Hakka Walled Villages Part 2 – Dashanxia Village, Huizhou

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Last week, I visited a few Hakka villages in Shenzhen’s Longgang District. Further up the highway heading east, you cross into western Huizhou. One walled village here is particularly notable, not only for its size but its significance in World War II. In the township of Zhenlong is the walled village of Dashanxia.

Following the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong on Christmas day of 1941, a group of 68 British and Chinese soldiers led by Admiral Chan Chek, embarked on an incredible mission to escape from Hong Kong. They initially fled by sea, landing in what is now the Dapeng peninsula in Shenzhen, before making a trek overland where they  penetrated Japanese encirclement to reach free Chinese territory in Waichow (Huizhou).  Dashaxia was where the party camped out on the night of the 28th.


Built in 1798 by the Yup family,  the village is 14,000 square meters in area and encompasses 9 alleys and built in the pattern of “9 halls, 18 wells”. Like other Hakka walled villages, the main entrance leads to the village temple.

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Unfortunately, apart from the walls and the main entrance/temple, the rest of the village appears to be weathering away quickly. There appear to be only a few residents still remaining there.

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The town of Zhenlong is not particularly easy to get to despite close proximity to Hong Kong. Transport options are limited to an express bus to Huizhou from Lo Wu Station and a slow backtrack to Zhenlong by local bus or taking a local bus from Shuanglong Metro station in Shenzhen.

Nikon DSLR problem: “Error. Press shutter release button again”

Last weekend, I encountered this error with my Nikon D5100. A glance at the manual recommends a trip to the shop to fix. In my case it was a simple case of a jammed mirror, preventing the shutter from moving while taking shots. If you have a Nikon camera and want to avoid a trip to the shop, you can try the following steps:

1. Remove the lens out


2. Turn the camera on and press the shutter button to see if there is a mirror jam. Normally, the mirror should move upward. If one side doesn’t move, then there’s a jam.


3. Using a skinny phillips screw driver or another think object, gently pry the mirror away from the jammed side.


Hakka Walled Villages in Shenzhen Part I


The Hakka are a large subgroup of Han Chinese living mainly in Guangdong and Fujian provinces. Originating from the northern provinces, the Hakka immigrated south over the past thousand years.  As outsiders among the native Cantonese or puntis, there was increasing conflicts between the two groups as the populations of both grew. In response to attacks from the puntis, the Hakkas began building enclosed villages that were easily defensible from the 17th century onward.

Today, thousands of walled villages continue to exist in the eastern half of Guangdong province and parts of Fujian.  The most famous of these are the multi-story cylindrical earth tulous near Xiamen where they are appear as Qing Dynasty versions of today’s podium buildings.

While much more modest in size, many walled villages can be seen closer to home in Hong Kong and even in Hong Kong itself. Kat Hing Wai and Tsang Tai Uk in the New Territories come to mind. Across the border, there are several of these walled villages just within the borders of the city of Shenzhen itself! Mostly scattered throughout the eastern park of Shenzhen, a lot of them are surprisingly accessible by metro. The following are located in the township of Kengzi (坑梓) in Longgang District.

Longwan (龙湾世居)

Located in Tai Shui Wan Village, this walled structure was built in 1781 by the Wong family. It is currently listed as a preservation site, but much of the inside appears decayed and abandoned and almost all the original villagers have moved out.

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Xinqiao (新乔世居)

This is supposed to be the oldest Hakka walled village in Shenzhen, built in 1753 also by the Wong family. At 8265 square meters, it is quite substantial and probably housed hundreds of clan members at once time. Unlike the previous and many others in this area, it is characterized by a semi-circular layout. The complex includes 4 watchtowers and 3 halls. Appears to be half inhabited and half abandoned. It was designated a preservation site in 2001.

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Longtian (龙田世居)

Built in 1837, it has a typical rectangular layout with four guard towers on each corner and a moat. This was one of the earlier walled villages to be preserved and has supposedly been turned into a museum, but it was closed when I visited.

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I’m quite amazed how despite the build first, talk later attitude of development in China, especially Shenzhen, that many of these walled villages have been left untouched with most original structures standing. Contrast this with Kat Hing Wai in Hong Kong, where a majority of the original houses have been replaced with 3 story pink tile boxes, courtesy of the Small House policy.

Abandoned village on Ma Wan Island

Ma Wan Island connects the two bridges that link Hong Kong Island with Lantau all the way to Chek Lap Kok Airport. Before the bridge was built, up to 3,000 people lived in the old village of Ma Wan. Its population began to decline after the 80s with the development of Ma Wan New Village, built originally to rehouse villages in the old village to new housing as part of a plan by Sun Hung Kai and the government to develop the area. Yet as of today, remnants of the town are still clearly intact, it’s obvious that the area was once filled with seafood restaurants, shrimp paste making factors, and a fishing industry, not too different from Tai O. In fact the existence of abandoned stilt houses makes it appear as a mini Tai O!



Abandoned stilt houses

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VIllage Houses

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Former Businesses

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Traditional Qing Dynasty village houses

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June 4 Commemoration at Victoria Park

Photojournalist Jeff Widener
Photojournalist Jeff Widener, the man responsible for the infamous “tank man” photo is in Hong Kong this week. Due to word of mouth, I was fortunate enough hear him speak at the University of Hong Kong Art Museum last night.


Victoria Park on June 4, 2014 Source: Reuters

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. As with every year since 1989, a mass candlelight vigil has been held at Victoria Park to remember the students that were killed by armed forces. Despite growing censorship and overall control over Hong Kong by the central government, this is one event that continues relatively free of interference. But also for that reason, the number of attendees to the vigil have grown in recent years and this year up to 180,000 showed up at Victoria Park, beating even the number at the 1st anniversary of the crackdown! Part of the growth, ironically may lie on the increasing number of mainlanders attending. It heartens me that despite absolute censorship of the events on the mainland and the risks that it entails that so many, including the young have come to Hong Kong to remember.

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Abandoned ATV studios at Ho Chung, Sai Kung










On the way to Sai Kung is the village of Ho Chung. Before it was abandoned as a TV studio for ATV in 2007, this building was an abandoned factory. The premises are believed to be haunted as reported by a number of media outlets including Eastweek. In the last few years, it’s been taken up by graffiti artists until the gates into the building were closed and chained up!

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Queenslander Houses in Brisbane

The inner suburbs of Brisbane comprise of a particular type of house not seen anywhere else in the Anglosphere or the world for that matter.  Built from the 1840’s onward, these timber structures typically feature verandahs that comprise a large proportion of the home and elevation of the main living quarters on stilts.  This helped facilitate ventilation and keep pests away.


As a casual observer, they resemble stilt houses in Indonesia built with Anglo features. At least one historian believes there is a connection between vernacular architecture on the island of Sulawesi and the Queenslander house.

Photoblogging urban change in Hong Kong and southern China


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