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Aerial view of Tai Po Market and Tai Po Town
Coordinates: Tai Po // is an area in the New Territories of Hong Kong. It refers to the vicinity of the traditional market towns in the area presently known as Tai Po Old Market or Tai Po Kau Hui (大埔舊墟) (originally Tai Po Market) and the Tai Wo Town (Tai Wo Market) on the other side of the Lam Tsuen River, near the old Tai Po Market Station of the Kowloon-Canton Railway (British Section). Administratively, it is part of the Tai Po District.
Both market towns became part of the Tai Po New Town in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In present-day usage, "Tai Po" may refer to the area around the original market towns, the Tai Po Town (Chinese: 大埔市), or the entire Tai Po District.
There are a mixture of public housing complexes in the densely populated area of Tai Po plus many expensive high-end private properties in the sparsely populated area surrounding Tai Po.
The area in and around Tai Po was once a dense forest that was inhabited by a number of wildlife. Those who travelled through the region were forced to walk quickly to avoid being attacked. This earned the region the nickname "Big Step". Subsequently, the government beautified the area and renamed it to Tai Po.
From AD 963, the indigenous inhabitants of Tai Po lived by clamming and pearl farming. The pearl making business reached its peak during the Song Dynasty and started to decline gradually in the midst of the Ming Dynasty. Tai Po had been developed as a fishing port around the late Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty.
Due to battles and political struggles in modern history, a lot of people migrated to Hong Kong from China; one of the destinations for them was Tai Po. People first began to settle around the riversides of Lam Tsuen River and finally Tai Po Old Market and Tai Wo Town were developed.
In the 1970s, the Hong Kong government began to develop satellite cities: the first industrial estate in Hong Kong was built in Tai Po in 1974; Tai Po was named as a "new town" in 1979; the first public housing estate in Tai Po – Tai Yuen Estate – was established in 1981. The population has soared to 320,000 and Tai Po began to prosper following the completion of the Tolo Highway which were integrated with the older urban areas. Tai Po Industrial Estate, just east of Tai Po Town, was the first industrial estate in Hong Kong. Plants and companies such as Vita Soy (famous internationally for their different types of juice) are located there.
As Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in world, it is known for its high air pollution. However, although Tai Po is one of the newer Districts with a densely populated public housing and industrial estate, it is the second lowest polluted district in Hong Kong.
Apart from the busy Tai Po Town and the rapid pace of development, Tai Po is lucky to have a large amount of green areas which is rare in Hong Kong's towns. Pat Sin Leng (The ridge of Eight Immortals) is one of the many symbolic natural landmarks in Tai Po as well as Hong Kong. With a great variety of creatures, it is especially known for its quantity of species of butterflies.
Before the 1970s, immigrants from Guangdong Province of China migrated to Hong Kong. Many of the Hakka people moved to Tai Po Town, Fanling Town and Sheung Shui Town. In Tai Po Town, there is a noticeable large population of Hakka people in Tai Po Market (大埔墟), especially around the area of "Little Park" (公園仔). However, there are a lot of people from Guangdong Province, especially from the Guangzhou area and many small villages that are scattered around along Guangdong. Most claim to be from the Han ethnic group, the largest Chinese ethnic group out of the other 55. There may be other South Asian races, but they are rare.
Because Hong Kong is in a very densely populated region, Tai Po Town has copied the many urban areas of Hong Kong by building high-rise apartments. 320,000 people have residences in the town, making high-rise apartments necessary and mandatory. These high-rise apartments are located inside estates, such as Tai Yuen Estates and Fu Heng Estates. These high-rise apartments have floors ranging from the low apartments in Tai Po Old Town to the new estates in northern Tai Po ranging from 20 to 34 levels. The area is serviced by the Tai Po Hui Market, Built in 2004.
The Tai Po area also has many "village houses", resulting from a 1972 Hong Kong legislation which gave any male heir over the age of 18 who could prove he was descended from one of Hong Kong's original villages in 1898 the right to build a small house on a plot of land, either owned by the village itself or on leased government land. These houses are restricted by law to be no more than three stories and 27 feet (8.2 m) in height, and no more than 2,100 square feet (200 m2) in total floor space.
There are also a few private housing development in the Tai Po area with "detached" and "semi-detached" houses which include communal recreational areas such as swimming pools, tennis courts and children's playgrounds, and entertainment facilities such as private cinemas, health spas and karaoke rooms. These developments are excluded from the "village house" law, and therefore units are often much larger than 2,100 square feet (200 m2), with a notable example being The Beverly Hills development, which has units as large as 11,000 square feet (1,000 m2). Due to the rarity of such accommodation in Hong Kong, these developments are considered by locals to be part of the extreme high-end of the luxury property market, and are generally populated by very wealthy residents. Area of those includes the housings alongside Lo Fai Road, and the housings around Tai Po Road (Tai Po Kau Area).
Transportation in Tai Po Town is much like any other places of Hong Kong. Due to the high population, Hong Kong has double-decker buses. There are some buses that lead to the rest of Hong Kong such as the bus route 271 that goes from Fu Heng Estate in Tai Po Town to Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and bus route 307 which goes from Central Tai Po Town towards the Central Ferry Piers via Central and Wan Chai of Victoria. There are also buses that lead directly to the airport such as E41 from Tai Po Centre (Tai Po Plaza and Tai Po Mega Mall) to Hong Kong International Airport.
Two railway stations along the East Rail Line serve Tai Po, namely: Tai Po Market Station (in the older district) and Tai Wo Station (serving newer estates). Trains originate at the Hong Kong-Chinese border, at either Lo Wu or Lok Ma Chau stations, and travel south to Hung Hom Station in Kowloon, passing through Tai Po on the way.
The railway, previously known as the KCR British Section, opened in 1910. The old Tai Po Market Station opened on that date and was closed in 1983, when the modern station of the same name opened as part of an upgrading of the line by the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation. Tai Wo Station opened in 1989. In 2007 the line was leased for 50 years to the MTR Corporation.
Tai Po Kau Station served the Tai Po Kau area between 1910 and 1983. It has since been demolished.
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In historical eras clan villages organised private study halls or sishu. Village schools opened with government subsidies in the early 20th century. In the 1920s and 1930s secondary schools in the vernacular medium opened in Tai Po. Many village schools opened after World War II. Due to a decline in the birthrate, by the 1990s the number of school students was declining and many village schools began to close.
The Hong Kong Institute of Education, which gained university status in 2016, is located just north of Tai Po Industrial Estate. It is the only university in Tai Po. The Chinese University of Hong Kong is located not far away, just beyond the border between Tai Po and Sha Tin districts.
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