Hong Kong As It Was

Glimpse of walled city

The Kowloon Walled City Park is probably the most historic park in Hong Kong. The park was built on a site which was first a military fort in Qing Dynasty and later became a walled city and an ungoverned enclave before its demolition in 1987.

You can read the rich history of the Walled City here.I don’t find the park particularly scenic, which is built in the southern China garden style of Qing Dynasty. Nor does it evoke memory of the past. It all looks too good and too neat to be history. Yet, the exhibition in the building “Yamen” (which has been declared a monument itself) featuring the history of the Walled City prior to its demolition is very interesting. It contains fascinating interviews of the former residents as well as photos.

Here are some of the photos:

Because of its unique history, the Walled City was effectively lawless. Taxation, as a result, was not required in the enclave. This had led to hundreds of factories established, especially the food processing factories. It was estimated that 80% of the fishballs in Hong Kong were manufactured in the Walled City.

Unlicensed dentists and doctors were many. Many of them were skilled dentists and doctors who came from mainland China and whose qualifications were not recognzed by the Hong Kong government.  They therefore turned to the Walled City. The photo below captured the dentist street full of signs advertising dental services. There was no freshwater supply. To supply water, people dug wells. But the water was hardly clean – it could only be used for washing clothes and showers. For cooking and drinking, the residents had to use the freshwater supplied by the Hong Kong government next to their enclave. Carrying freshwater to the households had thus become a business.

The houses were so packed that former residents in the interviews recalled that they just jumped from their houses’ windows to the roof of the next building. That was how they went out to the street.

Because of high density of the population and shoddiness of the buildings (no piles used for the foundation), the one thing that worried them most was fire hazards. Fortunately no big fires had ever been broken out. Nor had serious crimes been committed, although the Walled City, a maze of dirty alleys, was described as a hotbed of crimes. Former residents recalled how collegial their neigbourhood was.

“Oh, I could find where I lived,” a woman standing next to me told her friend excitedly, pointing to a map. “It was there. There, ” she said, trying to take a photo of the map, zooming in her former residence.

How to get there: take mini bus No. 39 from Lok Fu MTR station. Get off in front of the Park.

By Anna

With a wanderlust and lusts of other sorts, I look to sth new, sth different, sth fulfilling, and find myself on a journey...

2 replies on “Glimpse of walled city”


Reading from some of your post, I realized that I’ve never really looked at HongKong as an interesting place to discover but rather as a business person who have only seen the commercial aspect of the city. I’ve been going to HK since the mid-80s but have never even visited Kowloon Park instead went to touristy places like Ocean Park over and over.

I have to explore more of HK. I’m planning to stay there longer in the future and I promise myself that when I do, I will live more like a local and discover what the city has to offer.

Thanks, Anna for showing me a different perspective of HK. Congrats on your blog.


Anna, this is great reading! Though I had lived within walking distance, and went to school even closer, the Walled City was one of the few places I have never been to. It was something severely discouraged by my parents.
It makes for fascinating reading by foreign visitors to HK. Though in all fairness, today there is no glimmer of the look and feel of the old Walled City, unlike the old cities in Jerusalem, Lijiang etc.

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