Lascar Row

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Lascar Row
Upper Lascar Row.JPG
Lascar Row, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.
Traditional Chinese 摩羅街
Simplified Chinese 摩罗街

Lascar Row is a street in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Located between Hollywood Road and Queen's Road Central, it is a combined name of two streets, namely Upper Lascar Row (摩羅上街) and Lower Lascar Row, though usually it refers to the previous as the majority of Lower Lascar Row has been redesigned as a street used by vehicular traffic, and was renamed as Lok Ku Road. Lascar Row is mostly occupied by antique shops, and is a popular tourist destination.

Name[edit]

The word 摩囉 is not included in the Chinese dictionary. To find its meaning, it is necessary to search from its English name "Lascar". "Lascar" is cited from the Persian word "Lashkar", which meant 'military camp', but to the British it meant Indian seamen specifically. So-called "摩囉" is changed from another word 'Musselmen', i.e. Muslims who traded in China from the Middle East. Due to the simplification of pronunciation, Musselmen is gradually read as "Morra". There is a reason why it is a "row" but not a "street". A row is a range of houses. As mentioned, Lascar is defined as the seamen from India. Explicitly, this street name explains that the area was of accommodations of Indian seamen. [1]

Origins of its other names:[2][3]

"Antiques Street"

Then, the Indian community formed a mini market, which provided a place for Indians to trade at ease. And since the 1920s, it gradually developed as a market for antiques. A wide range of antiques, including obsolete electronic appliances are being sold. Therefore, it has become a unique area for people to discover valuable items. Hence it is called "antiques street" along with the neighbouring Hollywood Road.

"Cat Street"

The name "cat street" (貓街) derives from the fact that some of the shops sell stolen goods, known as "mouse goods" (老鼠貨) in Chinese. With relatively lower prices, many were attracted to shop in this area. For those who were buying these goods, they choose their favourite products stealthily along the street, as if they are acting like cats ready to catch mouse. Hence, people, especially foreigners called this street "Cat Street".

Upper Lascar Row[edit]

Upper Lascar Row, better known as Cat Street, is a narrow alley in Mid Levels, Hong Kong, that runs parallel to Hollywood Road on the north side. It is a straight alley measuring over 509 feet. "Lascars" were seamen from South Asia, and particularly from the Indian subcontinent, who frequented the area, giving it a reputation for lawlessness and criminal behaviour. There was an Indian police dormitory in this street.

On 11 February 1911 a fire burnt Upper and Lower Lascar Row destroying 16 houses and damaging another 24.[4]

History[edit]

View of Lascar Row

In Chinese, it is common to use "摩囉" to describe Indians. At the beginning, it did not contain any derogatory sense. There are two examples to illustrate this point:

In the Historic Centre of Macau, there are the Moorish Barracks, which were originally named "Quartel dos Mouros" in Portuguese. Today it is called "Edificao da Capitania dos Portos" (摩囉兵營/摩爾人兵營). Mouros is the English word "Moors", which means the policemen who came to Macau from Portuguese colony. Therefore, Moors is a general term that including North Africans, Poles, Indians and Arabians, etc.

The second instance is from Hong Kong. In Tsim Sha Tsui, there are the historic blocks S61 and S62 of the former Whitfield Barracks at Kowloon Park. They have another name "Moors Soldiers Barracks" (摩囉兵營). In other words, it is not a new thing to use Moors to describe Indians, at least, in the area of Hong Kong and Macau there is a saying like this.[5]

Besides, another nickname for Indians is 「阿差」, it is generated from the Indian word "Achcha". In English, it means "Yes". Then, the words 「摩囉」 (Morra) and 「阿差」 (Achcha) are integrated together, and now we have the term 「摩囉差」 in Cantonese. When Hong Kong people say this term in an unpleasant way, it sounds like they are degrading Indians. No matter why the Hong Kong government has to set stipulation to prohibit the public to use 「阿差」 to describe Indians. It is now included in the discrimination ordinance.

In fact, there is a connection between the Upper Lascar Row and the Indians. If we trace back to early time in Hong Kong, there was a group of Indian policemen garrisoned in Hong Kong. The structure of policemen is divided in four parts: Team A is Europeans, Team B is Indians, Team C mainly consisted of local Hong Kong people. Team D members mostly came from Shan Tung in Mainland China. Gradually, it form a small community for Indians and keep developing til nowadays.[5]

Shops and products[edit]

Shop in Upper Lascar Row

Hollywood Road and Upper Lascar Row are both called as "antiques street"(古董街).

There is a wide variety of choices for you to search. For example, copper mirror, electrical fans produced ages ago, gems and jades, watches, ancient coins, vasts from Qing dynasty, stamps, newspaper, calendar etc.[6] Sometimes you can get a cheaper price if you are willing to negotiate with the retailers. After you have visited the Upper Lascar Row, it is accessible to other spots easily, like the Man Mo Temple at Hollywood Road, it just takes a minute walk to reach there. In addition, it is also convenient to walk down along the long stairs which pass through Queen's Road Central, Bonham Strand and Morrison Street, then you can go to the Wing Lok Street to buy ginseng and birdnest souvenirs. Another option is to go further and have a pleasant shopping at the Western Market.

Events[edit]

On 11 February 1911 a fire burnt Upper and Lower Lascar Row destroying 16 houses and damaging another 24.[4]

Rename incident[edit]

In 2010, 8 district officers from the Central and Western District expressed their discontent for Southern Asians. They claimed that the term 「摩羅」 in Cantonese is insulting to Indians; therefore, they requested that the Hong Kong government examine this topic once again with the hope that they would change the name of the street. However, the Lands Department rejected the request because it did not find that the meaning was offensive to Southern Asians. Some officers pointed out that this incident has reflected that the government does not face the discrimination phenomenon against ethnic minorities.

The Democratic Party criticised the government did not consider the feelings of those from Southern Asia. As they think that this term is a nickname that Hong Kong people have used to tease the Southern Asians, describing them as uncivilised, uneducated and low-income-level group. Yet, the government explained that if they change the name, the historical value and meaning will be eliminated. They also insisted that the term "Mouro" is neutral; it is unnecessary to take this action.

Other opinion addresses the problem of inconvenience. The street name "Upper Lascar Row" has been used for more than a century. Once the name is changed, residential citizens have to spend time to adapt the new conditions, for example, it affects the postal addresses and medical records up to approximately one hundred thousand people. Some of them suggest that the government should consult the public first to appraise the feasibility before taking this into practice.[7]

Nearby streets[edit]

Notable buildings and landmarks around[edit]

Public transport[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ *香港街道命名考源. 市政局刊物.
  2. ^ 穿街過巷香港地. 香港: 恩與美文化基金.
  3. ^ Chiu, chen-pong. (2009)
  4. ^ a b Section 43 "fires" of appendix P Report of the director of Public Works for the Year 1912 of the Hong Kong Government Gazette.
  5. ^ Cite error: The named reference olamacauguide.com was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  6. ^ Niu, Ru-chen. (1998). 香港全覽. Bet-Jing: Dong Fang Chu Ban She.
  7. ^ "Y Y - nȸǤQ[ ijPùW". nȸǤQ[ ijPùW - Y Y. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  8. ^ http://hk.centamap.com/gc/home.aspx
  9. ^ Cheung, Chi-Yi. 圖說香港昔日情. 香港:經要文化.
  10. ^ Leung, Beng-Wa. 中西區風物誌. [Heritage of the central and western district, Hong Kong]. 香港: 中西區臨時區議會.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cheung, Chi-Yi. 圖說香港昔日情. 香港:經要文化.
  • Cheung, Chi-Yi. '圖說香江歲月. 香港: 一點文化.
  • Leung, Beng-Wa. 中西區風物誌. [Heritage of the central and western district, Hong Kong]. 香港: 中西區臨時區議會.
  • 香港攝影熱點王. 香港:數碼雙周.
  • Go, King. 閱讀香港. 廣東:廣東人民出版社.
  • 香港街道命名考源. 市政局刊物.
  • Chong, Man-lork. (1999). 歲月留痕. [As time goes by]. 香港: 利文出版社.
  • Niu, Ru-chen. (1998). 香港全覽. Bet-Jing: Dong Fang Chu Ban She.
  • Chiu, chen-pong. (2009). 穿街過巷香港地. 香港: 恩與美文化基金.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 22°17′05″N 114°08′59″E / 22.284812°N 114.149759°E / 22.284812; 114.149759