Law Uk Folk Museum

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Law Uk Hakka House
Native name
Chinese: 羅屋
Law Uk Folk Museum.jpg
Law Uk Hakka House
Location 14 Kut Shing Street, Chai Wan, Hong Kong
Coordinates Coordinates: 22°15′51″N 114°14′08″E / 22.264266°N 114.235512°E / 22.264266; 114.235512
Built c. 1750s
Designated 10 November 1989
Reference no. 38
The main room of Law Uk

Law Uk (Chinese: 羅屋; meaning "Law's House") is a former Hakka village house located in Chai Wan, Hong Kong. Named after the surname of the family who had previously lived in the house, it was built in the mid-18th century during the Qing Dynasty, about ninety years before the British took possession of Hong Kong Island. It was rediscovered in the 1970s and is a declared monument of Hong Kong. After being restored, the house was turned into the Law Uk Folk Museum, which serves as a branch of the Hong Kong Museum of History. It is the only example of Hakka architecture left in the area.

History[edit]

It is not definitively known when Law Uk was completed, but it is estimated that the house was constructed in the mid 18th-century. This was about the time when the Law family first moved to Hong Kong from Bao'an County in Guangdong province.[1][2] The approximate date of construction is further backed up by official documents from the Qing Dynasty that dated from 1767 and 1796. The existence of these documents—which were in the Law family's possession—only came to light when Law Uk was rediscovered.[3] At the time it was built, the house was located on Hong Kong Island's waterfront with Victoria Harbour. However, it is now situated much farther inland due to the amount of land reclamation that has been undertaken over the years.[2]

The area around present-day Chai Wan was uninhabited and simply featured barren and forested land. When the Laws moved there, they were part of an entourage of approximately 300 Hakka people, who settled in the area and subsequently established a village.[2] The majority of them worked as stonecutters in neighbouring quarries.[4] Others were fishermen due to the area's close proximity to the sea.[5] The Law family, however, were impoverished rice farming peasants[6] who also raised chickens and pigs on their farm.[2]

One of Law Uk's wings was destroyed during the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941, when a Japanese shell was dropped onto it. Nonetheless, the village lifestyle of the Hakka continued through the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong until 1945.[5] After the end of World War II, the number of refugees coming to the colony increased dramatically and they began to set up squatter huts on hills around Chai Wan.[7] This ended up "destroy[ing] the Hakka's way of life."[5] Due to the shortage of land, the Hakka village was cleared and demolished, and Chai Wan was transformed into an industrial area with many public housing estates.[5][7] As a result, the Law family moved out of the house in 1960 and were resettled into one of the surrounding housing estates.[2] This was a similar situation for the other villagers, whose descendants now live in apartment complexes close to where the village once stood.[8]

Restoration[edit]

Law Uk's utility room

Before its rediscovery, Law Uk was left in a derelict state and utilized as a workshop that produced metallic furniture. This caused the building to be a fire hazard, due to the spray paints and other flammable goods stored inside.[3] The Resettlement Department rediscovered the house in the early 1970s and urged the curator of the new Hong Kong Museum of History—which opened in July 1975[9]—to buy and renovate Law Uk.[3]

The building was ultimately restored and reopened as the Law Uk Folk Museum in 1989.[3] It was also declared a monument of Hong Kong in the same year[10] on 10 November.[11] The museum served as one of the three branches of the Hong Kong Museum of History, along with the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence and the Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum.[12] This has now been expanded to five branches with the addition of the Fireboat Alexander Grantham Exhibition Gallery and the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum.[13] Due to its modest size and less-than-ideal location among industrial factories, the museum experienced poor attendance over the years. Because of this, the Museum of Hong Kong had contemplated on closing the Law Uk Folk Museum.[14] However, it still remains open and operating to this day.[13]

Law Uk is the sole surviving village house[3][7] and the last example of traditional Hakka housing in Chai Wan.[15]

Architecture[edit]

Law Uk has been described as a "typical" Hakka house,[5][10][16] consisting of five rooms[5] that could house approximately ten people.[2] Centered around the main hall, the house was designed to be symmetrical and features a lightwell at the front of the hall.[16] This was key as the house did not have many windows, for fear of robbers and pirates.[2]

As part of the restoration in the 1980s, a new annex to the house was built that matched the overall architectural style of Law Uk.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fodor's Hong Kong: with a Side Trip to Macau. Random House LLC. 16 July 2013. p. 113. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Evans, Annemarie (9 September 2006). "History hiding in Chai Wan". South China Morning Post. p. 2. Retrieved 25 October 2013.  (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hayes, James (1 August 1996). Friends and Teachers: Hong Kong and Its People 1953–87. Hong Kong University Press. pp. 79–80. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Wordie, Jason (1 March 2002). Streets: Exploring Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong University Press. p. 190. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Currie, Mike (29 November 1998). "Chapters of Hong Kong's history have been preserved, bookended by high-rise". South China Morning Post. p. 2. Retrieved 31 October 2013.  (subscription required)
  6. ^ "Law Uk Hakka House, Chai Wan". Antiquities and Monuments Office. Government of Hong Kong. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean (15 April 2013). Museums and Their Visitors. Routledge. p. 12. Retrieved 31 October 2013. 
  8. ^ Leffman, David; Brown, Jules (1 October 2009). The Rough Guide to Hong Kong & Macau. Rough Guides UK. p. 87. Retrieved 31 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "Hong Kong Museum of History – About Us – Introduction". Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Government of Hong Kong. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Enchanting Museums – Hong Kong". Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Government of Hong Kong. 2012. p. 41. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  11. ^ "Annex I Listing of Declared Monuments". Environmental Protection Department. Government of Hong Kong. 1 January 1999. Archived from the original on 28 October 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  12. ^ Yu, Celia; Li, Nina (11 May 2006). "Hong Kong Museum of History". South China Morning Post. p. 7. Retrieved 25 October 2013.  (subscription required)
  13. ^ a b "Hong Kong Museum of History – About Us – Branch Museums". Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Government of Hong Kong. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  14. ^ Prideaux, Bruce; Timothy, Dallen; Chon, Kaye, eds. (13 September 2013). Cultural Heritage Tourism in Asia and the Pacific. Routledge. p. 185. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  15. ^ Leung, Wilson (20 July 2001). "The Secret history". South China Morning Post. p. 6. Retrieved 1 November 2013.  (subscription required)
  16. ^ a b "Hong Kong Museum of History – Law Uk". Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Government of Hong Kong. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 

External links[edit]