園道) was one of the first permanent buildings erected in the city. As an Anglican place of worship, the cathedral is the only building in Hong Kong granted with a freehold land ownership by the British colonial government. [Photograph by William Pryor Floyd, Public Domain, 1873]
Being the seat of Archbishop of Hong Kong, St John’s Cathedral is the oldest Anglican cathedral in the Far East. The bell tower is decorated with a VR motif at the west face to commemorate the reign of Queen Victoria during which the church was founded. [St John’s Cathedral, Garden Road, Central, 2021]
The timber roof structure of the cathedral is a rarity in Hong Kong. [St John’s Cathedral, Garden Road, Central, 2021]
Behind the Altar stands the Bishop throne, choir stalls, High Altar and East Window. [St John’s Cathedral, Garden Road, Central, 2021]
The font in the north transept dates back to 1890. [St John’s Cathedral, Garden Road, Central, 2021]
St John’s Cathedral features stained glass windows created by William Morris from England. [St John’s Cathedral, Garden Road, Central, 2021]
Today, St John’s Cathedral is nestled in the midst of government and commercial buildings of Central. [St John’s Cathedral, Garden Road, Central, 2021]
Swiss priest Theodore Joset established a parish in 1842, and established the first Catholic church at the intersection of Pottinger Street and Wellington Street. The church was named Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (聖母無原罪主教座堂). After the church was destroyed by fire, a new cathedral with twin steeples was rebuilt at the same spot. [Second generation of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at the upper left with its twin steeples. [Photograph by John Thomson, 1868/1871, Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org, CC BY 4.0]
The third Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (聖母無原罪主教座堂) was completed in 1888 at a site above Caine Road (堅道). [Photograph of Henry Rue Collection. Image courtesy of Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library, University of London (www.hpcbristol.net), (CC BY_NC_ND 4.0), 1910’s]
Instead of a grand plaza or lush green lawn, the city’s main Catholic church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is now tightly surrounded by luxurious apartments, as well as the Caritas complex (明愛), a Catholic social welfare group, and Raimondi College (高主教書院), a Catholic school. [Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St Joseph Terrace, Mid Levels, 2021]
The church was consecrated in 1938, 50 years after it was opened when the cathedral was free from debt of its US$15,400 construction cost. [Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St Joseph Terrace, Mid Levels, 2021]
The cathedral was spared from plunder and serve damages in WWII. The Japanese treated the Prefecture Apostolic as under the sovereignty of Italy, with whom Japan was not at war with. [Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St Joseph Terrace, Mid Levels, 2021]
The shrine of Virgin Mary Mount behind the cathedral is a popular spot for Catholics to stop by. [Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St Joseph Terrace, Mid Levels, 2014]
The cathedral interior is designed in the cruciform form of the Latin cross. [Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St Joseph Terrace, Mid Levels, 2014]
Defined as the main focal point in the cathedral, the Grand Altar represents the memory for Jesus Christ. Relics of Chinese Martyrs, Pope John Paul II and Blessed Gabriele Allegra (first translator of Chinese Catholic Bible) are some of the treasures kept in the cathedral. [Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St Joseph Terrace, Mid Levels, 2014]
The first organ in the cathedral was built by William George Trice in 1889. It was extensively rebuilt by W.C. Blackett in 1921 and 1938. [Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St Joseph Terrace, Mid Levels, 2014]
In the evening, the cathedral is lit up with beautiful flood lights. [Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St Joseph Terrace, Mid Levels, 2020]
St. Joseph’s Church at Garden Road stands out from the residential apartments of the Mid Levels further above. This Catholic church is the third structure on the site, where Rev. Timoleon Raimondi founded the first St. Joseph’s Church in 1872. [St. Joseph Church, intersection of Garden and Kennedy Road, Mid Levels, 2021]
Design by architect Peter K. Ng in 1966, St. Joseph’s Church exhibits interesting modernist features on its facades. [St. Joseph Church, intersection of Garden and Kennedy Road, Mid Levels, 2021]
St. Joseph’s Church is one of the busiest Catholic church in Hong Kong with 10 masses on every Sunday. [St. Joseph Church, intersection of Garden and Kennedy Road, Mid Levels, 2017]
Reverend James Legge (理雅各) of London Missionary Society founded the English church Union Church, and also Hong Kong’s Ying Wa College (英華書院) in 1843, a school where local Chinese could come for Christian services. This led to the founding of To Tsai Church (道濟會堂), the first independent Chinese church on Hollywood Road. In 1921, To Tsai Church moved to Bonham Road (般咸道) and renamed as Hop Yat Church (合一堂). [Hop Yat Church, Bonham Road, Mid Levels, 2021]
Construction of Hop Yat Church (合一堂) took several years and went along with the expansion of the adjacent Nethersole Hospital (那打素醫院), also owned by London Missionary Society. [Hop Yat Church, Bonham Road, Mid Levels, 2021]
Hop Yat Church stands prominently as a Gothic structure decorated with bands of bricks. [Hop Yat Church, Bonham Road, Mid Levels, 2021]
Completed in 1932, Kau Yan Church (救恩堂) of Lutheran Christianity is another historical church worth preservation. Theodore Hamberg and Rudolph Lechler of Basel Mission based themselves in Sai Ying Pun to spread the gospel in Hakka and Chiu Zhou in China. Theodore Hamberg founded a Hakka church in 1851, and acquired a piece of Sai Ying Pun land in 1852. In 1860’s Rudolf Lechler urged the government to settle Hakka people in the area, and the Hakka people became the basis of the church. In 1927, the local Tsung Tsin Mission of Hong Kong (基督教香港崇真會) was founded at the church. A new church was built in 1932 known as Kau Yan Church. [Kau Yan Church, Intersection of High Street (高街), Third Street (第三街), and Western Street (西邊街), Sai Ying Pun, 2021]
Gothic details of the outer wall reflect the trend of the 1930’s. [Kau Yan Church, Intersection of High and Western Street, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]
Designed by Palmer & Turner Group (公和洋行), Kau Yan Church has become a prominent monument in Sai Ying Pun. [Kau Yan Church, Intersection of High and Western Street, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]