Cheung Chau Island | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Cheung Chau Island

Cheung Chau Island

View of Cheung Chau, 1940-50, 2 story building middle right is the Police Station.

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Sunday, January 1, 1950


Nice photo. Is the south part of the island the foreground? It still looks quite empty at this time.

How wonderful to see this special photo! It's my childhood backyard, the Green Acres (  ie: my personal choice of words) of Tai Shek Hau. Besides the green pasture, there are farmer growing vegetables for the local market. A giant tree of star fruit ( sour but edible)  stands tall somewhere  on the west edge of the Chuen Li Choi Yuen, a well-hidden village on top of a large rocky terrace  at the foot of the hill. The old landowner of CLCY  shared his secret of wealth to me . As a local boy with just a little bit of english  , he worked for a colonial servey official as a meter carrier and was eventually awarded a piece of land after years of hardwork. He then turned it into a rental village and enjoyed being a friendly landlord. Indeed he never increase the rent for us in those years. l There is a small guava plantation too, but only a few of them yield tasty guavas. From the foreground which is part of the Zen Yen Chiang area, there is a small cemetry for the Dong Goong people. Twice a year, in Spring and Autumn, people came here to remember their ancestors with local music of drums and chinese flutes and handed out free BBQ porks to anyone nearby. We didn't take it  but many of our neighbour felt lucky to get it.  Oh yes, we used to run with our kites, through  the cementry, to the  headland nearby for kite flying.  So much fun!!! 

Hi Tung Lin,

Thank you very much for sharing your memories with us. Please could you let us know roughly which years are you describing?

Regards, David

In 1950 my family came to the island and was magnetized  to settle. The people were very friendly. Most of things we needed came cheaper than the city's. My parents enjoyed the respect they received from all walks of life even though as newcomers and without a job there. They were happy about the beautiful landscape and the comforting peace of life in there.

Those years the island did smell very fishy, quite bad for some, before you got used to them.  But lots of funs too.. Names of most house dogs were having meaning of good luck or get rich-ed. There were many jobs for everyone from junior teens to the seniors, even drug addicts. Economy on the tiny island was very adequate for the majority. Many chose to work without leaving the island at all.

There were few hundred stores, family-operated retailers and home-based manufacturing business so employment was better than many rural area in the Colony. Some even had their merchandise not only for the local market, but also for export. Some targeted the weekend tourists as well.

I know at the CLCY village, a lady operated a business to fabricate  American Indian Bean Artistic Band and Belt  for export . She assigned a small portion of work to anyone knocking on her door. She wound pay the person's work done in cash and then assign a portion of next work . There was no urgent deadline, just on your own.  She had lots of worker young and old. Kids too could make money for family after school. 

A local high school boy firstly created some art work by using variuos seashells and sold them to the tourists at his father's herbal store. Suddenly, we witnessed the start of a flourishing new and unique industry for decades. Even now the 2013.

When I was really little, I always wondered for why there were so many airplanes passing over the airspace of our village. It was our concern for the fliers were like posing dangers to our kite flying activities over the same sky. We boys didn't want to lose our kites in the air, so our rule was this: Airplanes on the west and Kites on the east. And we achieved true peace.

How about the girls. They did needle works or looked for new flowers. Or ask my sister Patricia...

There was a popular game in the streets. It called "hopping ( on ) the plane"...Perhaps inspired by the low-level  passing ( and their noise too) of numerous plane flights everyday... 

I am proud totell to the world that game was originated from this island. As I saw on the street, kids are always explaining, if not arguing, the proper rules to play this game. First, they drew a plane-liked pattern with step-divisions and numbered them from first one on the tailend to the last one on the plane's nose. 

Each side of the wing can equally have more than one division. The total number could be various, usually between 9 to 12 or for a double-winged ..say..16. or higher. I never fully investage about the rules to play, but it was so popular then. Groups of kids would spend hours for jumping and jumping , twisting,  bending their back , along  each step divisions mostly on one leg.

To begin the hopping, the player should stand just outside the tailend in opposite direction and throw a thing (anything will do) backward onto the plane pattern. The throw thing landed on certain step-division and the player must use the wisdom to hop to the nearest position and fetched the throw item without seeing it, ie arm crane searching backward  without losing the body balance.Some hopping gestures were really quite challenging to do. Once the player fetched the throw item, he or she would allow to advance to the plane's nose by the much easy forward hopping. 

Other watchers would calculate the scores and verify for the highest scorer as the winner. Kids were very excited to play this street game.   Even tourists and television reporters came to do documentry about it. 

Maybe someone can tell me more of this " hopping (on) the plane" game from cheung chau. The game became a formal children game in many playground in Hong Kong and maybe elsewhere too.





Sounds like hopscotch or a variation of it.

Thanks for your comment. It's good to know all that.

Probably, since ancient time, children of the world everywhere altogether surely like to hop for fun. Never fly out the hopscotch idea. 

On Cheung Chau island the pattern of this game only resembles the shape of an airplane which distants itself from all other land-based similarities and that's very, very creative too.

Keep hopping on the airplane!!....

have fun!!



When my family firstly settled on Cheung Chau, we soon attended a church by the mid- Tung Wan area. There was also a Catholic church nearby and a few acres of open sand land around for the public , often found here were the fishermen folks do repair of big items like the sailing clothes, fishing nets, fishing lines...etc. and even drying their catch of fish and squids..etc. And the area had a line of coconut trees along the beachhead.

This same open area was also the original place for the Island's world-famous annual Bun Festival until aera to be re-zoned for development projects in the late 1960s. During the few days of the  festival, a huge bamboo-structured theater was set up next to the coconut tree line-up, traditional cantonese oprea shows of  legends in classical music  were performed day and night , attracting hundreds of island folks and tourists to enjoy their idols' acting and singing. The tempory theater had the backstage leaning against the coconut trees like asking nature for a convenient support. The walks between the two churches now had tables or ground mattresses for the street vendors to sell mainly ceramic artifacts and figurines made from the Fu-shan region of Canton city in China. 

A tempory Toaist temple and three huge idotic character mock-ups were  made to stand on the area between the two churches.  The scenarios were very dramatic at night as fires and burning of incents were adding to the atmosphere. Veggie goodies were sold in many tasty choices.  And the famous Bun Towers were erected just west of the Catholic church building. Three Bun Towers each about fifty feet tall plus several shorter ones for the non-climbing Bun lovers. The major idea of the display of the buns in vast quantity was to offer a good-will meal to the hungry ghosts of those who lost their lives in distress or seafaring mishaps over the past. So all buns were supposed to be eaten by the ghosts but still a blessed bun for human consumption, as told by the islanders. So people had to get them in a race or buy from other sellers.. These Bun Towers were set to be exploited by those Bun Fetchers as the Final Climax event right after mid-night at the last evening of the Festival. Of course the most colorful event was the Parade with Floating stages on the day, it journeyed  from a temple on the north-island  all the way to a temple on the south-island ,...... The Parade was the most colorful event of the festival and many would come out to watch and enjoy.......(you can see these on YouTube ) 

Let me go back to the coconut trees, ....... in the early 1950s, these trees were quite tall ( < 45' in estimate ) and quite mature consistently yielding coconuts all year round. Kids went up high to fetch them too. The coconut trees must be more than 30 years old. They decorated the Tung Wan beach landscape with a Pacific island icon....

I found a photos of 1950s Tung Wan, viewing from the south-to-north direction, on the left of which had the spreadings of the coconut trees clearly outstanding above the neighbouring tree-tops:

Since the old photo didn't show the existence of the line of coconut trees, or they were not tall enough yet to be seen  outstanding the island houses, I wound say the photo could have been taken around 1930s or even the 20s.

There is a photo of similar view to compare, w.r.t. the line of coconut tree---between the Catholic Church and the Police Station...This cardcow photo was taken at about the 1960-63 era for I could tell the island features fairly well by then .

Another similar photo of modern day likely from the same location also can be seen  at:

Pls enjoy the beautiful island view




The forest in the photo's bottom-left shows the early years of the CLCY village which children there saw a long-eared wild man in the 1953-54.