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Posts tagged “Mid-Levels

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF SUN YAT-SEN (孫中山), Central-Sheung Wan (中上環 ), Hong Kong

Dr. Sun Yat-sen (孫中山), Father of Modern China, delivered a public speech at Hong Kong University in 1923. Began with a rhetorical question “Where and how did I get my revolutionary and modern ideas?” Sun’s answer was Hong Kong, the British colony where he came 30 years prior at the age of 17 and stayed for 9 years as a high school and medical student. During his time in the city, Sun was impressed by the architecture, urban order and public safety of Hong Kong, and the efficiency of the government. Whereas just 50 miles away in Heungshan (now Zhongshan), Sun’s home village in Qing China, government officials were highly corrupted and incompetent. His experience and knowledge obtained in Hong Kong had inspired Sun’s ideas of the Xinhai Revolution (辛亥革命) and strengthened his will to establish a modern China.

Sun Yat-sen spent most of his time in the core area of Victoria City, now the area of Central-Sheung Wan. In 1996, the Hong Kong Government began to promote a tourist route called Dr. Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail (孫中山史跡徑) to commemorate the famous visitor. 16 spots related to Sun were identified along the 2-hour historical walk in the Central-Western District. Nine local artists were commissioned to design unique plaques that can be seen as urban artworks. These spots include the locations where Sun attended schools, places he lived, venues he met with his political partners, and sites where his organizations engaged in revolutionary activities. In 2006, the Edwardian Classical Kom Tong Hall in the Mid-Levels was converted into Sun Yat-sen Museum. Not only does the museum provides another focal point in the city to learn about Sun’s story, it also offers the perfect reason to preserve the 1914 building. Kom Tong Hall was the former mansion of businessman Ho Kom-tong (何甘棠), the younger brother of Robert Ho Tung (何東), the richest man in Hong Kong at the turning of the century. Listed as a declared monument, Kom Tong Hall (甘棠第) was one of the first buildings in Hong Kong to use reinforced concrete structure and fitted with concealed electrical wiring. The historical architecture itself is well worth a visit. The story of Sun Yat-sen remind us that Hong Kong, as a melting pot between East and West, and the old and new, has been a source of inspirations and a window to the outside world for the Chinese community in the modern era.

For the convenience of tourists, a map of Dr. Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail can be found at the Central-Mid Levels Escalators. [Central-Mid Levels Escalators, Central, 2021]
A mosaic mural on Bridges Street (必列者士街) depicts the portrait of Sun Yat-sen and a number of buildings related to his story. It was 1883 when Dr. Sun arrived in Hong Kong. He first went to Diocesan Boy’s School and then the Government Central School for education. [Bridges Street, Tai Ping Shan, 2020]
Dr. Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail Spot No. 4: Original site of the American Congregational Mission Preaching Hall
From 1884 to 1886, Sun stayed at American Congregational Mission Preaching Hall (now China Congregational Church) on Bridges Street, where he was baptized by Rev. C. R. Hager. The church has long been moved to another location on Bridge Street. Its original site was occupied by a Modernist market building known as Bridges Street Market. The Bauhaus style building has been recently converted into a museum of journalism known as Hong Kong News-Expo. [Junction of Shing Wong Street and Bridges Street, Tai Ping Shan, 2020]
Across the street from Hong Kong News-Expo, an old tenement building on Shing Wong Street (城皇街) has erected a statue of Sun Yat-sen on the front facade and displayed his motto “Everyone in the world shares the same” (天下為公) [A tenement apartment at Shing Wong Street, Tai Ping Shan, 2020]
Dr. Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail Spot No. 5: Original site of the Government Central School
In 1860, Rev. Dr. James Legge proposed to combine the three Chinese schools of Victoria City (Tai Ping Shan, Central and Sheung Wan) into one public school. His proposal was accepted by the government and led to the opening of the Government Central School at Gough Street, where Sun attended secondary school. [Art installation to commemorate the former Government Central School, Gough Street, Central, 2020] t
Dr. Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail Spot No. 6: Yeung Yiu Kee, the Meeting Place of the “Four Great Outlaws”
An eyecatching sculpture at Shin Hing Street (善慶街) marks the former shop location of Yeung Yiu Kee (楊耀記), meeting point of the four outlaws (Sun Yat-sen, Yau Lit, Chan Siu-pak and Yeung Hok-ling) [Art installation at the junction of Gough Street and Shin Hing Street, Sheung Wan, 2020]
Accessible via Pak Tsz Lane (百子里) a hidden alleyway from Graham Street Market, Pak Tsz Lane Park is an easily missed attraction in the heart of Central. The park was built to commemorate Furen Literary Society (輔仁文社), one of the earliest revolutionary groups that contributed to the Xinhai Revolution (辛亥革命). [Entrance of Pak Tsz Lane at Gage Street, Central, 2014]
Dr. Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail Spot No. 7: Site of Yeung Ku-wan’s Assassination
Yeung Ku-wan (楊衢雲), founder of Furen Literary Society (輔仁文社), and later president of Revive China Society, was assassinated by Qing agents at his home and English tutoring school. Today, this is part of the memorial park Pak Tsz Lane Park (百子里公園). [Pak Tsz Lane Park, Central, 2020]
To tell the story of Furen Literary Society and the early revolutionists, historical accounts are incorporated graphically into the garden design. [Pak Tsz Lane Park, Central, 2020]]
Along the disable ramp, a vertical screen is doubled as a map diagram to describe an uprising battle in Weizhou in 1900. [Pak Tsz Lane Park, Central, 2020]
In 1901, Yeung Ku-wan was assassinated at the park’s location. Sun Yat-sen’s public letter urging for memorial donation to Yeung’s family is carved into a display screen in the park. [Pak Tsz Lane Park, Central, 2020]
Dr. Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail Spot No. 8: Furen Literary Society (輔仁文社)
Founded by Yeung Ku-wan
in Hong Kong in 1892, three years prior to Sun’s founding of the Revive China Society in Honolulu, Furen Literary Society is often considered as the predecessor of Revive China Society. The guiding principles of Furen Literary Society were “open up the people’s minds” and “love your country with all your heart”. [Pak Tsz Lane Park, Central, 2020]
In 1895, the Furen Literary Society was merged into Revive China Society. Yeung Kui-wan and Sun Yat-sen became President and Secretary respectively of the society. “Cutting off the Queue (pigtail)” was a symbolic gesture in Yeung’s time for abandoning the backwardness of Qing China. [Pak Tsz Lane Park, Central, 2020]
Apart from history buffs, locals love to linger at the memorial park to read newspaper, chat with neighbors, and play chess. [Pak Tsz Lane Park, Central, 2020]
At Pak Tsz Lane Park, even graffiti is dedicated to Dr. Sun Yat-sen. [Pak Tsz Lane Park, Central, 2020]
Dr. Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail Spot No. 9: Original site of the Queen’s College
During Sun’s time at the school, the Government Central School expanded to a new complex at the intersection of Hollywood Road and Aberdeen Street (now the site of PMQ). The school was renamed to Queen’s College (皇仁書院) in 1894. In front of the PMQ on Hollywood Road, an art piece was erected to commemorate the former school site. [Art installation outside the PMQ at the junction of Hollywood Road and Shing Wong Street, Central, 2020] D
Dr. Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail Spot No. 10: The Alice Memorial Hospital and the College of Medicine for Chinese
In 1887, Sun entered Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese (now School of Medicine of Hong Kong University), the first institution in the city to teach Western medicine. [Art installation at the junction of Hollywood Road and Aberdeen Street, Central, 2021]
Dr. Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail Spot No. 12: Hong Kong Headquarters of the Revive China Society (興中會)
Disguised under a business named “Kuen Hang Club” (乾亨行) at Staunton Street (士丹頓街) in today’s SoHo , Sun found Revive China Society (興中會) to organize revolution activities. The former site is now marked by a plaque designed by a local artist. [Staunton Street, Central, 2021]
Dr. Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail Spot No. 16: Hong Kong in the Time of Dr Sun Yat-sen
Outside PMQ on Staunton Street, outdoor display of historical photographs reveal the scenery of the city during the time of Sun Yat-sen. [Staunton Street, Central, 2021]
Built in 1914, Kom Tong Hall was renovated and converted into a museum to house a collection of artefacts and historical photos to tell the story of Sun Yat-sen. [Castle Road, Mid-Levels, 2020]
Kom Tong Hall is a magnificent example of Edwardian architecture in Hong Kong in the early 20 century. [Castle Road, Mid-Levels, 2016]
Some of the architectural details are well preserved to this day. [Castle Road, Mid-Levels, 2016]
Even if one is not interested in history, visitors would be impressed by the well preserved staircase. [Castle Road, Mid-Levels, 2016]

ZOOLOGICAL & BOTANICAL GARDENS (兵頭花園), Central (中環), Hong Kong

Famous for its restless and often stressful urban living, sparing the time to take a walk in the park can be a luxury for many Hong Kongers. In fact, many may not even notice the existence of parks and gardens in the business district of Hong Kong. Behind the towering skyscrapers of Central (中環), a rather hidden 5.6 hectares area on the slope of Victoria Peak stands the oldest public park in Hong Kong. Long before the city was promoted as a shopping paradise, or a foodie haven of Michelin star restaurants, or a recreational hub of amusement parks and vibrant nightlife, or an exotic destination of subtropical beaches and seaside hiking trails, Hong Kong Botanical Gardens (香港植物公園) was one of the primary tourist attractions in the Victoria City. Founded in 1864 and completely opened to the public in 1871, the gardens was established in times when botanical gardens were founded by colonial powers in different locations around the world. The Hong Kong Botanical Gardens was used by the British as a regional hub to study plant species collected from the Far East before transferring back to the Kew Gardens in England, or before planting at other areas in Hong Kong.

Bounded by Garden Road (花園道), Robinson Road (羅便臣道), Glenealy (己連拿利) and Upper Albert Road (上亞厘畢道) in the Mid-Levels (半山), Hong Kong Botanical Gardens is often referred to as Bing Tau Fa Yuen (兵頭花園) by the locals. Literally means “Head of Soldiers” Garden, “Bing Tau Fa Yuen” references to the former Governor’s House built at the Garden’s location. In 1975, the official name of the Gardens was changed to Hong Kong Zoological & Botanical Gardens (香港動植物公園), as a result to the growing collection of display animals. Despite initial researches of botanical science (which led to the founding of Hong Kong Herbarium in 1878) at the Gardens, most people would remember the Gardens as a place to check out animals and floral displays. Though the history of how the Gardens had played a role in botanic research for tree planting on the Hong Kong Island shall always be remembered. After all, transforming Hong Kong Island from a barren and rocky island with no forests, no trees and only grass in the 19th century (resulted from centuries of reckless deforestation) into the relatively lush green metropolis that we see today was no small feat.

Situated right across from my primary school, Bing Tau Fa Yuen is an essential part of my childhood memories. Going to Bing Tau Fa Yuen (兵頭花園) to check out the howler monkeys, orangutans, peacocks and even jaguars was a small after-school treat for me as a child. Every spring, Azalea (杜鵑花) would flourish across the park, attracting a large crowd to take selfies. Many years have gone by and the neighborhood has significantly transformed since my childhood’s time. Though the annual blossom at Bing Tau Fa Yuen is one of the few things that could remain unchanged throughout the years.

Hong Kong Botanical Garden and the slope of Victoria Peak in the 19th century. [Album of Hongkong Canton Macao Amoy Foochow, photograph by George Ernest Morrison, 1870’s, Public Domain]
Today, behind Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Victoria Peak is almost completely concealed by highrise residential towers. [Junction of Garden Road and Upper Albert Road, 2021]
The subtropical climate of Hong Kong is suitable for a wide range of trees and plants to flourish. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens near Glenealy, 2020]
At the Glenealy entrance, the roughly 100 year old White Jade Orchid Tree (Michelia x alba 白蘭樹) is about 34m tall. It is one of the tallest trees in Hong Kong. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens near Glenealy Entrance, 2021]
Beyond the Gardens and Upper Albert Road, the business district of Central is just a stone throw away. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens at Upper Albert Road, 2021]
Renamed as Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, the park is also well known for its animals, including monkeys, apes, birds, and reptiles. The renowned Siu Fa, a jaguar who lived in the Gardens for 20 years until her death in 2008, was the last big cat kept at the park. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2020]
With the spatial limitation of the Gardens, keeping large mammals such as the Bornean Orangutans is controversial. As awareness of animal welfare has risen in recent years, let’s hope the authority and zookeepers would soon shift their efforts from confining exotic animals to conserving local wildlife and natural ecosystem. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2020]
There are also a number of cages of birds on display, including a small group of American Flamingo. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
Apart from animals and birds, the Gardens is much more popular for its seasonal flower blossoms. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
Different types of Azalea (杜鵑) blossoms transform the Gardens into a colourful paradise in March. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
Different species of Hibiscus (大红花) can be found all over the Gardens. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
Commonly known as pinkball, Scarlet Dombeya (吊芙蓉) is a highlight at the Gardens in early April. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
It’s just flowers everywhere in spring at the botanical garden. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
Native to South America, the Red-veined Abutilon or Red-vein Chinese-lantern is commonly used in horticulture. The flowers are also edible, raw or cooked. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
Every visitors love the Scarlet Flame Bean or Brownea coccinea. Native to Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, Scarlet Flame Beans are now cultivated in many tropical countries. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
Late March and early April is the best time to check out the Scarlet Flame Bean. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
Away from the flower beds and bird cages, an old stone wall tree stands quietly near Robinson Road. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
Built in 1866, the Pavilion between the Fountain and the bird cages is the oldest structure in the Gardens. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2020]
Even if one is not after the flowers or animals, Bing Tau Fa Yuen (兵頭花園) is a great place to just sit down, relax, and do nothing. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
The centerpiece of the Gardens is undoubtedly the Fountain. The fountain that we see today is the 5th generation that was erected in 2010. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
Built in 1868, the first generation fountain was a landmark and a well known tourist attraction of Colonial Hong Kong. The Victoria Harbour and Governor House once dominated the view behind the fountain of the Botanical Garden. [Photo by Lai Afong, 1860-1880, public domain]
The Fountain was once a well known landmark of Hong Kong frequented by tourists. [Old postcard of the Fountain, copyright expired, 1900’s]
Sometimes, art installations would be set up at the Fountain Terrace, such as this bamboo structure designed by architects Impromptu Projects from Macau [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
The Fountain has become a peaceful landmark in the Mid Levels. Original fountain was built in 1864, and has been altered subsequently with the last renovation in 2010. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2020]
Spring is the best season to visit the Gardens due to the annual blossoms of Azalea (杜鵑花). [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
At the heart of the Gardens, a grand stair lead visitors from the fountain to the statue of King George VI. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
Sculpted by Gilbert Ledward, the bronze statue of King George VI, father of the Queen Elizabeth II, was constructed to commemorate the centennial of the British Colonial Hong Kong. The statue was commissioned in 1939 and erected at the Gardens in 1958 after disruption from WWII. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
A greenhouse near Garden Road is home to a number of dedicated plants. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
Erected in 1928, the Memorial Arch was dedicated to the Chinese who lost their lives during WWI. [Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
The 100-year-old Stone pillars mark the entrance of the Gardens. [Upper Albert Road entrance, Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
The same old stone pillars marked the park entrance 120 years ago in this photo. [Old postcard, copyright expired, 1900’s]
Across from the entrance stone pillars stands the former Governor’s House and the skyline of Central. [Upper Albert Road entrance, Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]
The former Govrenor House now stands silently across the street from the Gardens. [Upper Albert Road, Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, 2021]