Lai Chi Wo
|Lai Chi Wo|
Lai Chi Wo is a Hakka village near Sha Tau Kok, in the northeastern New Territories of Hong Kong. It is described as a "walled village" by some sources. Lai Chi Wo is located within the Plover Cove Country Park and near Yan Chau Tong Marine Park.
The History of Lai Chi Wo dated back to 400 years ago before the Hakka people settled there. It was once a prosperous Hakka walled-village in the North-Eastern part of New Territories. There were around 500-600 residents in the most prosperous period.
Around a hundred years ago, Lai Chi Wo village was once a poor village. At that time, a feng shui master suggested building 3 feng shui walls for the village to get rid of the evil spirits and keep the property safe inside the village. After the setting-up of the three walls, the village regained its prosperity as before.
In the recent years, most of the younger residents have moved out for a better living in town areas like Fanling and Tai Po, or emigrated to overseas, leaving the village with the older residents only. The original residents will, however, go back to the village whenever there are celebrations, like the Tai Ping Ching Chiu festival once every 10 years.
Lai Chi Wo is now the 16th special region inside Hong Kong. This special region is legalised in 2004 and enacted in 2005. Moreover, it has become one of the frequent hiking sites in Hong Kong. Local tours have developed their route to Lai Chi Wo, and the hikers will start their route from Wu Kau Tang near Tai Po or Luk Keng near Fanling. Hikers generally take Lai Chi Wo as a mid-way station.
As the name suggests, this area was once known for its lychee trees and it got its name before the Hakka settlement. In the 1960s and 1970s villagers found it more profitable to plant mandarins, which could fetch good prices towards Chinese New Year (as they are seen as auspicious). However, even the local villagers still can not confirm if the village got the name because of the lychee trees or another reason.
The altitude of Lai Chi Wo is about 10 metres. It is around 1 hectare of special region inside the area of Lai Chi Wo.
Structure of the village
Lai Chi Wo walled-village and the houses inside adapt the structure of typical Hakka village. There are a total of 211 houses inside the village, including 3 ancestral halls (the Tsang's ancestral Hall, the Wong's ancestral Hall and the Wong's Weixing ancestral Hall). 131 of the houses are single storied buildings. Another 76 are double-storey buildings, and the remaining four are three-storey building. The village is structured in 3 rows and 9 columns.
Inhabitants of this village were from the Tsang and Wong Hakka families. Only one family still lives there and the rest have either moved overseas or to other parts of Hong Kong. The Hakka residents originate from Kaifeng, Henan at around 2500 years ago. Moreover, the Wongs in Lai Chi Wo are from Fujian, via Huizhou to Hong Kong during early Qing dynasty. No-one lives there except the occasional members of the Tsang family nowadays.
- Hip Tin Temple and Hok Shan Monastery are Grade II historic buildings.
- The Lai Chi Wo Special Area was designated as a Special Area in 2005 and covers 1 hectare.
- Lai Chi Wo Beach was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1979.
Fung shui woodland
What elements should a village of good fung shui composed of? Good fung shui of the village ought to be embraced by mountains and hills at the back and on both sides. This can be served as a "green barrier" for the village. Native trees and shrubs are crucial concern for the selection of the fung shui sites, and villagers would also plant vegetations of different values to be added in the forest. Following the development of the forest, a C-shaped like forest would encompass the village, forming a typical layout of fung shui setting of the village and fung shui forest.
Fung shui forest can protect and alleviate the impact of strong breeze and sun burn. During the time of heavy rainstorm, mudflow or landslide may happen. The natural barrier can help reduce the level of destructiveness by its retention capacity to stop the water and mudflow. Also, the dense broad-leaved trees are good resisters devoted to prevent hillfire from spreading. In economical terms, villagers grow the economic crops at the edge of the forest. It includes edible stuff and vegetation for medical purpose. They can be used as fuel wood or construction materials.
- Natural conservation
Fung shui woods have the ability to stabilise the slopes as well as to avoid leakage of surface nutrients and organic substances after heavy downpour. Moreover, the physical landscape and natural habitat of Hong Kong can be preserved. Indeed, they act as a breeding ground for other fauna such as birds, bats, butterflies and mammals to thrive.
- The Lai Chi Wo Fung Shui Wood
The fung shui forest still exists thanks to the effort of the villagers in the past to use every means to preserve it, such as limiting the number of days for fuel wood collection and imposing penalties for the damage of trees.
The 5–7 hectare fung shui forest comprises thick trees and shrubs. Most of them are 10–20 metres tall. We can see the great bio-diversity in Lai Chi Wo fung shui forest. For instance, we can find wild animals such as the Masked Palm Civet (Paguma larvata) and Chinese Porcupine (Hystrix brachyuran). Moreover, more than 100 plants have been recorded. Ordinary fung shui wood species like the Endospermum (Endospermum Chinese), Schima (Schima superb), Lance-leaved Sterculia (Sterculia lanceolata), Incense Tree (Ardisia quinquegona) can be seen. Other less common species like the Sampson Macaranga (Macaranga sampsonii), Lankok Fig (Ficus lankokensis) and Golden-leaved Tree (Chrysophyllum lanceolatum) have also been found. It is really of great preservation value.
Siu Ying Primary School
Siu Ying Primary School has a long history. As there was no school in the other six villages, children of those seven villages went to this school to study. It closed in 1980. Then it had been left for many years. It will be converted to tourist centre in the forthcoming years. The objective of the centre is to let people know the importance of eco-awareness and preservation of environment, species, ecology, culture, learn about the natural environment, plants and animal species of Lai Chi Wo, experience the village culture in the New Territories.
Stone mills are used to peel the crust of the wheat. Each one is made up of two big cylindrical stone structure stacked together. The surface of the rocks is very rough. After you pour the wheat into the mills, you stir the rock structure, and the wheat will be peeled off into rice that villagers can eat.
By virtue of the fact that there was no tap-water, villagers have to fulfill their needs by getting waters from rivers and wells. However, there were not enough rivers near Lai Chi Wo, villagers started to dig wells and use underground water to meet the daily demands. But nowadays wells are abandoned.
Hing Chun Engagement (Seven-Village Square)
There are 7 villages involved in the Hing Chun Engagement (慶春約, Hing Chun Yeuk). They are Lai Chi Wo, So Lo Pun, Sam A Village, Mui Tsz Lam (梅子林), Kop Tong (蛤塘), Siu Tan (小灘) and Ngau Chi Wu (牛池湖) which are located at the coast of Northeast New Territories and facing Kat O. In ancient time, when the ancestors of the 7 villages first settled in this place, the mountain and land were barren and arable lands were insufficient. They opened up wastelands and built up houses sparing no effort. Gradually, the families began to enlarge and became villages until Eastern Sha Tau Kok was developed, the 7 villages associated and made up the Hing Chung Engagement. They also opened up the Seven-Village Square. After the establishment of the engagement, the life has been smooth therefore villages all believed that it was because of the blessing of Guan Di and Guan Yin. To thank the gods and pray for good fortune, they decided to hold a ten-year session (Bun Festival).
Ancestral Hall is the representative building of a clan with a lot of spirit tablet worshiping ancestors according to their positions in the family hierarchy. The eldest is located on the highest place and the younger ones are located on the lower places. Every Tomb-sweeping Day and Double Ninth Festival, or some other big festivals, villagers must worship the temple. There are two main families in Lai Chi Wo: Wong family and Tsang family. Therefore, there are temples of this two families in Lai Chi Wo.
Hip Tin Temple and Hok Shan Monastery
There are Hip Tin Temple and Hok Shan Monastery in the Square of Lai Chi Wo Village. It was built in the Qing dynasty. There is a history of more than two hundred years. The two structures are connected. They are categorised as Grade II historic buildings. They were jointly built by the seven villages in Sha Tau Kok, Hing Chun Yuek for drawing good fortune and expelling the evils. The village people worship Guan Di and Guan Yin. Hip Tin Temple is for Guan Di in which there is a statue of Guan Di while Hok Shan Monastery is for Guan Yin.
East Gate and West Gate
The East Gate and the West Gate are the entrances of the village. The East Gate is the main entrance on which there was engraved a sentence 'The purple cloud comes from the East.' In Chinese, purple means good fortune. The objective of the sentence is to hope to have highly placed or high-ranking government officials and noble lords coming into the village all the time so that it makes the village prosperous and flourishing. On the other hand, there was engraved a sentence 'The west can receive the auspicious light of luck.' on the West Gate. It means the village people hope to get luck and peace.
Environment and special species
The broad way inside the Nature Trail was constructed in 2003 as a viewing platform. It is 120 metres long and introduces three main features in the eastern mudflat corner of Lai Chi Wo. The trail is 1.2 km.
Looking-glass mangrove and White-flower Derris
The mangrove in Lai Chi Wo consists of Looking-glass mangrove (Heritiera littoralis) and White-flower Derris. Looking-glass mangrove is a species of mangrove whose biggest forest is to be found in Lai Chi Wo. Every April and May are their blossom seasons and fruits can be harvested from June to October. The fruit is round and green at first, and then become brown when it ripens. In the middle of the fruit, you may find a carinate tuber which makes it look like the Japanese Ultraman. Hence, it is commonly called "Ultraman Fruit". Heritiera littoralis is grand, peculiar and has a thick tree-crown. It is almost tall enough to reach the chest of people. The interlaced plank buttress serves to grasp the swampy soil in the tide zone to hold the body of the tree. And the "natural swing" around the forest of Looking-glass mangrove in fact is formed by the growing White-flower Derris.
There are four main kinds of seaweeds in Hong Kong. They are Halophila beccarii (貝克喜鹽草), Halophila ovalis (喜鹽草), Ruppia maritimia (川蔓藻) and Dwarf eelgrass Zostera japonica (矮大葉藻) among which Zostera japonica was first found in Lai Chi Wo in 1979. Lai Chi Wo is the only place, and also the largest bed that we can find this kind of seaweed. This seaweed bed mat the shore for more than 2 hectares on the wild open mudflat. Seaweeds are precious in Hong Kong which mainly grow along the coast of northwest and northeast of New Territories. Seaweeds hold great importance to the eco-system because it provides shelter, food and feeding place for animals living along the coast, and besides, seaweeds can prevent soil and sand from being washed away.
The structures shaped like wooden slabs are named as buttress roots. Several of them can be seen inside Lai Chi Wo Nature Trail. The taller the tree, or the poorer the growing environment, the larger and stronger these buttress trees grow.
Lai Chi Wo Village
Five-finger Camphor (Cinnamomum Camphora)
The Camphor measures 25 metres tall and 3 metres in diameter. It gets its name because it had five branches like five fingers, although only four of them remain today. It was said that during Japanese Occupation, when Lai Chi Wo was occupied as a military backup base for the Japanese Army, the Japanese cut down many trees for fear that their enemies will hide near the area and make sudden attacks. When the soldiers threatened to chop this five-finger Camphor, the villagers stood up to protected the tree with their lives. Therefore, only one of the "fingers" has been cut.
The Hollow Tree (Autumn Maple)
The Hollow Tree is a more than one-hundred-year-old maple. It reaches a 21-metre high and 1.7-metre in diameter. It is called "hollow tree" because it has a huge hole inside the tree. The hole has openings in both upper and lower section of the tree. It is once said that there was a honeycomb and villagers tried to fire the comb but finally fired the tree altogether. However, the explanations from the description board of the tree told another cause. The parenchya cells in the centre of the trunk contracted and withered as a result of infection. Small holes began to appear inside the tree. However, the nutrients and moisture transporting cells around the exterior part of the trunk continued to grow and thicken. The trunk later get thicker, and the centre hollow expanded in tandem.
Alternatively, Lai Chi Wo can be reached by hiking via one of the two popular hiking routes.
- Green mini-bus route 20R (daily route) from Tai Po Market Station
- KMB Bus route 275R (served on Sundays and holidays only; no service on non-holiday Mondays-Saturdays), from Tai Po Market Station
- Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department:Camping Sites
- Hong Kong Tourism Board: Overview of the Northern New Territories
- Hong Kong Tourism Board Archived 29 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department: Plover Cove Country Park Archived 29 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department: Yan Chau Tong Marine Park
- Election of Sites with Active Conservation Archived 8 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- Hong Kong Herbarium: Feng Shui Stroy of Lai Chi Wo
- News.gov.hk Archived 10 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- List of Graded Historic Buildings in Hong Kong (as at 6 November 2009) Archived 9 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department: Country Parks & Special Areas
- Environmental Protection Department: Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) Archived 27 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- Eco Association Archived 10 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine (in Chinese)
- Brief Information on proposed Grade III Items: Hip Tin Temple & Hok Shan Monastery, see pp. 710–711 Archived 22 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- "Nature Touch: Lai Chi Wo Nature Trail". Archived from the original on 16 December 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
- Hong Kong Wetland Park
- "Transport Department - Kaito Ferry Service Details". www.td.gov.hk. Retrieved 8 June 2020.
- "New Territories GMB Route 20R | www.16seats.net". www.16seats.net. Retrieved 8 June 2020.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lai Chi Wo.|
- Delineation of area of existing village Lai Chi Wo (Sha Tau Kok) for election of resident representative (2019 to 2022)
- Lai Chi Wo Nature Trail
- Hiking in Lai Chi Wo
- The Fung Shui Story of Lai Chi Wo
- Lai Chi Wo Geoheritage Centre
- Sustainable Lai Chi Wo
- Singh, Harminder (8 October 2016). "How the revival of a 400-year-old Hong Kong village can be a model for rural heritage conservation". South China Morning Post.
- Grundy, Tom (14 March 2017). "HKFP Venture: Where time stands still – the semi-abandoned Hakka walled village of Lai Chi Wo". Hong Kong Free Press.
- Pictures of Lai Chi Wo:  More pictures of Lai Chi Wo
- Photos of Hip Tin Temple and Hok Shan Monastery:    
- Map showing Lai Chi Wo