Gwulo: Old Hong Kong


Welcome to, and over 30,000 pages about old Hong Kong.

If it's your first visit, you might like to use the search box at the top of the page to find what you're looking for, check out the latest old photos, or just scroll down to browse through recent articles.

I hope you'll join in too, and share your questions and knowledge with us. Most pages let you leave a comment, it's easy to upload a photo, and the Forum is waiting for you to post a new message.

Finally, if you're interested in Hong Kong history, please stay in touch by signing up for Gwulo's free weekly newsletter.

Kind regards,


PS 'Gwu lo' is roughly how '古老' sounds in Cantonese. It means 'ancient' or 'old-fashioned'.

New on Gwulo: 2021, week 48

A look at what's new on the Gwulo website...



I'm currently working on the upgrade of to the next version of the Drupal software that runs the website. The first stage was to migrate all the data from the current site to the new version - all the photos, people, places, etc., and all the connections and tags that link the different pages together. That work is finished - or at least I know how to do it, which was the time-consuming part. There will be another migration needed when it is time to switch over to the new website, but that should just take a few days.

The second stage of the project is to maintain as many as possible of the current website's features. Time to get programming!

The first programming job was to recreate the 'Zoom' we use to enlarge photos. Unfortunately this feature wasn't included in the new version of Drupal, but I'm happy to say I got our own home-made version of Zoom working over the weekend. My programming skills are definitely rusty, but they'll get better with practice.

So, lots left to do, but we're moving in the right direction.







80 years ago: Hong Kong's wartime diaries

December, 1941.

80 years ago tensions were high as war with Japan seemed inevitable. On December 8th, those fears were confirmed when Japanese planes attacked Kai Tak, and Japanese soldiers crossed the border into the New Territories. The fighting continued until the British surrendered on Christmas Day.

The end of the fighting marked the beginning of the Japanese occupation, a time of great hardship for Hong Kong's residents. They would have to endure for three years and eight months, until the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, and Hong Kong was liberated shortly afterwards.


What was it like?

Let the people who lived through these times tell you themselves.

A new cycle of Hong Kong's wartime diaries has just begun, where a daily email message shows you a selection of diary entries written 80 years ago.

If you look at yesterday's diary entries, from 4 Dec 1941, you'll see Barabara Anslow doubting that war could be averted, the Ziegler family moving to the 'safety' of Kowloon from their house on Cheung Chau, and Alec Potts busy handling transport for the HKVDC.

You can click here to sign up and receive the day's diary entries by e-mail each morning. It's free of charge, your details stay private, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

But if you stay subscribed, you'll follow the authors through the fighting & surrender, the long internment in Stanley Camp with its highs and lows, then finally the liberation in 1945. It's a different way to get an idea of what the diarists experienced, following them day by day over several years.

The first cycle started back in 2011 with just two diaries, plus Brian Edgar's thoughtful commentary. Since then we've added many more diaries, so if you subscribed several years ago you may want to subscribe again to see this extra material.

The diary entries from 8 Dec 1941 show how the project has grown. You'll see they start with the original three: R E Jones's diary, Brian's 'Chronology', and Barbara Anslow's diary. But scroll down and you'll see entries from 13 more authors that have been added since.


More examples of the daily messages

Here are extracts from the messages you'll receive:

  • 7 Dec 1941: "There must be something in the wind, G.H.Q. staff are preparing to move into Battle HQ, a huge underground structure just behind the Garrison Sgts. Mess."


Extract from Barbara Anslow's Diary

Extract from Barbara Anslow's Diary: "war had been declared"

  • 8 Dec 1941: "I started my birthday with a war. Kowloon bombed about 8AM."
  • 10 Dec 1941: "Sid has been wounded.  Bullet through shoulder.  He told Hospital to phone Mum at the Jockey Club and she went to see him."
  • 13 Dec 1941: "We hear rumours that

New on Gwulo: 2021, week 47

A look at what's new on the Gwulo website...





Christmas gift idea - a Gwulo book:

Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell, Volumes 1 - 4


My books are an easy choice if you're shopping for a friend who is curious about Hong Kong and its past, but you might also consider giving a copy to an elderly friend or relative who grew up here. Customers who've done this tell me they've enjoyed looking at the photos and stories together, and that the books have been good conversation starters, rekindling old memories.

Four-covers - no shading.jpg


If you haven't seen the books yet, you can download sample chapters by clicking on these links: Volume 1 / Volume 2 / Volume 3 / Volume 4


And if you'd like to buy a copy, you've got several options:

  1. Pick up a copy at your local book shop.
  2. Order direct from Gwulo to get free shipping and the option for signed copies - When you've placed your order you'll receive an order confirmation email. If you'd like your book(s) signed, please reply to that message as follows:
    If you'd like ... you send the reply ... and I'll write ...
    Standard signature Please sign With best wishes,
    Standard + names Please sign to Emma and John To Emma and John,
    with best wishes,
    Custom message Please sign: A gift from Ann and Charles A gift from Ann and Charles


  3. Finally, the books are also available to order from and (affiliate links)




New on Gwulo: 2021, week 46

A look at what's new on the Gwulo website...





During the week I called in to Wattis Fine Art to see their current exhibition. On the left as you walk in to their gallery, there's a 1946 poster of the Tiger Balm Gardens.

Tiger Balm Garden.jpg


Two Chinese-style bridges at centre-left caught my eye:

Bridges east of Tiger Balm Gardens


They're outside the gardens, so my first reaction is that the bridges came from the artist's imagination, adding a bit of interest to an otherwise dull section of the poster. But recent conversations about the three pavilions on the hillside above the gardens reached the conclusion they were built as an extension to the gardens, even though they're outside the gardens' land. So, did these bridges actually exist too?


Another recent topic on Gwulo popped up at the end of the exhibition, in this map of the New Territories drawn by R C Hurley in 1925:

New Territories 1925


Here's a closer look at the area I was interested in. The Kowloon reservoirs are at bottom right, above them is the text 'TUNNELS', and a dashed line to the left shows the tunnels' route.

Tunnels Kowloon 1925


On a hike last year I passed this channel, with water flowing out from a large pipe and into a nearby tunnel:

Channel leading to the water tunnel under Smugglers Ridge


Further investigation showed it was the entrance to the North Tunnel, part of the project to bring water from the Shing Mun Valley to the Kowloon reservoirs, and one of the tunnels shown on Hurley's map. It might seem an odd item to get such a prominent mention, but the tunnels were being built as the map was drawn (the North Tunnel was completed in 1926), and Hong Kong's frequent water shortages meant the project was big news.


Those are just two items from either end of the exhibition. In the middle there's lots more to see, with a selection of rare prints and photos of old Hong Kong to enjoy. If you'd like to visit, don't wait too long as the exhibition closes on December 3rd: exhibition highlights, address, and opening hours.




New on Gwulo: 2021, week 45

A look at what's new on the Gwulo website...






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