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'.

1957 Map of Hong Kong & Kowloon

The following map is courtesy of Andrew Suddaby. He picked up this copy in 1957 during his National Service here in Hong Kong.

Cover, by Andrew Suddaby


It shows Hong Kong island's north shore and Kowloon at three different scales:

New on Gwulo: 2018, week 24

A summary of what's new and updated on Gwulo:



We're lucky to have had several interesting articles about people added to the site since the last update.

First is a memoir written by Catherine Hellevik, a Russian lady who spent several years in Hong Kong. Her memoir has many of the same ingredients we see in the life stories of other Russian men and women who arrived in Hong Kong in the 1930s-50s. First the family moved east to settle the new lands around Vladivostok, and had initial success. But then they faced a string of wars and upheavals, with the family moving to Harbin, later to Shanghai, then to Hong Kong. Catherine and her son Norman survived the Japanese occupation interned in Stanley Camp, only to have Norman die very soon after liberation due to a doctor's mistake. It would have been very easy for her to become bitter about the problems she had to face, but she ends her account:

'One does not escape one's fate, "Qui sera sera”. One had to be sensible and there was nothing to complain about. All was, and is O.K.'

Catherine Hellevik and her son Normann Hellevik
Catherine Hellevik and her son Normann Hellevik, by larspetterhellevik


Second is an extract from John Hansbury's memoir, describing his time in Hong Kong in 1946. He was a young airman with the RAF, taking one last posting before being demobbed. His account describes the tension between wanting to see more of the world, and wanting to get back to routine civilian life. It's also clear how dangerous flying was at that time - to the degree that he chose to travel back to the UK by ship rather than by air. The danger was brought home when he has to undertake a grisly task during his stay in Hong Kong, locating bodies after a plane crashed on Lantau.


Third, we have a a timeline summarising Stephen's research into the life of Alexander Findlay Smith (AFS). Stephen welcomes your corrections and/or additional information. AFS is a well known figure in Hong Kong, as he is credited with starting the Peak Tram and the Peak Hotel. Stephen is using contemporary reports to separate fact from fiction in the later accounts of AFS's achievements.


Finally, Geoff invites readers to document any "first and second hand memories from Shamshuipo of HK Volunteers POW". He's made a start, with memories of:


If you can share any memoirs, diaries, or other information about people who've lived in Hong Kong, please post them to the website, or get in touch if you need any help.


Looking for information about:


Memories of:

Hot & thirsty: the struggle to supply Hong Kong with drinking water

After an unusually hot month of May, I've been thinking about Hong Kong's drinking water. I've never had to worry about water rationing, so I take it for granted there's water in the tap. That's only a recent luxury though, as Hong Kong struggled for many years to provide its residents with enough drinking water. I'm sure many readers will remember scenes like this.

1960s Hong Kong


1960s Hong Kong


Catching the rain

Hong Kong doesn't have any large rivers or natural lakes it can rely on for fresh water, so early residents relied on

New on Gwulo: 2018, week 22

A summary of what's new and updated on Gwulo:



Looking for information about:

  • People identified in this photo include Violet Lucy Chan, Irene Cheng, Freda Gwilliam, Ann Crozier and Daisy Jex. Can you add any more names?
    • The Council of Women at the YMCA, 19th October 1953
      The Council of Women at the YMCA, 19th October 1953, by Rugosa


Memories of:

1960s Quarry Bay

1960s Quarry Bay

Where: The name of the tug, "TAI KOO" is the clue. Part of its work was to serve the Taikoo Dockyard, and that dockyard is what we can see in the foreground.

We're looking at the eastern end of the dockyard, which had three slips and a large dry dock. I guess the photographer was on board a ship that was hauled up out of the water on slip number 3, the slip at the bottom right corner of this plan.

Plan of Taikoo Dockyard


That would explain the


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