Reminiscences: Life in Hong Kong's Built Heritage
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I came from a fairly well-off family. My dad inherited a Chinese medicine shop in Yuen Long Hui (Yuen Long Market) from my grandpa, where he sold Chinese herbs from different regions. I used to go to the market with my dad and loved its hustle and bustle. Yuen Long Hui was set up by Tang Man-wai, from our clan, in the Kangxi reign (1662-1722) of the Qing dynasty. The market comprises three main streets, namely Lee Yick Street, Cheung Shing Street and Wine Street. The shop layout of Chun Yuen Pawn House impressed me most. I can still remember its wooden shop signboard resembling a bat holding a coin.

When Hop Yick Company established a new Yuen Long Market nearby in 1915, this Yuen Long Hui was called Yuen Long Kau Hui (Yuen Long Old Market). Business there slowed down, and a friend of my dad had to pawn some antiques at Chun Yuen Pawn House for cash to keep his business going.

Yuen Long Old Market

Yuen Long Old Market was set up by Tang Man Wai of Kam Tin in the Kangxi reign (1662-1722) of the Qing dynasty. This was the trading centre of Yuen Long in the old days. It had over one hundred shops at its peak. It remained the most prosperous area in Yuen Long until a new market was established in the early twentieth century.

Chun Yuen Pawn House

Chun Yuen Pawn House was founded by Tang Lim Ming in the late Qing period. It was relocated to the current address in the 1910s, making it the oldest surviving pawn shop building in Hong Kong. Chun Yuen Pawn House ceased operation during the Second World War. It was converted into residential and storage use after the war, but the interior layout is still intact.

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My mom used to go to Wan Chai Market daily for groceries. When a festival or other celebration was approaching, she would buy some special ingredients at other markets. I remember once going to Central Market and Western Market with her to buy rare ingredients to make stir-fried lobster and steamed red garoupa to celebrate my grandpa’s sixtieth birthday. That evening, my dad hosted a banquet of three tables in the open space downstairs from our flat. My mom and two aunts cooked the meal together. My grandpa was very happy, and I remember the delicious food even today.

My British music teacher was proud of the tasty dishes she made at home. She always mentioned buying fresh milk, ham, butter and cheese at Dairy Farm Depot on Lower Albert Road. She even took Yan-yan and me there several times.

Wan Chai Market

The second generation Wan Chai Market was built in 1937. It is a two-storey building. The market stalls were moved out in 2008, and the building was incorporated into the Urban Renewal Scheme of the Urban Renewal Authority. The front-end structure of the building, with streamline eaves and mouldings on its facade, has been preserved.

Central Market

The fourth generation Central Market was built in 1939. The four-storey building is one of the best examples of a modern minimalist architectural style. Its design features simple horizontal lines and practical functionality. The market was closed in 2003 and is awaiting revitalisation.

Old Western Market

The existing market building is the North Block of the old Western Market built in 1906. It is a red brick building in Edwardian style, highlighted with bandaged brickwork on the facade of four corner towers. The market was converted into a traditional trades, arts and crafts centre (still named Western Market in English) in 1991.

Old Dairy Farm Depot

The old Dairy Farm Depot was built in 1892 as a cold storage warehouse, and subsequently, a food store, butcher’s shop, pastry shop and dairy product distribution centre were added. It underwent large-scale extensions between 1913 and 1917. One unique feature is its red brick and white stucco facade. Dairy Farm moved out of the building in 1982. The building now houses the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and Fringe Club.

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  • Yuen Long Old Market

  • Yuen Long Old Market and its surroundings

  • Row houses in Lee Yick Street of Yuen Long Old Market

  • Chun Yuen Pawn House