Print

Early Development of Hong Kong

Overview

In the pre-war years, the Hong Kong Government concentrated efforts in developing the coastal areas on both sides of Victoria Harbour. To the administration, remote places in the southern corner of Hong Kong Island were somewhat beyond reach. It proved to be a blessing in disguise because it helped to preserve the picturesque natural settings and virgin landscapes of Southern District that we now cherish so dearly, and many religious and folk customs are handed down to this day. In the 1970's, Hong Kong's economy took flight. Land prices have escalated since then, and the Southern District has developed into an ideal location for modern industry and commerce as well as an attractive residential area. One of the most charismatic districts in Hong Kong, it features traditional Chinese folk culture alongside western religious colour, vintage classic architecture next to modern towers, traditional fishing bustling side by side with modern industries, rustic historic villages neighbouring on skyscraping housing estates. It is a wonderful fusion of past and present, contemporary and old-fashioned. Complementing this unique character are long sinuous coastlines and undulating peaks which make this district buzzing with cultural flavour and natural beauty.
The Story Behind the Name "Hong Kong"

Many places in the Southern District date back a long time in history. For example, accounts on Stanley, Tai Tam and Pokfulam can be found in ancient Chinese chronicles. It is evident that this area was developed much earlier than other parts of Hong Kong Island. The British knew about the Southern District long before the colonial days because many British ships stopped over Hong Kong Village here for food and fresh water supplies on their way to the Far East. When the British seamen asked the locals what this place was called, they said Hong Kong. The name stuck and soon the whole island was known as Hong Kong. Judging by the transliteration "Hong Kong", the local fisherman who spoke to the seamen was most probably Tanka (coastal boat people) who spoke with an accent.
Origins and Livelihoods of Settlers

Studies have shown that early settlers of Hong Kong Island came from several origins. The very first settlers arrived in the Southern Song dynasty. They were followers of Emperor who sailed down south in refuge. After losing the battle they stayed behind and led a reclusive lives as fishermen. The second flow of migrants arrived at the turn of the Ming and Qing dynasties. They were Puntis from coastal counties who were fleeing from roving bandits and the Manchurians. These settlers spoke Cantonese and farmed the land. The third flow of migrants came to Hong Kong Island in the 8th Year of the Kangxi reign in the early Qing dynasty. They were encouraged by the Guangdong administration to migrate here from Fujian, Jiangxi and North Guangdong during the reinstatement of coastal border. They were mostly Hakka people speaking the Hakka dialect. Fishing was their livelihood.
Development in Early Colonial Days

Before Hong Kong became a city and port, Stanley had the largest population and the relatively strong local economy. Many foreign merchants and seamen came ashore here. Guided by the local Tankas they explored the whole island, travelling along the southern shore to Deepwater bay, Repulse Bay, Hong Kong Wai (Old Wong Chuk Hang Wai) and Pokfulam where they climbed the uplands to reach the northern part of Hong Kong Island known as Central today. In the early years of the city, the British earmarked Stanley and Hong Kong Village as development bases initially. However, the scarcity of land and threats from coastal pirates discouraged them. More importantly, freshwater from wells was often polluted and epidemics were common. Many British military officers and merchants died as a result. The British decided to base their development along the northern coast. Many pirates had their strongholds in Aberdeen and Stanley. They robbed merchant ships sailing past and often caused loss of lives and properties. The pirate problem made voyaging merchants terror-stricken and troubled the Hong Kong Government. Eventually the authority took resolute action and rooted them out. In 1894, a navy unit was sent by the government to suppress two major groups of pirates led by Tsui Ah Bo and Shup Ng Tsai respectively. Since then the southern coast was relatively peaceful.
The Japanese Occupation

Hong Kong was occupied by Japanese troops for three years and eight months between 1941 and 1945. During this period many churches, monasteries and schools were appropriated and western priests and teachers were imprisoned in Stanley. Large schools in the Southern District, such as St. Stephen’s College and Aberdeen Technical School, had to suspend classes and many teachers were killed. School facilities were badly damaged.