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A LIFE OF ITS OWN

by Adrian Ho on Mar 20, 2014 in Architecture , Lifestyle
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Pokfulam Village was brought to the attention of Hong Kongers after it made into the 2014 World Monuments Watch list. Prior to this, it may have been mostly forgotten, but it was far from dead

The once-ignored Pokfulam Village, a squatter housing estate located next to the Chi Fu housing complex on the western side of Hong Kong Island, has popped back up on the radar after the World Monuments Fund (WMF) included the village in the 2014 World Monuments Watch list — placing the village on par with the Battersea Power Station in London and the city of Venice, Italy, in terms of built heritage and cultural value.

Comprising a crowd of houses constructed from metal sheets, narrow alleys, small farms as well as historic structures previously owned by the local Dairy Farm company, the village’s history dates back to at least 1868, when 17 families lived in two rows of traditional houses on what made up its main street. In 1886, the Dairy Farm company was set up in Pokfulam with an aim to nourish Hong Kongers with fresh and safe cows’ milk, and the company built a farm — with an octagonal cowshed, a main office building, a two-storey staff quarters and most importantly, a herd of imported dairy cattle — near the village.

However, the move of Dairy Farm in the 1970s out of the area triggered the decline of Pokfulam Village. Now, there are about 2,000 people still living in the village — most of them are of an older age — while many of the young have moved away. But every cloud has a silver lining. Before WMF put Pokfulam village under spotlight, the village was actually enjoying a small renaissance as the public became more aware of the village’s annual Fire Dragon Dance during the mid-autumn festival. In addition, local supporting groups began to organise tours for the public, with villagers serving as guides.

“We even built this hut to showcase the details about our Fire Dragon Dance,” says Dai Hing Lui (in Cantonese, that means ‘daughter from the Dai Hing store’; she notes that everyone in the village calls each other by their shop’s name instead of their own), one of the occasional tour guides, who stands in front of the ‘Dragon Studio’ located right outside of the main village entrance. “This was built with a little help from others, mostly volunteers and students.”

 

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