Event #5: Ping Shan Heritage Trail
28th November, 2015  / 11:00am – 4:30pm

Ping Shan: Collections of Chinese Architectures

Ping Shan, Yuen Long, is one of the most historically significant areas in the city. Meanwhile, the Tang Clan is one of the major clans in the New Territories which has a long and illustrious history. After settling in Ping Shan in the 13th century, the Tang Clan established “Three Wais (walled villages) and Six Tsuens (villages)”. They later built a series of traditional Chinese buildings such as ancestral halls, temples, study halls and pagoda for ancestral worship and education. The Ping Shan Tang Clan retains certain traditional customs to this day, such as the organization of various ceremonies during festivals. They not only symbolize the folk culture of the Tang Clan, but also reflect the traditional and unique characteristics of life in Hong Kong’s New Territories.

Opened in 1993, the Ping Shan Heritage Trail was the first of its kind in Hong Kong. The Trail threads together a number of attractions of ethic and cultural heritages. There are numerous examples of well-preserved traditional Chinese architectures, among them there are Declared Monuments and Graded Historic Buildings. The Trail offers unique experience of the age-old local customs and amazing scenery of ancient pagoda in modern town, all within a comfortable, leisurely walk in 1.6 km.

Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda

The “Pagoda of Gathering Stars” is Hong Kong’s only surviving ancient pagoda and was officially declared a monument in 2001. According to the genealogy of the Tang Clan in Ping Shan, the pagoda was built by Tang Yin-tung of the 7th generation more than 600 years ago. Hexagonal in shape, three-storey green-brick structure about 13 meters in height, the pagoda was built in accordance with Buddhist architectural principles. It was also built for the feng shui of the surrounding area, to ensure success for clan members taking the Imperial examinations. Many locals thus called it “Wen Pagoda” (Pagoda of Art).

Shrine of the Earth God

The simple brick structure is actually a shrine dedicated to the “To Tei Kung” (Earth God), aka “She Kung” to the locals, on which a stone is placed to symbolize the presence of the god. Altars such as this one are commonly found in traditional Chinese villages, as She Kung is believed to be the protector of villagers and homes. At the same time, these shrines usually mark the boundaries of villages.

Tang Ancestral Hall

The Tang Ancestral Hall is a magnificent three-hall structure with two internal courtyards, and is one of the finest examples of equivalent building types in Hong Kong. The hall was constructed by Tang Fung Shun, the clan’s 5th generation, who lived about 700 years ago. The wooden brackets and beams of the hall are elegantly carved with auspicious Chinese motives. Nowadays, the hall is still in use for both worships and festivals, providing an ideal opportunity to observe the practice of traditional local customs.

Kun Ting Study Hall

The Study Hall was built in 1870 by Tang Heung-chuen of the 22nd generation of the Tang Clan in commemoration of his father Tang Kun-ting. The study hall provided facilities for both ancestral worship and education. When the British occupied the New Territories in 1899, the study hall was once used as the police station and the land office. Despite the abolition of imperial civil service examinations in the early 20th century, the study hall continued to provide educational facilities for the clan’s younger generations in the surrounding areas until the early post-Second World War period.

Pun choi

Pun choi is indigenous to Hong Kong’s walled-village cuisine, whose name translates to “basin food," is literally a large basin, filled with over 10 types of ingredients, and assembled into a casserole. Legend has it that the dish had originated over six centuries ago, during China’s Song Dynasty. Mongols had invaded the country, and the reigning child emperor escaped towards the provinces of Hong Kong and Guangdong, along with his troops. In order to provide food fit for an emperor, not to mention feed a multitude of soldiers, the villagers gathered all their the finest ingredients available and cooked it into a dish. Finding no royal-appropriate containers, the local people decided to put the cooked dish in wooden basins used for laundry, and the dish has evolved to become the Poon Choi. Food has always been a symbol a community and prosperity to the Chinese, so the Poon Choi is often present during big celebrations such as weddings and birthdays. Each table receives one big dish of the Pun Choi, which is shared by the seated guests around the table.

A classic Pun Choi would contain mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bean curd, fish balls, fried pork skins, squid, pan-seared prawns, five-spice chicken, dried eel, braised pork in soy-sauce paste, and roasted duck — the more expensive the ingredient, the higher up they’re placed" in the cooking basin. The amassed creation has a stew-like quality, with the juices from the meats binding together the other ingredients. Yet each individual element, slightly softened from the quick baking, retains the integrity of its distinct texture.