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7 oldest structures in Hong Kong you have to visit

By Enoch Ngan 15 November 2022

Header image courtesy of Daniel Fung (via Shutterstock)

Hong Kong is one of the most developed mega-cities in the world, and its rise to a major global financial centre from an obscure fishing port took decades of development. Even on its rapid journey to modernise, the city has been able to preserve a number of rich historical sites that many Hongkongers might be unaware of. Below, we list some of the oldest structures in Hong Kong that are still standing today—pay them a visit before they vanish!

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Photo: Daniel Fung (via Shutterstock)
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1881 Heritage (1884)

As the name suggests, this cultural landmark has been around since the late 1800s. However, the building actually finished construction in 1884 as the Marine Police Headquarters. During the Japanese occupation in World War II, the Japanese navy used the compound to build extensive tunnel networks for their bases. When they left in 1945, these tunnels were blocked in order to keep the public safe. The compound was returned to the Marine Police and rebranded as the T-Lands Police Station before being abandoned in 1996.

Luckily for us, the story doesn’t end there. In 2002, in addition to the Old Kowloon Fire Station, the compound was renovated into a shopping mall to include a hotel and exhibition hall for international visitors. Additionally, this beautiful monument is situated right next to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong Space Museum, Hong Kong Museum of Art, and Kowloon Park. If you plan on dropping by any one of these cultural establishments, you might as well check out 1881 Heritage on nearby Canton Road.

1881 Heritage, 2A Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2926 8000

Photo: YSC Fan (via Wikimedia Commons)
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Cape D’Aguilar Lighthouse (1875)

Hong Kong has been an international trade hub for over a century, even before cross-continental networking was modernised in the last few decades. At the time, the city prospered as a successful trading port for China to access other countries around the world.

When the Suez Canal opened in 1869, Hong Kong excelled in the trading industry, constructing multiple lighthouses across its many dispersed islands as guidance for the dozens of ships flocking in and out of the city. Although the 158 Lighthouse was planned for construction on Waglan Island and Gap Rock, these islands were deemed too far out of Hong Kong waters, and the construction plans were eventually settled for Cape D’Aguilar.

Since the construction of Cape D’Aguilar Lighthouse in 1875, the 9.7-metre-tall lighthouse served its purpose for a solid 18 years before being replaced by a more up-to-date lighthouse on Waglan Island. Despite this, the lighthouse still stands today as the oldest pre-war lighthouse in Hong Kong and was declared a monument in 2006.

Cape D’Aguilar Lighthouse, Shek O

Photo: Hong Kong Home Affairs Department
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Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall (1525)

Having been in existence for almost 500 years, the Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall is an exceptionally well-preserved ancestral hall in Hong Kong. In 1525, the Tang clan built the main hall in Lung Yeuk Tau in memory of its founding ancestor, Tang Chung Ling. The three bays in the rear hall also house soul tablets of the clan’s ancestors. With exquisitely crafted fine wood carvings, mouldings, and sculptures decorated around the hall, this structure should definitely be on your next travel plan around the New Territories.

Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall, Fanling

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Photo: Rotatebot (via Wikimedia Commons)
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Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda (1368–1398)

Aside from ancestral halls, the prolific Tang clan also built a variety of other culturally distinct structures. The Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda stands as one of the only surviving ancient pagodas in Hong Kong. It is said that the hexagonal-shaped pagoda was constructed during the Hongwu reign of the Ming dynasty and that it originally had a total of seven storeys.

Now, the grey-bricked structure, surrounded by modern high-rise buildings and relaxing greenery, stands at 13 metres tall with three stories. Within the pagoda, you can find a statue dedicated to Fui Shing, the Chinese deity who controls success.

Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda, Ping Shan Heritage Trail, Tin Shui Wai

Photo: Underwaterbuffalo (via Wikimedia Commons)
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Tin Hau Temple, Joss House Bay (1266)

The Tin Hau Temple at Joss House Bay is one of the most well-preserved buildings in Hong Kong despite being built in 1266. Classified as a Grade I historic building by the Antiquities Advisory Committee, it is nicknamed “the Big Temple” due to the size and age of the monument. Its profile has been kept through multiple renovations from 1800 to 2010.

Legend has it that this particular place of worship was built in honour of the Chinese goddess Tin Hau by two brothers during the Song dynasty. One day, the two capsized while out at sea, and they called out for Tin Hau’s help to save them from drowning. Eventually, they drifted onto the shore of Joss House Bay, and they built the temple to show their gratitude to the goddess. Before your visit, do note that on the twenty-third day of the third Lunar month, thousands of worshippers gather at this temple for the Tin Hau Festival.

Tin Hau Temple, Joss House Bay, Clear Water Bay

Photo: Mk2010 (via Wikimedia Commons)
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Tung Chung Fort (1174–1189)

Declared a monument in 1979, the Tung Chung Fort is one of Hong Kong’s earliest recognised historical structures since its construction in the twelfth century. During the Qing dynasty, the Tung Chung Fort was also referred to as the Tung Chung Battalion City and was used as the naval headquarters of the Right Battalion Dapeng. It was then leased to the British in 1898 as a police station before being transferred to the Wa Ying College, the Rural Committee Office, and the Public Primary School of Tung Chung.

Tung Chung Fort, Tung Chung Road, Tung Chung

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Photo: Baycrest (via Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-2.5)
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Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb (25–220)

During the levelling of a hill slope at the Lei Cheng Uk Village in 1955, the government uncovered a tomb that dates back to 25–220 AD of the Eastern Han dynasty. In 1988, the gazetted monument was permanently preserved with all its tomb bricks and finds inscribed along the structure. Due to conservation reasons, the tomb remains closed to this day, although the public is allowed to glimpse within the interior through a glass panel.

Adjacent to the tomb is an exhibition hall that displays the pottery and bronze wares found within the tomb. The Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb is regarded as Hong Kong’s oldest structure; hence, fans of history should put this free exhibition at Sham Shui Po on their visit list.

Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb, 41 Tonkin Street, Sham Shui Po | (+852) 2386 2363

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Enoch Ngan

Writer

Enoch is an Asian-American born in California who studied in Hong Kong when he was younger. While in Hong Kong, he enjoys going on hikes with breathtaking scenery and catching up with old friends and family. If you ever see him around, he always has music playing in the background, whether that be exploring the city or simply relaxing at home.

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