Event #6: Sai Ying Pun September 27 2014 / 1:00pm – 5:00pm

The Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage

In 1894, plague struck and afflicted many Sai Ying Pun residents.The government helped the neighborhood associations to set up a place where the affected patients could receive medical care. This threestorey house on Western Street was constructed in 1909. The lower floor housed the “Western District Chinese Public Dispensary” while the upper floor served as the “Western District Plague Hospital”. The building became the Nurse Quarters of the Old Tsan Yuk Maternity Hospital in the 1940s, then was taken over and renamed as “Western District Community Centre”. In 2005, the Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage moved into the Annex Block, and promote publicconservation education in this Grade II historic building.

Sai Ying Pun: Diversity in the orderliness

Built on the steeply sloping, Sai Ying Pun is one of the oldest communities of Hong Kong. “Sai” means “west” in Chinese, indicting its location in the western part of Hong Kong Island, while “Ying Pun” means “camp”, especially encampment. In 1841, the British Royal Navy landed on the Island at Possession Street, marking the British colonial era. Sai Ying Pun was the earliest British military camp in Hong Kong. The camps were then moved to Admiralty yet the name Sai Ying Pun remains.

A rectangular residential area stands out on the map of Sai Ying Pun – Centre Street, literally at the centre, while Western Street and Eastern Street running parallel north to south steeply. Climbing up the hill there are First Street, Second Street, Third Street and High Street. It measured approximately 300 meters on each of its four edges and formed a “perfect” square. Lives in this community can never be boring. The old shops on both sides of the streets and lanes, cottage-industries, or even the fragrance of salted fish, have given characters and vibrancies to Sai Ying Pun.

Throughout these 150 years, Sai Ying Pun has played a vital role in the development of medical, religious and education system. Its geographical advantages and compact transportation network at that time nurtured various industries. The first public hospital (Civil Hospital) in Hong Kong, the Plague Hospital for Chinese patients, the Old Mental Hospital (known as “High Street ghost house” today), education institutes and warehouses of rice and salted fish can be found in this unadorned community, which also reflects the ups and downs of Hong Kong.

Ng Wai Kee – Salted Fish Stall

Salted fish was a popular dish for most of the Hong Kong people in mid-20th century. Mui Fong (literally “the fragrance of salted fish”) Street in Sai Ying Pun was dominated by salted fish stores. Workers would dry their products on rooftops, sell them on the ground floor, and live on the floors in between. As the city changes, the original two rows of stalls on Mui Fong Street have reduced to only a fragmented few. Among them, Ng Wai Kee, which has been open for over 60 years, is still serving the community. The classic green iron-made stalls, like the salted fish business, are fading in the city.

Tsung Tsin Mission of Hong Kong Kau Yan Church

The missionaries of the Swiss-based Society of Basel Mission first came to Hong Kong in 1847 to teach religion to the Hakka. A church, known as “Sai Kwok Lau” (lit. “four-cornered building”), was established in 1861. The present church, Kau Yan (meaning “salvation”) Church, was built in 1932 where “Sai Kwok Lau” once stood. It is believed to have been designed by the well-known local architecture firm Palmer and Turner. When Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese at the end of 1941, the Church became a shelter for the residents nearby. Kau Yan Church believes in spreading the Word of God through educational development, and runs the Kau Yan School next door. Due to its distinctive Neo-Gothic style, which is rare in the area, and also its prominent elevated position on Western Street, it is a landmark in the community.