Foshan Part 1

Foshan is considered to be Guangzhou’s twin city and was once a major religious center in the Cantonese world. At the center of this is the Taoist Zumiao Ancestral Temple in the district of Chancheng (where the world Zen comes from). The area around the temple is historically known as Donghuali and possibly dates back to the 4th century. The entire site is currently being redeveloped in similar fashion to Shanghai’s Xin Tian Di by Shui On Holdings with SOM as the master planner. This project aims to preserve some of the existing heritage. This project has been given the not-so-original name of Foshan Lingnan Tian Di.

I actually did this trip almost 6 months ago, so these pictures may be out of date by now

Panorama of village houses I assume will be preserved

Existing village houses:

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Pawn Shop that has now become an international kindergarten
Pawn Shop that has now become an international kindergarten

Details of the Master Plan:

Former Bangkok Customs House


Location: Soi Charoen Krung 36, Bang Rak, Bangkok

Thailand may be one of the few countries in the world to never have been colonized by any European power. Yet, there is actually an abundance of “colonial” architecture in old Bangkok. While it was never a colonial city, the Bang Rak district is considered to be the European Quarter of Bangkok. Developed from the 1860’s onward, embassies, hotels, residences for Europeans, and offices of colonial corporations were established here.

One of the most prominent buildings in Bang Rak is the Old Bangkok Customs house situated along the riverfront. Built during the reign of King Rama IV following the establishment of Thai Customs in 1874, the building was completed in 1880. It was designed by Italian architect Joachim Grassi. The building served its purpose of collecting taxes and duties into Thailand until a new customs building was built in Bangkok’s Khloeng Toei District in 1949.

Since then, the building was occupied by various government departments before the entire building was turned over to the Fire Brigade in 1959. Today, a lot of the building remains in poor condition, with parts of it either disused or subdivided into residences. In 2005, The Natural Park Public Company Limited and Silverlink Holdings Ltd. successfully made a bid to restore and covert the entire building into a resort. But due to disputes with the Fire Brigade, no one knows when these plans will actually be put into action.

During my visit, the interior of the main part of the building appeared to be open to public with many young people coming to take selfies or even take model shoots.  If you watch a lot of Hong Kong movies, you might recognize it from Wong Kar Wai’s “In Mood For Love” and the 1984 Killing Fields documentary.

Other buildings within the vicinity of historical interest include the Oriental Plaza, Dutch East Asiatic Company, Haroon Mosque, and Wat Suan Plu.

More Exterior Shots:

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Interior Shots:

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C. Baker and P. Phongpaichit, A History of Thailand (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)

6 Buildings in Hong Kong Demolished Over the Past Decade

While the demolition of the Central Star Ferry Piers in 2006 sparked mass protests, the listing and subsequent delisting of Hotung Gardens as a AAB monument may have made headlines, and the URA redevelopment of Wedding Card Street has lead to a number of academic critiques, but what about some rare gems that have quietly been levelled over the same time period? Hong Kong was once filled with those Chinese/European influenced shophouses still common in Southeast Asia. With so few remaining, you’d expect there to be a campaign to preserve the remaining. Some of these have even been graded by the AAB, but unfortunately it provides no legal protection from demolition by its owners. Unfortunately current conservation policies don’t exactly provide much incentive to prevent the redevelopment of those small scale privately owned structures.

181-183 Pei Ho Street, Sham Shui Po

Built: 1920s, Demolished: 2009

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450 Prince Edward Road, Kowloon City

Built: 1920s, Demolished: 2006

Located within walking distance of the old Kai Tak Airport terminal building, this was one of many banquet style Cantonese restaurants in the area that existed at the time (Sai Nam Restaurant – 西南酒家). When it closed in the 90s, the location was turned over to selling factory rejects.

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196 Wellington Street, Sheung Wan

Built: 1910s, Demolished: 2009

Once one of the oldest residential buildings in the area, built in the typical shophouse style of the late 19th century. Currently being redeveloped by Nan Fung Development Limited.

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118-122 Tung Lo Wan Road, Tin Hau

Built: Unknown, Demolished: 2006

Building appeared in relatively good condition when the before photos were taken. According to, the site is owned by Dynamic Chance Holdings Limited whom redeveloped it into a 30 story tower.

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19 Hing Hon Road, Sai Ying Pun

Built: 1917, Demolished: 2010

Hing Hon road was originally developed between 1916-1917 with European influenced Chinese tenement buildings. No. 19 was a proposed Grade 3 heritage building when it was demolished. According to the AMO

Erected around 1917, No.19 Hing Hon Road (興漢道) is a typical Chinese tenement house with a European-style façade reflecting Western influence on architecture in Hong Kong during the colonial era. Not much seems to be known about its early history, but since 1951 it has been the property of a Ng (吳) family. The history of Hing Hon Road dates back to the 1860s when a large plot of land (I.L. 757) on a government lease of 999 years, on which Hing Hon Road stands, was purchased by a Chinese individual named Choy Akün on 7 January 1862. It is not unknown as to what was built on I.L. 757 immediately after the purchase, but evidently, Choy Akün was also the landlord of “Rose Villas” which used to be located at No. 66 Bonham Road (I.L. 760). Since its location is sandwiched between the Chinese quarter down the slopes and the wealthy Western quarter in its immediate neighbourhood, Hing Hon Road was a favourite residential area for well-to-do Chinese. A few prominent Chinese families once inhabited on this road. They include, for example, the Chaus (i.e., the ancestors of Chau Kai-bong (周啟邦) who is the son of Chau Sik-nin (周錫年, 1903-1985, prominent businessman and social leader) and the grandson of Chau Siu-ki (周少岐, acting Legislative Councillor in the years 1921, 1923 and 1924).

No.19 Hing Hon Road is a three-storey house in the Italianate Renaissance style. The street façade has three arched openings to the ground floor, three rectangular openings to the first floor, and three arched openings to the third floor. The openings are separated by simple Tuscan Order classical columns. The windows are wooden casements with ornamental ironwork grilles in Western and Chinese patterns. The main entrance door has a modern aluminium gate, but the old ironwork grille to the fanlight opening still survives. The façade is finished with a dull grey rendering possibly Shanghai plaster. Projecting band courses indicate the first and second floor levels. There is a simple projecting cornice at parapet level with a stepped ziggurat shape central pediment and matching corner posts. Access to the interior was not allowed, but a plan obtained from the Land registry shows a long narrow layout with a staircase at one side.

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2 Hing Hon Road, Sai Ying Pun

Built: 1916, Demolished: 2014, listed as a Grade 2 heritage building

As with the above structure, it was developed by the same family and was a relatively good condition prior to its demolition last year. Unfortunately, it is nothing but a parking lot now. According to the AMO:

Erected around 1916, No. 2 Hing Hon Road (興漢道) is a typical Chinese tenement house with a European-style façade reflecting Western influence on architecture in Hong Kong during the colonial era.

No. 2 Hing Hon Road is a three-storey house in the Georgian Revival style. The street façade is faced with stucco grooved to imitate stonework. The ground floor has two arched window openings and a simple doorway with an architrave and segmental hood moulding resembling a pediment. The upper part of the façade has two rows of rectangular windows separated by giant pilasters. There are plain apron panels beneath the windows. A projecting band course marks the first floor level. There is a projecting cornice at parapet level with a parapet wall formed of projecting posts and recessed panels. A single rainwater downpipe serves to drain the roof. The façade is in good repair and well maintained.

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Shenzhen Walled Villages: Dawan Shiju, Fengtian “Toyota” Walled Village

What a difference a few years makes! Located in the Pingshan District of Shenzhen, Dawan Shiju is one of the more well known walled villages in city. When I first visited in 2010, the village had just been evicted in preparation for transforming the entire site into a museum. Although there were signs that this was to be set up as a museum, most of the dwellings were intact and there was few if little renovation work evident. The surrounding area was a mixture of old village houses, urban village style buildings and abandoned farmland.

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One of the old houses immediately outside the walled village that appears to be gone now

Fast forward to 2015, the entire walled village is a construction site in process of a major renovation. A ticket booth has been installed in front of the village. The area surrounding the walled village has been transformed into a park with any historic buildings outside the walled village around it now gone. A massive multi tower hotel development is at the doorstep of the village. Judging from some of the posted plans, the renovation seems to include a reconfiguration of some of the dwelling units to accommodate retail shops, not exactly an ideal method of preservation.

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About a 20 minute walk from here is the Fengtian Walled Village.A lot smaller than Dawan, this village also appears abandoned and although it’s also protected by the city government, there appears to be no efforts to turn this one over to tourism. One peculiarity of this one is its English name is labeled as “Toyota Shiju” on Google Maps, probably because it mistranslated the Chinese name of this village as being the Chinese name of the Japanese car company.

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Why are they calling the Umbrella Revolution (Occupy Central) a riot? + Pictures from the movement

The events of the past week in Hong Kong have made headlines worldwide. What started out as a class boycott by high school and a small sit-in at the government HQ quickly escalated into the full blown Occupy Central movement. The occupy movement itself has been under planning for up to 2 years and its purpose has been to call for direct elections in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was promised universal suffrage as part of the 1997 handover agreement to China, yet its implementation has been delayed up to now. Finally this August, the Standing Committee of the Twelfth National People’s Congress agreed on universal suffrage for Hong Kong in 2017 under the condition that it gets to screen out the candidates through an election committee nominated by them. That in effect would make it a faux-democracy.

Most people didn’t expect the Occupy movement to take off at all. Hong Kong’ers are a law abiding and hard working bunch after all. Perhaps, we can thank persistent use of force by the police for how quickly the movement escalated. What began as a small sit-in at the government HQ last Friday led by the student activist group Scholarism, a movement separate from Occupy Central, began to attract an increasing number of protesters of all age groups over the weekend as the police began deploying pepper spray and tear gas, tactics typically used in riots. Currently, the term Umbrella Revolution is the preferred term for the resulting movement, in reference to the use of umbrellas by the protesters to shield themselves from police pepper spray.

What I find amusing is how much the pro-China camp has been trying to paint this as a “violent” movement or riot funded by foreign governments. They have also pointed out how how police response to protests elsewhere including the US have been just as or even more virulent. But I need to point out that so far, no shops have been looted, no one has been assaulted, no Molotov cocktails thrown, nothing set on fire, even graffiti left by some protesters were swiftly removed by others. Instead what has characterized this movement are students helping keep the streets free of litter, recycling garbage, handing out donations of water/food/cooling pads, and just generally being civil. Probably the most “violence” there has been was when a small group of students decided to climb over the fence in front of the Government HQ building.

In fact most media outlets outside of China, including the BBC have been calling this out as one of most polite acts of civil disobedience in the world. Myself, knowing Hong Kong people and past pro-democracy protests, it’ll probably stay that way. In contrast, last month’s anti-occupy and pro-China rally by the ironically worded Alliance for Peace and Democracy was marred by egg throwing and assaults on those disagreeing with them.

Pro-China folks, here are examples of what real riots look like:

1967 Pro-Communist Red Guard Riots in Hong Kong

I agree when people start setting off bombs and murdering others, then it is probably a good time for the police to use force.

1992 LA Riots, Reaction to the police beating of Rodney King

2012 Anti-Japanese Riots in China

2014 World Cup eviction Riots in Rio de Janeiro

2000 Arson Attack at Immigration Tower HK by Shi Junlong

Who could forget him! The guy that set fire to the Immigration Tower, killed 2 people including an immigration officer. Yet he’s not a free man with Hong Kong residency! And he still has the audacity to call Hong Kong people dogs.

Now here are some photos from the past 4 days:

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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.

Photoblogging urban change in Hong Kong and southern China


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