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In the northeastern fragment of the New Territories lies a cluster of beautiful, time-worn gems. Threading its way through Fanling, a pastoral byway traverses through a collection of sleepy and traditional villages established by the Tang clan, making for a thorough exhibition showing tangible pieces of authentic local culture. Journey through time and history by meandering down this historic trail in Fanling, whose origins stretch as far back as the thirteenth century—here’s how to hike the Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail.
Once upon a time, there was a hearsay tale that was passed around, recounting the story of a dragon being spotted leaping through the mountains—this was the origin of the mystical name of Lung Yeuk Tau (龍躍頭; lung4 yeuk6 tau4), which more or less translates to “Leaping Dragon.”
Boasting a claim to the throne, the lineage of the Tang clan can be traced back to the Southern Song dynasty between 1127 and 1279, when a princess fleeing the Mongol attacks had married one of their local clansmen. Following generations then built a whopping total of 11 villages for the community, five of which were walled villages (圍; wai4) that served as a protective as well as a symbolic measure against dangerous outsiders, and six tsuen (村; chyun1)—New Territories villages.
The historic Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail offers visitors a flat-paved pathway to encounter and appreciate the well-kept relics of the area, celebrating the rural heritage of Hong Kong by showcasing a plethora of monuments, ancestral halls, shrines, temples, and other aged architectural marvels.
The terrain remains flat throughout, making it a wonderful choice for a full family outing. Do be aware that there are still people living around the area, so please be considerate by keeping disturbances and noise to a minimum, as well as taking all of your rubbish along with you.
Distance: 3.4 kilometres
Total time: 2 hours
The headway of the Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail is very easy to find. As you are only a small distance away from the urban part of the district, there are heaps of shops and restaurants back in the town centre to make use of before or after your trip. It is still recommended to bring along water and essentials regardless, as it makes for good safety practices.
Though it does not require a lot of time and physical exertion to finish, it is a good idea to allocate a few hours of time to better explore and soak in everything. However, not every one of the historical structures are open to the public, and it is best to check for opening hours for the ones that are as well if you are truly keen on examining every nook and cranny.
Start your hike with a stunning attraction! Awash in tracks from decades of rain and wear, the white walls of the Tsung Kyam Church (崇謙堂) are a standing testament to the Hakka Christians who had found their place amongst the Lung Shan (龍山) spur, embedding their ecclesiastical roots.
Erected in 1903 by pastor Ling Qilian of the Basel Mission Society and Tsung Tsin Mission, it was part of his overarching goal to spread the gospel of God throughout Fanling. Its congregation, which had grouped to surround the sanctuary, gradually spread into Shung Him Tong village (崇謙堂村) over the years, forming a neighbourhood that revolved around the main chapel.
Eastward of the church sits Shek Lo (石廬; sek6 lou4), a once-majestic mansion shrouded in cascading verdant undergrowth and framed by overhanging branches. Nature had long begun its attempt to consume the construction, but the two-storey stone house still stands strong.
Once the family home of Tsui Yan-sau (徐仁壽), a Guangdong immigrant and the founder of the Wah Yan College campuses, the grand villa was built in 1924 and served as living quarters for the Tsui family up until the 1980s. Smack-dab in the centre of the parapet lies a curved arch slab that spotlights the Chinese characters of the mansion’s name. As beautiful as it is, this Grade II historical building is legally protected as private property and is not open for viewing from the inside.
A blend of Chinese and Western styles, there is a diverse array of architectural features that can be observed. The annexe of the main building showcases colonial touches in its walls, balcony, and stone columns. Under its roof are wooden purlins and battens, whilst its pitched shape is finished by traditional Chinese clay tiles, overlooking a quaint courtyard of the same Eastern convention.
Return to the path and you will encounter the first walled village on the trail. Marked by a green and white sign, the entrance of Ma Wat Wai (麻笏圍) provides a jarring contrast to the modern houses directly behind it. A declared monument, this brownstone entryway dates back to the Qing dynasty.
“Wat Chung” (欝葱) is carved into russet sandstone in the arch overhead, alluding to the scallion vegetable and the origins of the village’s name, which was possibly once known as “Wat Chung Wai” (欝葱圍). Initially, there used to be a watchtower on each squared-off corner of the walled village, caging in an organised row of houses abutted by a communal altar. Although most sections along the walls are gone now, don’t take this as an invitation to enter, as the area is a residential zone.
Head along the path from the initial direction taken, then opt for the path on the right, forging ahead until you catch sight of the brick walls of Lo Wai (老圍). In case its moniker has not clued you in, this is, in fact, the first walled village in Lung Yeuk Tau to be built by the Tang clan.
Perched on a slightly raised mound, the quadrilateral brick wall had previously served as a line of defence, with its original entrance facing north. Now east-facing, the entry was changed in order to improve feng shui, providing a complement to the well-arranged houses lining the inside.
If you are surprised by how clean and well-preserved the structure is, you have the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust to thank, as there was a massive restoration effort over 20 years ago that helped the place regain its sparkle, and to bestow Lo Wai its status as a declared monument.
Continue along the main trail. A sitting-out area with a pagoda-style roof will signal you to the Tin Hau temple to your right. Deeply entrenched within the local culture, no matter where you wind up in Hong Kong, you will definitely encounter a place of worship dedicated to this goddess of the seas!
Although Fanling is far from the coastline, natives still devoted a space to the worship of Tin Hau, fitted with shrines for her two guards of honour, Chin Lei Ngan (千里眼) and Shun Fung Yi (順風耳), as well as To Tei (土地公; tou2 dei6 gung1), the god of the earth. Two historic bells have been integrated into the temple, serving as totems of thanks towards the goddess from grateful villagers.
As if to stand guard over the community, right beside the shrine sits the Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall (松嶺鄧公祠), which has functioned as the centralised palace of remembrance for generations of Tang clan descendants. Enter through the traditional screen doors (擋中; dong2 jung1) put in place to ward off evil spirits, and you will discover that the resting place branches into three core halls. The central portion holds the ever-important stone memorial tablet for the Song dynasty princess and her Tang husband, replete with the imperial symbol of a carved dragon head.
Around the building are altars with objects, arranged under intricate wooden beams, brackets, and eave boards. Murals filled with auspicious symbols abound, pointing to the commemorative relics for the princess’s loyal servant on the one side, and for important past members of the clan on the other.
Return to the main road and keep advancing along the same path. Once you reach the children’s playground, treat it as an anchor point to make your way around, going down the small alley to your right into the village. A handful of steps later and you will reach the front entrance of the walled Tung Kok Wai (東閣圍), otherwise known as Ling Kok Wai (嶺角圍).
Although the land has receded down, the raised steps in front of the door hearken back to the thirteenth century, when the front of the wall was built on a raised platform to protect the village against flooding. Quite invisible in today’s light, there was once a moat that surrounded the outlining circumference of the wall, along with watchtowers stationed along its edges.
Unfortunately, both are features that have since been phased away, with the front entrance reconstructed in 1953. You might not be able to head inside, but if you want to take a peek, you may be able to spot the lost sandstone bases and square-shaped blocks within, which were rumoured to be the foundations of a now-disappeared temple.
Make your way back up to the street by retracing your steps. Not long after, you will get to Wing Ning Tsuen (永寧村) and the half-crumbled arch of Wing Ning Wai (永寧圍). Nicknamed in reference to the unique red soil in the area, this village has a short history of around three hundred years, exhibiting a descending layout in which housing at the back is raised higher than the ones at the front, allegedly as a set-up for good feng shui. Avoid entering the neighbourhood as you might disturb residents.
Do another U-turn to return to the main pathway. From here on, it’s a simple journey. Emerging at Sha Tau Kok Road, you will start seeing the bustle of cars and transport again. Make your way across, and go along the narrow alley that stems from the tutoring centre right beside the crossing.
From this path, you will be led towards the walls of San Wai (新圍), which proudly boasts a beautiful brick façade with bold red lettering and couplets adorning the front. Its exteriors are made of granite, hinting at its more recent construction. Unfortunately, the houses past the wall have also been replaced with newer models in place of traditional ones, and are not available for public viewing.
Onwards to the final stop on this historic trail—simply keep on the main pathway in the same northbound direction. Our last pitstop shows Siu Hang Tsuen (小坑村), which stands on two centuries of history. Settlers from Lo Wai and members of the clan who did not find enough living space moved over to establish the village, building new houses and splitting into their own pocket of community.
A fact that may not have been obvious at first glance, the archway at the east-side entrance was a newer addition from the 1960s, built to generate desired feng shui to bolster the chances of a male heir—this is to continue the generational claim to the Tang land. A tiny worship space dedicated to the Earth god stands right outside. Once you are ready to head back, from that part of the village, you may look for the green 56C minibus, which will take you back to the Fanling MTR station.