Yim Tin Tsai Island: The Catholic Hakka village
A small island off the coast of Sai Kung, Yim Tin Tsai is a unique location in Hong Kong. Now abandoned, the isle was once the home of the Chan family, who were of Hakka origin and who settled in the area about 300 hundred ago. In 1864, Catholic priests came to the area to perform missionary work and started to preach to the locals. All the villagers were subsequently converted to Catholicism and baptised as early as 1875. St. Joseph’s Chapel has been the island’s most recognisable landmark since its completion in 1890, and the rural Catholic Hakka village that surrounds it is a fine example of Hong Kong’s cross-cultural landscape.
The Chinese name of Yim Tin literally means “salt pans”, while Tsai means “homeland”, reminding the villagers of their origin, Bao’an County in Guangdong Province. In the old days, residents were mostly engaged in farming and the production of salt through evaporation.
Yim Tin Tsai has been uninhabited since the 1990s, after villagers abandoned their fields and moved out to urban areas of Hong Kong or migrated overseas. Nevertheless, efforts have been made to repair the island’s roads and salt pans in recent years, and visitors can get a glimpse of life in the old days of Yim Tin Tsai through the derelict farmhouses, abandoned farmlands and fish ponds.