Project Background

'Habitat' is a focus on exploring the essence of life and possible art programs, planning to start by the local, progressive observation, exploration, understanding and research, and art or published works for the final form of expression. From the natural ecology to the historical deeds, to images and text to match the old people and the current life of the context. In the practical information based on the text, images, editing and design, the heart works and Shui Mei. And ultimately hope that through the process of work to answer the question of the heart: what kind of place and residence, it can be called 'can' stay home? And how can we create our own living environment?

New Book, Exhibition & Talk - Foo Tak Building

Following the Book Launch – A Living Space: The Homes of Pak Sha O in October, kaitak, Centre for Research and ...

A Living Space : Homes of Pak Sha O - Book Launch

Nothing can replace the archival function of a book, it is especially obvious when one hold this 322–page ...

【新書推介】《可以居》 - 黃志俊

(Contents are in Chinese Only)




在電車被質疑因為沒有價值而要從生活中絕跡,走入博物館;在古老事物因為不及保育標 ...

【郊野老村】野外本可居? 尋訪百年老村白沙澳(文:趙曉彤)

編按:「郊野應否建屋」的討論不絕於耳,然而,早在一百年前,就有人在新界深山原野 ...

Exhibiton and Talk x Lawnmap

Lawnmap showcases a series of paintings of the beautiful natural landscapes of Pak Sha O as depicted by 2 painters, ...

Exhibition And Talk × Makee

Makee showcases a series of functional objects and utensils that we collected from the villagers, each with its own ...

  • Published publications - A Living Space : Homes of Pak Sha O
  • A Living Space: The Homes of Pak Sha O

    I still remember how amazed I was when Mr Alan Yung gave me the genealogy book of his family, which was written and compiled by his great-grandfather Yung Si-chiu, a man of great vision. It begins with the legendary leaders of ancient China known as Three Sovereigns, the Heavenly Sovereign, Earthly Sovereign and Tai Sovereign. Not only did Yung Si-chiu’s respect for his ancestry and history connect him to his previous generations, but his longing also extended to as far as the beginning of the world. After studying it, I seemed to have understood more how the ancient influenced modern society and culture.

    “A Living Space” is not meant to be a local history project, but we often came across the history of Pak Sha O while researching and listening to stories of our interviewees. As an art project, it gives us an opportunity to ponder upon what
    “a living space” means to us and how we create our own living space.
    A Living Space is divided into three parts, namely “Pak Sha O Ha Yeung: The Legend of Yung Si-chiu”, “A Fresh Start for an Old House” and “Daily Life in Pak Sha O”.

    We have interviewed members of three descending generations of Yung Si-chiu (1875–1944), who settled down with his family in Pak Sha O Ha Yeung at the beginning of the 20th century. They are his daughter Yung Mun-giu, his grandson Ken Yung and his great-grandson Alan Yung who live in Shenzhen in China, Hoi Ha and Tai Po respectively. The legend of Yung Si-chiu started when he decided to build his estate in Pak Sha O Ha Yeung. The house named “King Siu Sai Kui” in Cantonese was erected in 1918, with “Sai Kui” meaning “a home for generations”. In 1987, Dr Patrick Hase, former District Officer of Shatin, acquired Yung Si-chiu's books, hand-copied texts and loose documents from Yun Mun-giu. Now they are the most comprehensive materials to date on Hong Kong folk culture. Through Yung's book collection and interviews with his descendants, we have understood more about village life in Sai Kung in early colonial Hong Kong, as well as the struggle between colonial values and traditional Chinese mentality when Hong Kong was under British rule.

    “Pak Sha O Ha Yeung: The Legend of Yung Si-chiu” is a story written by Sim Lau about four generations of the Yung clan. It is woven together with facts and anecdotes obtained from more than ten interviews and is told by a fictitious “me” in imagined settings, in which one can also learn about the history of Hong Kong. Our contributing artists Ng Sai Kit, Ho Man Kei and Matthew Kwan used their cameras to explore the nature and wildlife of Pak Sha O. Their works are presented in juxtaposition with words, while the other images in this book include old aerial photos of the area. In the vintage photos taken from a bird's eye view, you can almost see children running and playing in the fields and catching crabs. I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Ken Yung and Mr Danny Ho for providing us old photos of the Yung and Ho clans. The friendship between the two families has spanned several generations because of their bond as Hakkas

    and a close geographical proximity to each other. Danny Ho is a descendant of Ho Yik-gou (1862–1953), an old family friend of Yung Si-chiu. The Ho and Yung residences, located in Pak Sha O village and Pak Sha O Ha Yeung respectively, are only separated by a road. The history of the Ho family is also of academic interest and is seen in local historical records. What's more, Mr Yung has prepared for us several pages of hand-written notes about his time abroad, which added a first-person point of view to the book. There were hard times when he was away from home, but he still managed to find amusement out of seemingly trivial things in life. He has included his favourite riddle in his notes, a childhood memory he still treasures after 70 years: “It grew tall with a dense green drapery when fresh; it turned yellow and lost its green when taken hold of by man; it has gone through storms and torments in life; once it is lifted, its tears run down into the winding river. What is it?” I believe it is almost impossible for modern people, me included, to guess the answer, which you can find at the end of his notes.

    Since the 1980s, the Yung residence has been rented to Mr Toby Emmet, former Senior Assistant Commissioner of the Royal Hong Kong Police who retired before 1997. The second part of the book, “A Fresh Start for an Old House”, is about how he became a long-term resident of the house and his life there. The story, written by Sim Lau, is based on his interviews and can be read together with “The Legend of Yung Si-chiu”. It was our pleasure to get to know Toby. He has been putting in immense efforts to maintain the Yung residence and the old objects inside, so that the younger generations of the clan can pay respect to their ancestors in a decent environment. He used to look after two family members who have since passed away, the elderly widows of Yung Yuk-ming and Yung Yuk-sing, the second and third sons of Yung Si-chiu. It was moving to see him put his heart and soul into the restoration and work on it with his own hands. He collected restoration materials from a prison, removed the rocks in front of the house and in the stream, kept goats behind the house to prevent weeds from taking over the estate, turned a wooden electric pylon into a dining table, designed a cat tunnel connecting the windows to the lawn, and even built a birdhouse big enough for hundreds of birds. He has definitely made a fresh start for the old house.

    Among the foreigners who settled down in Hong Kong during the colonial times, some of them came to seek adventures, some were offered a job with a good pay, and some others came for better opportunities and career paths. After a while, they decided to stay on. Most of the foreign interviewees in this book are keen hikers who discovered Pak Sha O decades ago and were fascinated by its scenery. But at the same time, the living conditions of indigenous villagers were threatened by reservoir and roadway constructions nearby (as seen in Danny Ho's self-narration). Therefore, the locals had to look for jobs in the city or try their luck abroad, leaving their houses behind that started to deteriorate and collapse like a person without a soul. As a coincidence, those nature-loving foreigners became their tenants and renovated the old houses into holiday lodges. Not only did these new residents improve the interior and the surroundings of the properties, they also created a more positive vibe in the village different from in the past when villagers had to struggle to survive. The story of Ho Lai Sheung and Alan Pickford is impressive. The couple left Hong Kong early on and spent some time

    in the UK. Then, they got to know an indigenous Pak Sha O resident in Chinatown who offered them to stay in his house in Hong Kong. The idea was particularly attractive to Lai who was feeling homesick. That was how the couple ended up moving back to Hong Kong and staying in Pak Sha O for a considerable period of time until Alan passed away. During their time in Pak Sha O, their lifestyle was not much different from that of the indigenous residents. The changes brought about by foreign tenants like Toby Emmet are worth further study, as they are good examples of how a place and its culture can be conserved in modern times.

    “Daily Life in Pak Sha O” consists of stories of present and former Pak Sha O villagers illustrated by photos from their personal archives, along with new photos taken by Hsu Wai Lun at each house. This chapter gives us a better picture of the village, as well as how Eastern and Western cultures blend into one or confront each other. Sometimes, our interviewees narrated the same events from different perspectives, which shows how people relate to places and happenings in their own ways. They also told us about how they maintained the old village houses on a regular basis. Many of the Pak Sha O villagers are eccentrically talented people who have experienced colourful episodes in their lives and are equipped with all sorts of skills and knowledge. They work together as a team to keep the village running and alive. David, a snake and turtle expert, is often out on a mission to “rescue” other villagers from snake attacks that happen frequently in Sai Kung. About eight years ago, I came across Pak Sha O village for the very first time. I was mesmerised by its beauty and lingered there longer than I should have, ending up missing the last minibus to Sai Kung Town Centre. But luckily, I met David and he gave me a ride into town. That event really shows how warm and kind people are in Pak Sha O.

    In recent years, real estate developers and corporations have been ambitious in developing the so-called country park enclaves in Hong Kong. As a result of insufficient legal protection, these enclaves including Pak Sha O Ha Yeung and Pak Sha O village are vulnerable to large-scale acquisition and development. If even a lively, intact but hidden Hakka village fails to be preserved in Hong Kong, then the future development of the city will definitely be against the people, not for them. Instead of keeping monuments for the sake of historical value, I'd rather people say they want to maintain a living community and conserve an old family village with care and love, so that younger generations of Hong Kong are able to add a little more poetry into their lives. Most of the family villages in Pak Sha O were established by immigrating ancestors who worked very hard to make the place more comfortable for living. After generations of endeavour, a thriving community slowly took shape. Shortly before the release of this book, we were informed that Mr Danny Ho had actually started renovating the Ho residence for his retirement. How wonderful it is to know he is moving back to his home village.

    To study the issues arising from present land policies, we explored the villages and observed closely; we collected photos, texts and documents related to Pak Sha O; we interviewed present and former residents; we discussed and created art works. We did all these things in attempt to know more about its living environment and the stories behind. By piecing together images and words on topics spanning from nature to history, we let our readers travel back in time based on both reality and fiction. This is not a systematic academic research but an art project sparked by our “excessive” curiosity. We asked plenty of questions and tried to understand everything from the tiniest details to the fuller picture of an event. A Living Space is essentially about how we understand and create things. This is a book about people's lives, environments, artistic creations, connections and attitudes. With facts and findings as the backbone of this project, we allow ourselves to be creative in terms of writing, photography, editorial ideas and design, through which we try to answer two questions: Where is a good place to live? How do we create our own living space? We haven't found the answers yet. Perhaps it is like trying to grasp the notion of “how to live an unregrettable life”. We have to spend a lifetime exploring, observing and experiencing with patience. I hope this book can inspire the reader to live life differently.

    Ki Wong
    April 2015

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