Shophouses - Yik Yam Street | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Shophouses - Yik Yam Street

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Shophouses - Yik Yam Street
I don't believe this one is on the Batgung website so I am not sure if it qualifies as a shophouse. May be Readers T and Phil can assess that.


Sophia, thanks for posting.

I read once that if the balcony is built like this without any supporting pillars, then it is a sign that the building was built after the war. Can anyone confirm?

Hi there,

I believe they are called Tenant Houses.  Some are pre-WWII.

Best Regards,


I've often wondered about the status of that building. It' at least half empty, in a bad state of repair (the back is a right mess and the ground floor is dark and eerie). Wondering if a developer owns it and is waiting to kick final tenants out. It's on a busy road in central Happy Valley. There are a couple of other double tenant houses like this design nearby - both are well looked after and occupied.

It's a great looking building. Needs a bit of love and attention just like most other buildings of similar ilk.

Hi T,

Please can you describe any common features that mark a building as a Tenant House? It's a new description for me, so I'm interested to know when we should use it.

Cheers, MrB

Hi there,

I guess we could just take it literally.  A tenant house is primarily for dwelling and is usually within City districts where Shop Houses would at least have the Ground floor primarily associated with trade.  There are exceptions like those old pawn shops or traditional Cantonese Restaurants that take up the whole block.

If I am not mistaken both the terms Tenant House and Shop House had appeared in Government documents.

It is sort of confusing when labelling is in place.  Actually the Cantonese use of 唐樓 Tong Lau fits them all.  We only have a few distinctions over this, say, wooden ones (with wooden stairs and floors), pre-war (pre-WWII).  The rest within this category are all just being called Tong Lau.

The Chinese philosophy don't usually define to the exact and to the extreme in most occasions.  If you have learnt some Chinese words, you might probably know one word could have many meanings.  Sometime it could be a verb and at the same time it could also be a noun.  And the Chinese language don't have tenses.  At least not in the sense of past/present/future tenses as in English.    Hmmmm, sorry, I got carried away.



I would have thought tenement would have been the more familiar description. Is this what you mean T? A tenant refers to the person inside whereas tenement refers to the building itself.

Hi there,

I guess I have to look it up some how.  These are the problems that have to face very often.  My vacabulary is just mediocre.  Anyway "Tenement" does suit in most cases.  I'll try to see if I could locate the Government document online and see what they used.  I believe those documents dealing of city planning and re-development might just have these terms in them.

Best Regards,


Don't worry T, your English vocabulary is better than most native English speakers back in the UK I think :-) (no, I'm not joking), I wasn't trying to be critical. My post was spurred by MrB's question as to what a Tenant house was, I assumed he was thinking it was a different beast altogether.


Had a closer look at this building the other night - it's got some striking art deco flourishes - including dramatic V shaped metal grills on the staircase and other features. Makes it more likely to have been built in the 1930s. A similar sized building almost next door is a much drabber affair, suggesting it was built (or renovated) in the austere post-war period


Do you guys have any idea when the term 'art deco' was first used in Hong Kong to describe buildings?

Since there are a few descriptions of buildings in the site using that term, I'm curious if anyone knows exactly who (architects/ commentators/media) started identifying with this style in the first place.

The balconies are the same - see the v shaped holes?  The one on the right is just dirty.

this building's gone now, they knocked it down a couple of months ago. apparently there was some dispute over ownership that kept it empty for years

If that's what is in your picture, then here is the relevant court judgment:

The squatter took "adverse possession" for 20 years - so the building is now theirs !

this is the same law that exists in the UK - except the time frame there is only 12 years.

There was an incident about 10 years ago in London when a 5 storey townhouse in Kensington was given over to the squatter who had occupied it, unopposed, for 12 years.