Death and Life – the Weal and Woes of the Chinese in Early Colonial Hong Kong
In 1841, the British took Hong Kong Island, and it wasn’t long before Chinese people and Westerners were segregated in many areas of life — a phenomenon that was to develop and persist for decades to come. Sheung Wan, which sits west of modern-day Central, was designated a Chinese area, but atrocious hygiene and crowded living conditions made life unbearable for the Chinese inhabitants there. An influx of migrants from mainland China from the 1850s onwards further exacerbated the situation. Many of these individuals toiled and struggled for years and eventually died alone, in this foreign place, without any family or friends.
The neighbourhood around Tai Ping Shan Street at the heart of this Chinese settlement was ground zero for a horrific outbreak of the bubonic plague in the late 19th century – a deeply poignant irony given the fact that Tai Ping Shan actually means “Peaceful Hill” in Chinese.
Today, Tai Ping Shan Street and its surrounding lanes have transformed into a trendy enclave of cafés, galleries and boutiques, but one only has to look closely to find remnants of Sheung Wan’s macabre past. On this walking tour, we’ll take a trip back in time to see how the Chinese population of the area lived in the second half of the 19th century, and in particular, how the grim spectre of death hung over them, shaping the subsequent political and social developments of Hong Kong. We’ll also visit some local institutions and discuss death rituals in Chinese culture, digging deep into their history and meaning.
"Learned so much from this tour. Truly interesting."
"We have done many walking tours and this was a stand out experience. Not just a standard facts and figures lecture but a truly engaging discussion."
"As an avid traveller, I've been on so many walking tours but this was by far the best yet."
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