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Behind the Name: Sheung Sze Wan

By Celia Lee 30 January 2024

Header image courtesy of Nhk9 (via Wikimedia Commons)

If you already know all about Hong Kong’s major landmarks, you will be interested to learn that the vibrant history of the city is often hidden in plain sight, surrounded by high-rises interspersed with traffic-packed streets.

With the best-kept historical secrets woven into the fabric of everyday life, location names are a big part of our rich cultural landscape, revealing some of the most interesting aspects of the past. From local pirates to a royal visit, our “Behind the Name” series explores a whole host of places in Hong Kong with fascinating stories behind their names.

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Photo: Underwaterbuffalo (via Wikimedia Commons)

A lesser-known bay located west of the Clearwater Bay Country Park, the beauty of the name “Sheung Sze Wan” is most certainly lost in translation. “相思” (soeng1 si1) is a Chinese verb designating the longing between lovers when they are apart—a terribly romantic name for a picturesque beachside village. However, while the origins of this name have been lost to time, the history of the village doesn’t seem to reflect the same amorous and whimsical nature.

Photo: Nhk9 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Sheung Sze Wan is closely connected to pirates, and not in a good way. Villagers today still recount stories passed down orally through the generations, recalling a time when the bay suffered countless raids by pirates and their ancestors worked together to ward off these attacks by blocking out the shore with piles of rocks so pirates could not dock—a practice that sparked a ritual offering to stone as gratitude for its protection. Later, Sheung Sze Wan’s defences would advance to the offensive with a cannon, the remnants of which still remain in the village today.

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Celia Lee

Staff writer

Born and raised in Hong Kong and educated in the UK, Celia is passionate about culture, food, and different happenings in the city. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her scouting for new and trendy restaurants, getting lost in a bookstore, or baking up a storm at home.

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