Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ping Shan Heritage Trail, Part 1

HK has several "heritage trails," mostly in the New Territories - signposted routes that take you through a series of traditional Chinese buildings and sites left from the centuries before urbanization, when the communities were rural and isolated. Supposedly this was one of the best and most easily accessible, so I took the train out to the suburban "New Town" settlement of Tin Shui Wai, which is the jumping-off point. (More info on the trail here from your friend and mine, the HK Tourism Board.)

My Rough Guide says, "this New Town shows how badly city planning can go wrong if it leaves out the human element: with no central focus, it's an alienating, depressing forest of anonymous concrete high-rises and main roads, all life and activity hidden away inside bland, faceless shopping malls." The little I saw as I passed through on my way to the trail didn't contradict this assessment, but it was a great trip anyway.

I don't know what to tell you about the sculpture in the MTR station below, beyond that it's apparently about "critical thinking," according to the sign. Create your own hypotheses.

Below is the view from the station of the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda, the first site on the trail. I'd pictured it being more rural, but much of the time I was practically walking through people's backyards. 

The pagoda is over 500 years old. Below is a shrine inside.

An exceedingly modest little pathside shrine next to the pagoda, with incense sticks burning as usual:

An earth god shrine...

... with a beautiful dragon sculpture...

... and an oven for burning offerings.

Sheung Cheung Wai, an old walled village of the Hakka people, a minority linguistic group with a strong presence in Hong Kong. They traditionally dwelt in tiny clusters of houses barely big enough to be called villages, surrounded by stone walls to ward off bandits, invaders and general harassment from outsiders. This is one of a handful in HK that are still standing and inhabited (a few others have been turned into museums - example to come).

Vegetation eaking out an existence on the top of the wall:

The front gate of the village:

I felt a little weird peering around the tiny, cramped place that is still home to people, so I didn't stay long or take many pictures (though when I was leaving, two women washing laundry at an outdoor square waved and said hello to me very cheerily - one of those occasions when I wished I was less shy about taking pictures of people). Below is a view from inside a little temple; that's the backside of the gate down at the end of the lane, so this is the reverse view of the photo above.

A dragony/shriney dude inside the temple.

Yeung Hau Temple:

The dragon appears not to think much of whatever this guy's saying:

Traipsing around on weekdays, I not infrequently ran into school groups on field trips, like this one:

This is getting long enough. More to come in the next post.

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