Kowloon Walled City
Here I got a photo book which is titled "City of Darkness: Life of
Kowloon Walled City" by Greg Girard and Ian Lambot. (Published in
1993 for original edition) The photo book is about the slams in collective
buildings which used to be in Hong Kong. The buildings were built one after
another without planning. Eventually it became the chaotic concrete maze.
Well, it's not one solid labyrinth in exact. As same as other old type
Hong Kong residence each building was independent. So If you want to go
to next building, you have to go down to the ground floor once then move
to the next.
Hallways were clattered by garbage. Water dripped from the water pipe on the ceilings. The residents always threaten by the possibility of fire and collapse. The labyrinth was pulled down in 1993. The residents let moved out with some compensation by the government.
After the government's announcement of demolition, the photographer and
illustrator got start their project for record the life in Kowloon Walled
city. They photographed portraits and interviewed to the residents. Maybe
one of the most detailed record about the residents. Because it's the place
where hesitated to visit not only tourist but also Hong Kong citizen.
I think my generation is on the border between people who know the actual
Kowloon Walled City and who don't. I was early twenties those days. Around
1990, when the demolition was announced, Japanese media often picked up
the topic. Just before a air plane landing at Kai Tak air port (The old
HK apt.) the passengers saw the decayed buildings and hundreds of TV antennas
on the roof top below their eyes. What they saw would be talked as some
story from HK journey afterward.
Around me there were lot of strange rumor about the Kowloon Walled City.
There were diners which served dog meat. You could get lost easily and
would never come out. You would be snatched all of your properties inside.
In the worst case, you yourself would be sold away to another country ...
etc. Some tourists who had curiosity actually got there and photographed
it from outside. The others told that they had hired a guide and stepped
into entry part of the labyrinth. For me? Just listened the story of the
However as reading the photo book, I gradually got to know that I just believe the rumor without knowing historical back ground of Kowloon Walled City.
The book said the dog meat shops actually exist until 60s. Full of gambles,
prostitution or drug abuse through 50s and 60s. But no more after 70s.
The residents made a community. There was a factory, store, preschool,
church, dentist or guardian even though most of them are unauthorized.
This inner society was completed. Meanwhile the society was out saucing
a lot of products to the outer world. Plastic toys, golf balls, fish sausages
... they were dealt in outer market quite normally.
The history of Kowloon Wall City was much longer than I thought. In 1843, Chinese government settled their counter part against Britain's occupation to HK. After that Britain and China struggled over possession of Kowloon Walled City. Before long migrant people came and stayed. They protested against government's enforcement to remove. Once surrounding wall was settled. Then it's destroyed. In WWII, Japanese Army invaded to Hong Kong and broke into the city. Really hard time for the residents.
The war was over and Kowloon Walled City was not governed by China nor Britain. The residents had lived peacefully in the blank area.
A shabby building declined and learned against the next building. The next
one supported by the others. In the same way community members supported
each other. Eventually the population of the unauthorized residents reached
to 35,000 in late 80s.
In 1993, Kowloon Castle quietly closed a hundred year history. May be not so many HK citizens know actual Kowloon Walled City now. The history has been always told in shadow. In near future the memories would be erased as not so important things.
My first visit to Hong Kong was 2006. The slams were demolished long before and it turned to a tidy park. For this issue, I tried to find the snap photo. Although I couldn't find even the photo of the memorial park. The clipping photo is a typical high story residence of HK. In modern architecture, of course a buildings never declined and supported by the next. Maybe it became rare people supporting each other in the community.
" Gage " Hong Kong 2011