011 A pagoda maybe in New Territories 1948.JPG | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

011 A pagoda maybe in New Territories 1948.JPG

011 A pagoda maybe in New Territories 1948.JPG

This is another "still" taken from an old 8mm film made in 1948.

It shows a pagoda, on a flattish terrain, it could be near the Kowloon hospital as the film shows the hospital shortly before.  Or maybe somewhere in the New Territories?


Date picture taken (to nearest decade for older photos): 
Wednesday, February 25, 1948


A sharper copy would help for this one. I asked Phil what he uses to capture stills from videos, something he does regularly for his website: http://hongkongandmacaufilmstuff.blogspot.hk/

He recommends a free video player called VLC: http://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html

One of its features is that it is easy to save a screenshot as a JPG image file. Here's how: https://wiki.videolan.org/Take_a_snapshot/

Regards, David

Hi David, If it is an actual projected image instead of a digitized media copy, it would be of no use using VLC. I don't think there are existing domestic movie to digital copy solution. You might be able to use a digital video camcorder on tripod to capture the projection on a proper screen, but that might still take some trial on error. Might still run into frame per second synchronization issues between the two....... Thanks & Best Regards, T

Hi T, I'm not sure how they're doing it, but Suziepie mentioned in an email that they're having the movies transferred to DVD. The photo above looks like a photo of a TV / monitor, so hopefully they'll be able to play the DVD through VLC and take some screenshots.

Regards, David

Hi David,

There are professional service providers for this out there. But they might charge for an arm or a leg.  I Googled a bit and found some of the equipments that could be found out there.  Most are not for casual domestic users though.

Thanks & Best Regards,


Anyone has an idea about where the pagoda is?

perhaps the pagoda is an ornamental one sitting in the grounds of a small temple? without a clearer picture it will be hard to tell.

Rather than - Where is it? Let's take a closer look.

Four building structures in what appears to be a walled compound.

In the foreground terraced farming.

A pagoda - ground plus five levels high. How common were pagodas of this size in Hong Kong?

Shadows and the sun - they seem to be apparent but which orientation?

Established trees - quite tall.

A farming area?

Barren tree less hillsides.

Interesting enough for someone to photograph it in colour. Was the film taken by someone in a car or bus passing by? How steady is the film?

Post WWII ?

Tung Chung hinterland?

Hong Lok Yuen, Tai Po before it was developed?



Thanks Dave - 

Really good comments. I've copied them and replied on them - see below.  

My photo above has been taken with my digital camera of a DVD image 'paused' on the TV screen - unfortunately the image is not clear to start with and because I have 'paused' it there is a lot of flickering which makes it even worst. I do not know if I can somehow stop the flickering - to take a photo. Probably not. 

The DVD is taken from a video - on which the original 8mm film was loaded. I have now had the video transferred to DVD - (because videos are now outdated!) - and for future generations I am having notes added to the DVD of who, what, where -(that is why there is a time appearing in top left corner - this is to facilitate the adding of my notes on DVD) - and hence the reason for trying to find out the answers to my questions by taking photo "stills" !.   


Four building structures in what appears to be a walled compound.

Yes - agreed.

In the foreground terraced farming.

Yes - agreed

A pagoda - ground plus five levels high. How common were pagodas of this size in Hong Kong?

I don’t believe so common - so someone should know where it is.

Shadows and the sun - they seem to be apparent but which orientation?  - Don't know

Established trees - quite tall.  - Agreed

A farming area? - I think so

Barren tree less hillsides.  - Agreed

Interesting enough for someone to photograph it in colour. Was the film taken by someone in a car or bus passing by? How steady is the film?

The person, my Dad, was walking - as mentioned it is footage taken a few minutes after filming the the Kowloon Hospital - so I think it must be in that vicinity.

Post WWII ? - Yes definitely 1948

Tung Chung hinterland?  - Don't know

Hong Lok Yuen, Tai Po before it was developed? - Don't know


Thanks for any further insight!


I wonder if this could be the Tang Clan pagoda in Tai Po with a few levels knocked off to make it safe.

Take a look at this website - http://www.amo.gov.hk/en/monuments_75.php.  

The pagoda in the old movie film seems to be of a box construction with apertures - much the same as the Tang structure.

Not too far from Tai Po Market railway station - and perhaps the buildings are facing East of down Tolo Channel.

Edit - Tai Po may be wrong - recheck the Tang structure location.


My previous comment was poorly written.

I am familiar with the Tang clan of Tai Po, but I do not know if there is an equally famous Tang clan on the west side of Hong Kong. Whichever it is, study the previously mentioned web site showing a current day photo of the Tang pagoda..

You will see that the construction of the pagoda is 'box' like and with a bit of concentration of the above frame you can see the same method of construction with apertures for windows/observation.

I do not think the filming person was filming everything on the same day. I suspect it was opportunist filming when out and about.



I have looked at the pagoda on Google Earth and its slap bang outside Tin Shui Wai West Rail Station. I frequently go through this station and will stop off for a look and photo taking as and when. 

I bet there is quite a bit of history lying around and if my luck is in - a few old phorographs.

Thank you Dave -

I have looked at the wrbsite you mentioned but I do not think it can be this pagoda.

- because the pagoda there does not appear to have any big hills or mountains behind.

If you look in my photo there are a couple of big hills - one even perhaps a mountain, in the far distance.


You're right there are no hills and mounds now because this is Tin Shui Wai new town area. If you look on Google Earth your can see some indication of mounds. This area has been levelled in many places to make the new town fit.

I don't believe this is the pagoda in Ping Shan. That area has always been quite flat, even before the station and town was built (for example there are a couple of pictures from the 70's here: http://www.lurvely.com/photographer/23099064_N06/3/) and another here: http://www.hkmemory.hk/collections/hkplaces/AllItems/images/201107/t20110723_43818.html

Does anyone know when it was reduced to just 3 storeys? I was always under the impression is was outside of oiving memory (which si why no one seems to be able to give a date).

On an aside, is that white area in front a wall or is iot an open bit of land? I can't tell.

It's your lucky day Susiepie.

I visited the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda at 09.30hrs today Monday 1st December 2014. Exit E3 from Tin Shui Wai West Rail Station.

It was manned by a lady security guard who was quite chatty. There is not much to see and inside there are a several small sketches and explanations in English and Chinese. What I read in English made little reference to the architectural structure. I spoke to the lady guard and explained that this structure has three levels and did it ever have a lot more?

She pointed out a brass plaque on the wall and I made a written note of the following:-

Tsui Sing Lau pagoda is the only surviving pagoda in Hong Kong. 

This hexagonal shaped structure is a three storey green brick structure about 13 metres high.

According to the Tangs the pagoda had originally 7 storeys, but subsequently lost 4 upper storeys in two separate incidents - believed to be typhoons.

So there you have it.The person taking the Super 8 film must have known about it and in those days (1948) it could probably have been seen from a far distance - like Castle Peak Road. If you do more research the Lands Dept Mapping section may have some old Ordinance Survey maps and it would no doubt be a feature on them. From this you could work out the orientation of the structure and neaby buildings which would then give you the approximate location of the photographer.


Thank you Dave - 

For all that exploring for me - you must be right.  So there you go - I have some unique footage of this pagadoa when it had al its levels!! Once I have the DVD perfected I will give it to David to put on Gwulo.

 I have done a lot of googling myself and failed to find any other pagodas in HK - so I came to the conclusion that this HAD to be the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda.  And now you confirm it.  

My dad was some 45 years in HK - went all over the place - he went to HK when he was a boy so knew HK very well and was very fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin and Haaka.

Thanks again





Suziepie and anyone else interested.

At the time of visiting the pagoda on Monday I picked up a brochure of the Ping Shan Heritage Trail and have now studied it more closely.

Inside is a photograph plan showing the Ping Shan area in 1945 so I am going to enlarge it and see if I can find and then relate the pagoda to the buildings on the Super 8 film. There is also a line drawing of the pagoda so I intend to repoduce that in AtuoCAD and then scale it to reproduce the shape of the seven floor levels. What I cannot reproduce is the pointed top so I will guess that. Likewise each floor level seems to have contained a specific Chinese inscription and the main aperture may be of a different shape. Nothing is easy!

This is not a five minute job and I am busy getting ready for Christmas so bear with me on a time frame.

More evidence.

This all taken from the Ping Shan Heritage Trail booklet.

After viewing the Super 8 film above I previously suggested that the buildings had a perimeter wall around them. After looking at the layout of the trail and the photographers location, the buildings must form Sheung Cheung Wai . This an extract from the booklet:- Sheung Cheung Wai, situated west of Hang Tan Tsuen, was built about 200 years ago by a line of the Tang Clan that branched out from Hang Tau Tsuen in Ping Shan. 

It is the only walled village along the Ping Shan Heritage trail.

Page 2 of the booklet has an aerial photograph of the area and terraces for farming can be clearly seen. I think I have spotted the location of the pagoda, but will need to confirm it. I may take a screen shot (above) of the padoga and show it to staff in the visitors centre. I expect they are normally bored stiff, but I have found that the locals will fire up with interst when shown a picture that requires some detective work.

AutoCAD of padoga going well.



Hi there, I believe there is another crucial information that we have to match: When did the Tangs repair it to its present date. I could not recall reading anything on site about that, nor could I recall details while visiting the former Ping Shan police station. Might have to ask the elders. Thanks & Best Regards, T

I quite agree. In fact some other questions arise. If the structure was intact in 1948 when did the two events of damage occur? 

I bet there was some comment in the local newspapers about it.

I vave tried to load the comparison images of today's padoga, and, in almost identical scale, what it looked like with seven storeys.

Admin may need to sort this out if I foul up the upload.

The HK Memory Project comments that the pagoda was originally 5 storeys high as shown here  (not sure if this statement is true) and that the top 2 storeys were destroyed by a typhoon in 1954. Anyways, a view of the area from 1955 as seen here  As one can see the area near the pagoda is generally flat.

It seems very strange that the Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) can operate the HK Memory website and state that the pagoda existed with five levels on the one hand, yet on the other hand they operate and maintain the Heritage Trail and look after the existing three storey pagoda which contains a brass plate stating in in English and Chinese that the pagoda originally had seven levels.

I shall contact the Department and challenge them on the statements.

Looking more carefully at the Super 8 film above my eyes can see 6 levels with - I hope - the seventh lost to the poor film resolution.


Hi there,

I have an impression that onsite material mentioned the pagoda was damaged twice, probably by typhoons.  But it did not speficy any dates.

Thanks & Best Regards,


Thank you David for this link "here" in your above comment.  

I have checked into it and blown up the specific part of the photo around the pagoda - NOW I can definitely see the same image as my 8mm film photo above.  I see the pagoda with its 6 (maybe 7th in haze) levels.  I see the close hill behind and further mountains.  I see the buildings close by on the right.  I see the long wall in front.  I see the terraces in front of that.  So yes, this is definitely the same place - taken in very much the same angle.

Thank you. 




Suziepie, if you've managed to get a sharp screen capture, please could you upload it for comparison? 

Here is Dave's reconstruction of the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda:

padoga redrawn.jpg
padoga redrawn.jpg, by Dave W

And I've made a page for the Tsui Shing Lau pagoda at: http://gwulo.com/node/22435

Regards, David

For the curious, I have e-mailed the Leisure and Cultural Services Dept and received a nice reply. My comments concerning the 5 or 7 storey padoga question have been circulated to various people and a reply will arrive in due course. There is a lot more to this padoga than meets the eye so I plan to do some more research so that this Forum entry has a really worthwhile content on what its all about.

If this attempt works the picture will show the padoga 'as is' and the conflict between 5 and 7 storeys which is now undergoing examination.

Padoga JPEG.jpg
Padoga JPEG.jpg, by Dave W

Dave W

Another explanation of the height of the pagoda as shown here

Moddsey - is the picture in that link supposedly from 1930? If so, then it should confirm that the pagoda was already only 3 stories by that time.

Phil and Moddsey,

Thanks for the contributions. This is getting complicated. According to the Ping Shan Heritage Trail booklet it shows an ancient drawing on page 2 which indicates that a tidal creek may have extended to the area. On the drawing there is a padoga depicted next to the creek.

Now we have, circa 1948, a freeze frame extract from Super 8 cine film with a pagoda of at least 6 levels. Other contributions to this topic connect references to documents that suggest 5 or 7 levels. 1948 is very recent history and the subsequent loss of any floors from this pagoda must have been the talk of all the tea houses in Yuen Long and beyond. The newspapers must have some record of the event(s).

Lots of people must have photographed this pagoda post 1948 so where are they?

There is also mention of a moat around Sheung Cheung Wai (since filled in) yet some of the connected websites to submissions on this topic show a water feature next to the padoga (3 storey).

Keep posting, "we" should be able to resolve this historical enigma.

Dave W




Hi Philk - the photo in the book is available on HKPL as seen here is believed from the 1950s. So no confirmatory evidence at this juncture.

Some similar structures in Shenzhen (description in simplified Chinese):  http://wb.sznews.com/html/2014-05/15/content_2874071.htm

Just trivial information, but when I was re-drawing the existing three level pagoda shown in the Ping Shan Heritage Trail booklet it soon became apparent that there is a ratio formula to determine the size of the hexagon shape for the structure at each level. Refer to the above drawings.

From this I was also able to draw in the taper of the structure from ground level.

My conclusion is that Chinese architects and padoga builders had already worked out the design requirements before they built the structure. Having this information to hand would also enable them to work out a Bill of Quantity for bricks, tiles and mortar etc. From this they would also be able to calculate the weight of the structure and the suitability of the proposed site to accept the load.

Since padogas are fairly common structures in China and elsewhere, perhaps there was a 'standard design' for them.

While this discussion has concentrated on the pagoda in the Ping Shan area, there is another one overlooking Shatin at the 10,000 Buddha temple. It has mountains behind it as per the screen shot. It was built as far as I can find out soon after the war and is certainly  much higher than the Ping Shan structure. No doubt it would have been a sight to visit when it was being built or completed, and much easier to reach in that period as the railway station was just below in the valley.



Thanks, I looked at it on various web sites. It doesn't match. The apertures on the Shatin padoga are very different at the various elevated levels. Moreover, the Super 8 film at the top of this forum entry clearly shows some degree of terraced farming or agriculture in front of the padoga: this is replicated very clearly in the Ping Shan Heritage Trail photograph circa 1945. The corbel design at the different levels is also different. Corbels - for simplicity - the bits that protrude outwards.

I  wonder where (or which Department or organisation has) the 1945 aerial photograph?

In theory is should be  the Survey and Mapping Office, Lands Dept of HK government based now at North Point, but they didn't start taking aerial images themselves until the mid-sixties. In 1945 it was probably the Royal Air Force or Royal Navy aircraft who was taking aerial images. Some may have found their way into the HK government archives. The people at North Point are usually quite helpful to queries on what they keep on file..

you don't have to go to North Point. The various district sub offices of the mapping dept have all the same facilities available. I usually use the one in Tai Po for convenience. They have a computer system that allows you to inpoint place, altitude and year for matching photos - prints usually cost $120 and take about 4 days,

Hi IDJ, As far as I could recall the architectural style of the pagoda in Shatin is a bit different. The one in Ping Shan is probably having something to do with Feng Shui. I have a good friend studying Feng Shui and he told me that the one in Ping Shan is what they usually call a Man Cheong Pagoda (文昌塔). The one in Shatin is for budish worshipping. Even the appearance of the two are quite different, if you compare their photos. Thanks & Best Regards, T

The Observatory website contains a database for typhoons so I now have the data for typhoons where signal number 8 or higher was raised between 1948 and 1966.

 The latter date is connected with the following URL which purports to show the Tung Sing Lau pagoda intact in 1966. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/32808484

 I’m trying to narrow down the time frame for the reported damage.

I shall probably be shot for copying very poorly from the Heritage Trail booklet, so find below a rough extract of a very old map setting out the beginning of the Tang clan real estate. Lots of details are missing – names of hilltops and so on.

The two important features are the locations of what I assume to be the temples (shown in red) which can be seen on Google Earth today and the small pagoda next to the creek/inlet or whatever name is applicable.

Padoga search land contours JPEG 2.jpg
Padoga search land contours JPEG 2.jpg, by Dave W

The problem I have is trying to work out the scale with the 1945 aerial photograph which also shows the temples. On the attached JPEG picture I have marked 1, 2 and 3 to suggest that one of these locations is the position for the seven level pagoda as per the Super 8 film at the top of this topic.

I am beginning to think that - over time - there may have been two pagodas. I doubt if a seven level pagoda would be constructed next to a waterway because the earth surrounding would be very soft and wet. The Yuen Long flat areas around the Kam Tin River are sitting on top of very thick and soft esturine mud deposited hundreds of thousands of years ago. Thus building a pagoda at the base of a substantial hill or mound such as positions 1, 2, or 3 makes more sense.

For the typhoon database I have now extracted No 10 signal typoons between 1948 and 1966 and have the following:-

1957 Gloria, 1960 Mary, 1961 Alice, 1962 Wanda, 1964 Ruby and Dot.

Any thoughts?


From the National Archives, a view of Ping Shan as seen here probably not long after the completion of the Police Station.

I have spent at least one hour this Sunday morning studying the 1945 aerial photograph of the Ping Shan area shown on page 2 of the Heritage Trail booklet. In an earlier post I made reference to terrace lines in front of the pagoda - I now have the impression that these so called terrace lines may in fact be some form of damage on the original negative or photograph.

With the help of Google Earth and the 1945 photograph, I believe I have now found the site of the pagoda and the Sheung Cheung Wai village which was built with a surrounding protection wall. 

In my Auto CAD drawing above I suggested options 1, 2 and 3, as possible location for the site of the pagoda - these can now be ignored. Today's pagoda is precisely where it is illustrated on the AutoCAD drawing - next to the creek/channel which no longer exists.

Today (Sunday) or tomorrow, I plan to revisit the area and the visitors centre to verify the pagoda position on the 1945 aerial photograph. The only task left after that is to try and find a drawing or photograph of the pagoda in its heyday.




Hi David, David W, Moddsey, IDL, Philk

Thanks for all the input - you will see that I have uploaded 3 more images - this time done a lot better following David's advice (and not using the TV monitor). So it should be clearer - and there are definitely terraces in front of the Pagoda.

The 2nd image shows the 'frame' following the Pagoda - and shows a clearer image of the buildings alongside.

The 3rd image shows boys on buffalo somewhere in the foreground - near vicinity by the way the camera sweeps around.

Perhaps David you could add the uploads to this forum topic.  I don't know how!  Thanks




Thanks to Suziepie for the new photos. I've combined the two that show the buildings:


And here's another photo that may show the vicinity (if it was part of the same clip as the photo above, it will show the same area, but if there was any break in filming it may show a different location):

 Pagoda Tsui Sing Lau - immediate vicinity - photo #3.JPG

With a clearer view of the terraces and wall in front of the pagoda, we can rule out Tsui Shing Lau as a possible match. That was built at ground level on flat land:

RAF Ping Shan Radar Unit Yuen Long

So which pagoda are we looking at in Suziepie's photo? Do the buildings or hills remind anyone of a site in Hong Kong? Are there characters on the wall below the pagoda - maybe a hotel or recreation area?

Regards, David

I don't think the building style is that common anymore. It looks like a private 2-storey house, very old and reminiscent (to me at least) of the miu gok yuen nunnery at Fung Kat Heung nr Kam Tin. However,I'm sure in the 40's there were many more similar style buildings to be found.

[Edit: added photo example]

Miu Gok Yuen Nunnery
Miu Gok Yuen Nunnery, by Philk


What about the Chi Lin Nunnery at Diamond Hill as seen at: https://hk.images.search.yahoo.com/images/view;_ylt=A8tUwJqAOoZURj4Ah8a1...

The buildings of Chi Lin Nunnery are quite new.  I think they were built in the late 1990s.  I believe the previous buildings were surrounded by squatter areas and were quite nondescript.

i seem to think the nunnery was established in the 1930s. Not sure if a pagoda was also constructed. 

Hi there, I believe it is unlikely as you would have Kowloon Peak/Tate's Carin in the background. The skyline didn't add up. Thanks & Best Regards, T

Hi moddsey and tngan,

Thanks for your input.  I vaguely remember seeing a photo of the previous incarnation of Chi Lin Nunnery buildings, and they were not in classical Chinese style.  However, I cannot find the photo online just now.

I am thinking the pagoda may be between Tai Po and Fan Ling.  There are some Daoist temples in the area.  Perhaps we need to consult the local Tai Po expert philk.

"A few hundred yards out in the fields near Sheung Shui village in the New Territories there is the concrete base of an old pagoda.

It was built many years ago to a height of about 30 feet and was sited by a geomancer.

Its purpose was to act as a ‘geomantic bird-table’. An outcrop of rock a mile or so away looked much like an open eagle’s beak (indeed, it still does), and it was thought that this was the cause of a marked failure of the inhabitants of the exposed part of the village to produce sons. If the pagoda were interposed, the eagle would eat off it and not destroy the reproductive powers of the villagers.

Well, after a fashion it worked. But at the same time it seemed to be having an incredibly good effect on another nearby village, which suddenly began to produce brilliant and precocious children in large numbers. Weighing up the pros and cons, the Sheung Shui people decided that they would rather put up with their former poor reproduction rate than see a rival village prosper.

So they tore down the pagoda again."

Extracted from:-"More Ancestral Images" by Dr Hugh Baker published by SCMP in 1980

No pictures or further clues as to what it looked like or a date when it was pulled down. Older Sheung Shui residents should know.

Hi All

I have taken the full B/W photo and enlarged the Pagoda area - and put all 3 on the ssme page to compare. I have sent this "photopage" to David as I am not able to put this on Gwulo myself. Perhaps David you might be able to?

 I am confident this is the same location. There are far too many similarities for it not to be: 

I suspect the 8mm film was taken much further to the right. In which case the lower hill on the far left of the full B/W photo would equate to that in the 8mm frame. The mountains in the background are significantly similar. The distance between Pagoda and house are same. The long front wall would be more evident when viewed from an angle much further to the right - as said above. Both pictures show  large tree/s near house. The terraces in front are not large and in the enlarged B/W photo they appear more evident. It would depend where the photographer was standing and how close he was to the pagoda. The closer the 8mm photographer was standing the less flat the area would appear. 

Unless proved otherwise I am confident that this is - as David W says - the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda. Nothing else makes sense. It is certainly not any kind of nunnery, and it is much taller than 30 feet! - and it definitely was there in 1948!



More success.

During the morning of Tuesday 9th December 2014 I visited the Ping Shan Heritage Trail Visitors Centre. On arrival I roamed around the various buildings which contain rooms hosting a large selection of ancient and modern photographs together with other portraits connected with the local history.

One room contains a large blown up black and white copy of the 1945 aerial photograph found in the giveaway pamphlet, and adjacent to it is a very recent coloured aerial photograph of the area.

I eventually found my way to the Reception area and met Tracy, Winnie and Carol. After producing copies of the various photographs and other items drawings found in this forum topic, I then invited them to help me identify the following locations on the 1945 aerial photograph of Ping Shan:-

Today’s Visitors Centre, The ancestral halls, Sheung Cheung Wai Village, and The Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda.

“We” found the first two fairly quickly, but there was some confusion about the Sheung Cheung Wai village and a mark on the photograph which I thought was the pagoda. The latter two were out of kilter with each other. The girls had hearsay knowledge of the pagoda but could offer little to resolve the enquiry. Eventually I mentioned that I had seen a blown up photograph in another building so Carol accompanied me to the room concerned. We went through the same process again to identify the features mentioned above.

In a short time we were joined by Ah Fung, Ronald and Polly, so the word was getting around that a Gwai Lo was asking some very interesting questions. Once Ah Fung and Ronald had seen the various papers I had brought with me our joint effort was rewarded when Carol spotted the pagoda on the photograph.

It certainly is a pagoda and a large one as well. In fact it’s so tall that it casts a prominent sun shadow and the outline of its shape is also clear to see. After viewing the object for some time Ronald and I were of the opinion that the size of the shadow indicated that this must be the seven level pagoda.

I have since produced a new AutoCAD drawing based on the 1945 aerial photograph and indicated where the features are. I have also indicated with an arrow the area where the photographer was likely to be when he took the Super 8 film. What we don’t know is the magnification power of the camera lens – perhaps it was one of those types that had three selectable lenses.

Polly also produced a Chinese text document from the Internet that mentioned the pagoda was a seven level structure.

What we don’t know exactly is whether or not the missing four levels were removed on one or two occasions. The causation for removal is also unclear, but Ronald was of the opinion that four were removed in one go and the cause was probably deterioration of the upper structure for want of maintenance. In tandem with this there was no money for restoration.

What everybody does find strange is that there is no known photograph of the seven level pagoda in the Visitors Centre, nor on the Internet.

I am of the opinion that so much progress has been made in this search that the information pamphlet for the heritage trail could be re-written in good time for the next reprint. Perhaps Suziepie would like to offer/donate his/her pictures to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) for inclusion in a reprinted pamphlet.

I plan to write to the LCSD and offer a few suggestions one of which includes the annotation of the 1945 aerial photograph with the names of the important structures in the area and the location of the pagoda.

The staff deserve a well earned thank you because they found that a normal quiet day had suddenly become rather exciting.

Ping Shan 9th December 2014 JPEG.jpg
Ping Shan 9th December 2014 JPEG.jpg, by Dave W


For clarity, the more recent picture posted by Suziepie shows a much clearer image of the pagoda. Allowing for the height of the wall around the Sheung Cheung Wai village and the undulating nature of the land mass, the first observeable level of the pagoda may in fact be its second level. Change the counting logic and its possible to just discern seven levels

Suziepie if you enlarge the picture/drawing in the previous post you will see a black arrow line linking the pagoda and the corner of the Sheung Cheung Wai protection wall. Keep following the arrow line to the right and you will see that it crosses a prominent road/footpath. It is on that footpath that the Super 8 film was taken - no doubt about it.

Got anymore hard to solve problems?


IDJ, thanks for the extra pagoda information. Has anyone seen a photo of that pagoda?

Suziepie, if you upload the extra photos to Gwulo, I can add them to your comment above. We'll have to agree to disagree on the location of this one though, as I can't make the terraces match this flat land in my mind.

Dave W, thanks for the follow-up visits. That aerial photo is a good one. Your suggested line of sight is roughly north-facing. Wouldn't that put the open land (fish ponds etc) in the background, instead of hills? Regardless of which pagoda this photo shows, it will be good to confirm when the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda lost its upper levels. If you meet any villagers in their 80s, please can you ask how tall was the pagoda when they were children?

I'll keep a look out for other pagoda photos, especially any that were from the 1940s or earlier.  (If anyone uploads a pagoda photo, please tag it pagoda to add it to the list: http://gwulo.com/taxonomy/term/993)

Regards, David

If the LCSD would allow it, I would like to place a straight edge on their blown up 1945 aerial photograph and from the pagoda shadows I could give  Suziepie two points on the footpath, and, between these, would be the photographer's position - thereabouts.

I may ask the LCSD if they have any data on the aerial photograph, in particular the height the photographs were taken at. From that simple mathematics could be used to work out the pagoda height based on shadow length. It would not be absolute, but a pretty good indicator. Alternatively I could work on the measurements based on buildings still extant today.

I wonder if a museum or library in Gwongzhou has a picture of the pagoda?

My cantonese is not good enough for a question and answer session with the local residents.


here's why I am fairly certain this is not Tsui Sing Lau.

1. This looks like a 6 storey pagoda, You can just make a bottom tier out. Given that the current pagoda is 13 metres tall, this would make the pagoda in the picture about double that size and the building on the right would be somewhere between 15 to 20 metres in height depending on how far away it is, and to me it looks a bit further away from the camera. I'm no expert but I don't think you can find old buildings (of that style) that tall in the NT. 

2. The apertures on the current pagoda face south which means this 8mm would be shot facing north. North of Ping Shan and the pagoda now is Tin Shui Wai which was built on reclaimed wetland and marsh. If this was the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda then that would mean several mountains of significant size would have to have been removed. I'm fairly certain this didn't happen. Yes, there are other sides with smaller apertures but they face SE/SW, you would still be looking northish even if the film shows one of these other sides.

3. That is not a wall from a walled village. Sheung Cheung Wai is not that near to the pagoda, and its wall is a protective wall of around 3 metres height. If the film picture white strip is a wall then it is a small garden wall, nothing more.

Here's another idea, but obviously one that can't be confirmed - I suspect that the damage to the pagoda has not happened in living memory, hence why no one can remember any dates. Surely damage from a typhoon would have been reported in papers and the information would be easily accessible - or villagers would remember and the information would have been found by whomever researched the materials for the museum? I've looked at about 5 reference books on the subject and none can provide a date - only this anecdotal information about it being damaged.

Anyway, I would love to be proven wrong about this because finding a picture of the pagoda in a previous form would be a great find.

here's why I am fairly certain this is not Tsui Sing Lau.

1. This looks like a 6 storey pagoda, You can just make a bottom tier out.

 We can make out a lower tier (level) but we don’t know which one it is. How do you know it’s the “bottom” tier? What do you mean by “bottom tier?” Remember my earlier comments above when I mentioned the unknown height of the village wall and the undulating ground levels which complicated the perspective?

Given that the current pagoda is 13 metres tall, this would make the pagoda in the picture about double that size and the building on the right would be somewhere between 15 to 20 metres in height depending on how far away it is, and to me it looks a bit further away from the camera. I'm no expert but I don't think you can find old buildings (of that style) that tall in the NT.

I don’t agree. We are dealing with perspective and depth of vision and a camera lens of unknown magnification. Having drawn the outlines in AutoCAD mentioned previously I mentioned a ratio between different levels. The ratio works in width and height so I would expect the seventh level to be rather small affair with a smallish roof above.

2. The apertures on the current pagoda face south which means this 8mm would be shot facing north. North of Ping Shan and the pagoda now is Tin Shui Wai which was built on reclaimed wetland and marsh. If this was the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda then that would mean several mountains of significant size would have to have been removed. I'm fairly certain this didn't happen. Yes, there are other sides with smaller apertures but they face SE/SW, you would still be looking north-ish even if the film shows one of these other sides.

Correct (filmed shot facing North), the 1945 aerial photograph also contains a NORTH arrow which I cropped from the picture for space purposes. I disagree with the term “mountains” and suggest that small hills or even mounds is more appropriate. Your general reference to North for the film direction is correct. But how far away are your “mountains?”  This also baffles me, but I think I can work it out. At the moment I am sacrificing my time and efforts on factual events and matters – no supposition, guesswork, or gut feeling.

3. That is not a wall from a walled village. Sheung Cheung Wai is not that near to the pagoda, and its wall is a protective wall of around 3 metres height. If the film picture white strip is a wall then it is a small garden wall, nothing more.

Look more carefully. There is a significant distance from the village wall to the pagoda. Its perspective and depth of vision.

Here's another idea, but obviously one that can't be confirmed - I suspect that the damage to the pagoda has not happened in living memory, hence why no one can remember any dates.

I disagree. There probably never was any “damage” to the pagoda. It had reached a state where lack of good maintenance (no maintenance) rendered it into a dangerous state and the villagers knew this so the height was reduced. There was no money to maintain it.

If there are no glorious newspapers headlines to record a catastrophic partial structural collapse due to a typhoon then this was unlikely to be the cause. Everything is vague about the height of the structure being reduced. I too am surprised about the lack of detailed history, so, there must be a reason for it. How can Suziepie’s Super 8 film jump from Kowloon Hospital to this scene and the water buffalo’s et al? It’s because the film maker was taking film on an opportunist basis, as was done by anyone who owned a camera in those days. Even in my own lifetime I have had a camera where the film was developed weeks or even months after the first frame was taken.

I have no reason to doubt Suziepie’s film frame as being authentic and taken as I have described in the foregoing notes.

Surely damage from a typhoon would have been reported in papers and the information would be easily accessible - or villagers would remember and the information would have been found by whoever researched the materials for the museum?

Agreed, so why are there no reports of substance?

I've looked at about 5 reference books on the subject and none can provide a date - only this anecdotal information about it being damaged.

Please quote the five reference books and page numbers plus the current location and I will find time to take a look at them.

Anyway, I would love to be proven wrong about this because finding a picture of the pagoda in a previous form would be a great find.

Have you made a site visit and tackled (looked at) all the evidence I have put in this forum article?

Let’s look again. We have the three alignments as I call them:-

The pagoda #1

The walled village - #2

The position of the photographer - #3

We then have the corroboration evidence:-

Suziepie’s independent film.

The 1945 aerial photograph.

Interpretation:- Where on this earth can you so conveniently find the above mentioned co-incidences?

Look at the alignments (#) and see how they place the film taker on a very clear and well defined dirt track/ village road/ or footpath of some sort. Such coincidences cannot be easily invented.

Please go to the Ping Shan Heritage Trail Visitors Centre and look at the enlarged aerial photograph and study it very carefully.

We are obviously not in agreement with each other.

Now let me introduce some new thinking.

The latest test arises because there are some hills, mounds, mountains in the background.

The next clue comes from Suziepie who states that this is Super 8 film.

Now let’s consider the Super 8 film camera. We don’t know the make but it’s probably American -  colour and very advanced for the ordinary punter at the time.

Is it electro/mechanical , or, clockwork, wind up if you like.

I know nothing about these cameras except to say that in 1969/70 when on the Vice Squad in Kowloon, Super 8 film blue movies were all over the place.

Let’s dig deeper into the mechanism of the camera. Is it (was it) possible for frames to blend together so that there was an image of the previous frames blended with the now, newly taken set of frames? A cross over if you like?

There must be few people alive who know of the workings of the Super 8 film camera and I wish they could be here to comment on what is being written in this topic.

What we are also not privy to is a continuous run of Suziepie’s film so we are all working in the dark.

So far we have seen freeze frames from Susiepie’s film but no continuous run. Readers may now begin to see what I am getting at.

Is there a transition causing an overlay of one film run moment to another which is causing all of us to believe what is not true. In other words, are the mounds, hills, mountains actually from somewhere else – a previous run of film - and not truly behind the pagoda and Sheung Cheung Wai village?

If the mechanism was clockwork was there a form of kick-back where the inertia of the motor or mechanism could cause an over recording?

Over to you Phil K.      


Hi Dave,

You're sure it's Tsui Sing Lau, I'm sure it isn't - I doubt we'll change each others' mind by looking harder at the photos we've got.

I've been thinking what other sources would show how the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda looked like in the 1940s or earlier, as that would help settle the question.

The only reference book I have for that area is Patricia Lim's "Discovering Hong Kong's Cultural Heritage". It mentions the pagoda, but basically repeats the same story: "It is said to have originally had seven floors but, after the upper storeys twice collapsed, perhaps in typhoons, the geomancers agreed that it was better to leave it as it now stands." No dates for the change in height.

Photos? I've searched for pagoda in Images at the Public Library's MMIS. There are a few shots of Tsui Sing Lau pagoda, but the earliest is dated "ca. 1950s": https://mmis.hkpl.gov.hk/coverpage/-/coverpage/view?_coverpage_WAR_mmisp...

Guide books? If there was a pre-war guidebook that described a visit to the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda, that might tell us it's height at the time. There's a book of hikes written in the 1930s whose name I can't remember, which might have something. A 1924 guidebook I have is very brief about anything past Kowloon, and doesn't mention the pagoda. 

So it's a dead-end at the moment, but I'll add the question to the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda's page (http://gwulo.com/node/22435), and see what answers come in over time.

Regards, David


No, don't be obsessed with the visual and circumstantial evidence.

Please explain why the pagoda at Ping Shan is only three tiers in height? Where do you go from this question?

My evidence and surrounding information is far better than yours.




Chill out, everone.  No need to turn this into a fight.

I believe it is best to investigate the possibility of putting whole converted video onto Youtube for viewing.  Viewing the whole thing might give more clues as the location of what had been covered in the three minutes (ltime limit for a super 8 cartridge) or so are likely close.

If it is on Youtube we could also ask the elders or other historians to take a look.

My 2 cents.



Hello everyone,

Thanks to Dave for doing so much investigative work on the history of Tsui Sing Lau.

In terms of photographic evidence, I don't believe that no pre-war photo exists.  I remember Mr, Sung Hok-Pang wrote some essays on the history of New Territories that appeared in Hong Kong Naturalists (?) in the 1930s, and were reprinted in the Journal of the HK Branch of Royal Asiatic Society in the 1970s.  I wonder if the essays included some photos of Tsui Sing Lau.

My other wild ideas about the location of the mysterious pagoda include: Daoist temple in Tai Po, some sort of film studio, somewhere across the border in China.

Is it a good idea to post the pagoda photo on uwants.com?  Some guys there are really good with identifying buildings and streets on photos.  There are a couple of long threads about guessing where photos were taken.

And I agree with tngan...  Let's relax and have an open mind about it.  Don't exclude possibilities unless there is hard evidence.

This morning (Thursday) if all goes well, I am going to visit Sheung Cheung Wai village and have a good look around it. 

So far this has not been subject to an on-site visit, so I shall be looking for the external wall, and any extant old building. 

The land levels - if any are left - inside the village compound will also be of interest.

I shall report back later.

Suzipie, we need more answers from you. Can you tell us what subject matter appears on this Super 8 film in sequence. A to B to C and so on.

Are you replaying the film on a proper old Super 8 film projector, or doing it some other way? If its the latter how are you doing it?

Does the Super 8 film contain serrations (or square indents) to allow it to be cog fed through the projector mechanism?

Is the film being played the correct way round?

Could the film have been spliced - made up from other films?

Any other detail no matter how insignificant would be useful.


Yuen Long hosts the Aviary Park 7 storey pagoda. The design seems vastly different from that in this forum debate.




District Officer, Yuen Long,
District Lands Officer, Yuen Long
Dear Sirs,
An Internet website named Gwulo currently hosts a Forum in which all sorts of information is debated about Hong Kong's history.
Currently a debate is taking place about the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda at Ping Shan.
We are trying to establish the location and identity of a pagoda at this web site URL - http://gwulo.com/atom/19894
The pagoda is reported to have been built with seven levels and is now down to three. History is vague about the removal of the upper four levels.
Do you have any map, drawing, note, sketch, document, or photograph in your files that can tell us more about this structure.
The URL Forum note is now running into two pages and if you can find 10 minutes to read through it all, you will clearly understand the nature of this enquiry.
Can you assist in any way?

Hi David W

Thank you so much for all the trouble you ar going to - I didn't realise when I uploaded the "still" how controversial it would be.  I thought someone would know right away!  In answer to your queries:

Quote: Can you tell us what subject matter appears on this Super 8 film in sequence. A to B to C and so on.

All the subject matter on this part is in Kowloon or NT.  There is Kowloon Hospital (my brother was born the week this was taken - hence he was visiting the hospital and I guess touring around!).  There is footage of I think the border - I will upload a couple of frames on either side.  

Quote: Are you replaying the film on a proper old Super 8 film projector, or doing it some other way? If its the latter how are you doing it? Does the Super 8 film contain serrations (or square indents) to allow it to be cog fed through the projector mechanism? Is the film being played the correct way round? Could the film have been spliced - made up from other films?

As mentioned previously - so long ago you propably missed it - the 8mm film was transferred to video about 20 years ago. Now videos are becoming obsolete it has been put to DVD - I have a studio doing that for me - they have given me a temporary DVD with a running timer that you can see on the top left corner. This is so I can write down the time and any note that I want added. They will then do that for me.  I want to put notes in the DVD so future generations will know who, where, what. Which is why I would like to get it right and not guess - which is why I put these pictures (stills) from the 8mm film on to Gwulo in the first place.  The original 8mm film is long gone.  And it IS the correct way round and this part of the film is not spliced.

Thanks again,




I will upload a couple more 'stills' from either side of the pagoda ''still'




First of all let me apologise for the obsessiveness comment/post. On reflection it’s me that has become obsessive in this very interesting search for “Where is it?” Old age, retirement, little to do, tend to act as stimulants to find a challenge which then become all consuming.

Philk and David your comments have been read with great interest.  Of course philk’s comments make sense, they woke me up at 05.30hrs this morning. I have just been reading the Heritage Trail booklet again and it makes mention that the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda was originally built at the mouth of a river facing Deep Bay……………. Another part of the text reads “Its auspicious location in alignment with Castle Peak……………

With the aid of Google Earth’s ruler I have been drawing various lines to align the mouth of the river leading into Deep Bay with the pagoda and then beyond into the hinterland. To my surprise this appears to produce the picture that philk wants to see. There is a low hill to the left of the pagoda and in the distance what philk would call a mountain. To the right is a valley floor which is similar to that shown in Suzipie’s photograph. This is a rough approximation for the purposes of this short note.

Working back along the alignments mentioned above, it would seem that the ‘so called’ walled ‘compound/village/farmyard’ in Suzipie’s photograph could be under Tin Sin Sui Wai West Rail station or the housing estate further back.

This now takes Sheung Cheung Wai village out of the equation and means that I shall have to go and walk the ground. I shall also need to go begging in the Yuen Long District Lands Office to see what survey drawings they have before the area was developed.

Suzipie’s photograph also offers another option. Slap bang in the middle is a prominent structure which has width. I know it’s difficult to guess the width of a village house, or building used for other purposes, but a few inspired measurements could be used to roughly dimension the length of what appears to be a wall around a compound that may not be a village as such, but more of a farm facility with external buildings

The foregoing means that Google Earth can be used to roughly dimension Sheung Cheung Village, and I should then be able to compare the measurements. I think  Sheung Cheung Village is a goner.

I am still intrigued with Suzipie’s photograph and the only thing that keeps me going back to the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda is the prominent corbel line at each level. The secondary factor is the number of levels that can be observed.

I shall carry on for another week and if the search throws up a load of negatives I shall retire from the venture.

The idea to put the cine film on YouTube is a very good one. Let’s hope that can be done because that may offer more clues.

I have attached an AutoCAD overlay with annotations to show you what I see on the photograph. Can you see anymore? I am beginning to see that the compound as I now call it must be infinitely bigger than the Sheung Cheung Wai village. It seems to be – and I am guessing – like a farmyard or some such thing.

Chinese residential villages never disappear, many are with us today. Try getting rid of one! But farm land is a different kettle of fish. Look how much has been eaten up to make way for new roads, railways and new towns.

This mystery will not be solved by the Internet alone. Hopefully it will be solved with the Internet, Google Earth, Lands Office survey maps, walking over the ground, and the skylines for the hills.

Please add a comment, I am running out of ideas.


Pagoda AutoCAD notation 12th December 2014 JPEG.jpg
Pagoda AutoCAD notation 12th December 2014 JPEG.jpg, by Dave W


Folks, I have an old map booklet with a page or two of the area in question. I'll have to check again for the publishing date. Please take a look. https://app.box.com/s/tr533rv5hem4gc4uggnv Thanks & Best Regards, T

Mid-morning today – Friday 12th December 2014 – I had a need to travel from Yuen Long to Tuen Mun so I took the West Rail.

I took with me all the photographs that have been placed in this forum topic so far.

Down to Tin Shui Wai I studied the latest photograph which I posted earlier this morning.

After exiting Tin Shui Wai Station the track curves around to the right. In a matter of moments I could see two descending skylines – high left to descending to low right – just as in Suzipie’s photographs. Owing to the constantly curving track and the acceleration of the train there was a moment when I thought I could see a knoll on the furthest skyline that would match with the photograph.

I have since become rather optimistic and excited.

I have no free time this weekend, but on Monday I propose to take my daughter’s camera and spend an hour, or as much time as is needed, to walk around and see what I can line up. There will be problems due to the position of the Tin Siu Wai station and perhaps new high rise structures so I will do my best.

Philk and David thank you very much for disagreeing with my earlier thoughts because this new approach changes things completely.

Please look out for a new forum note next week.

Hi Dave - and all

Thank you Dave for all your trying!!  I am amazed when you said you were retired - with all the energy I've seen you put into this I thought you were a young man!  

I have taken the Ping Shan Radar NT photo and enlarged the Pagoda area. I tried to put to montage on Gwulo but that was a disaster - took a lot of time and I gave up. Apologies to David if I mucked up his site in the process.
Anyway I am still confident this is theTsui Sing Lau pagoda.  I have done a lot of searching and there is nothing else.
Also There are far too many similarities for it not to be.
I did a comparison -  using the Ping Shan Radar NT photo - similar Dave to what you did - I drew a line from lower right corner - to the small hill on far left. The line goes through pagoda to the hill and would be exactly in the line of vision if the photographer was standing to the far right.
Also the ‘V’ in the distant mountains also would marry up along that line of vision.
The distance between Pagoda and house are very similar in film 'still' and Ping Shan Radar photo..
The long front wall would be more evident in B/W photo when viewed from an angle much further to the right
Both pictures show a large tree/s near house.
The terraces in front are much more noticeable in the enlarged B/W.
The terrain becomes much more rugged as you move right where the photographer was standing.
Also immediately after filming the pogada my Dad filmed a stretch of water (sea?) but the image is too bad to copy unfortunately.
Also in the area is the train going through - and not too far away is - I think - a NT border crossing.  See my latest images on Gwulo.
As mentioned to David - once I have this film sorted. I will have a copy done (minus family stuff) for Gwulo. 

C, if you're active on Uwants by all means post a copy there. You can download a copy from:


It'll be good to get some other opinions, and as you say they are very skilled at identifying photos.

Regards, David


Thank you very much for your contribution with the survey map extract.

The pagoda is straight forward to find, but what is priceless is the detail of the Ping Ha Road alignment and its branch off roads. I have red arrowed an approximation where I think the cine film was taken from.

Also interesting is to look at the red lines pointing down to yonder hill sides – and more importantly the downhill running natural stream/run off gulley’s because these can be observed on Suzipie’s photograph. I have marked them on the mixed AutoCAD/Suzipie photograph placed on the Forum this morning.

The survey map does not lend itself to good perspective over distance but I think what we are seeing is the Yuen Long to Ping Shan, to Castle Peak, to Tuen Mun Valley – it has a curve on it.

Press on.

TNGAN map copy with annotations.jpg
TNGAN map copy with annotations.jpg, by Dave W


Just a thought, but who will be the final arbiter to declare that this pagoda is, or is not,  the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda?


My pen picture - if David does not mind.

British, 66 going on 67 years. Full mop of hair, missing front tooth = French bread, came to HK on 21st February 1969, still here, married a local Chinese girl, daughter 30+ native English teacher.

Hobbies: early years, China Sea races on the schooner Mandalay. I was fore-deck crew, gunner, engineer, and assistant cook. Have visited most reefs in the South China Sea. The best is Scarborough Reef, though Pratas Reef has a fascinating history.

Latter day hobbies – I like cooking. Lately, have spent the last 17 years designing and building bit by bit, piece by piece, Hong Kong’s best combined BBQ/Roasting Spit. All stainless steel and designed to last 100 years plus with a good owner. I make what I can with my own hands, but lathe and milling work I get done by an engineer in Tuen Mun. Isambard Kingdom Brunel would give it the thumbs up. Have previously cooked at least three full grown pigs and one sheep. Whichever, you need a big party of at least 60 people for a fully grown pig.

My favourite cooking specialties are traditional English Sunday roasts on my roasting spit: Roast pork loin with the skin on and pared for crackling, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, apple sauce, medium thick gravy, seasonal vegetables. Same thing for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Have no trouble inviting guests. The last one I held a few months ago included retired Hong Kong Police friends and their wives. My daughter did an audit the following day to see what had been drunk – guests two bottles of wine each and I don’t drink wine except for Rose which is a rare event. As my daughter rarely drinks she provides a ‘taxi’ home service if the guests reside nearby. The meats come from Henry’s Delicatessen in Tseung Kwan O – an old friend – Danish  - who supplies many hotels in Hong Kong with quality meats.

Other hobbies engineering related; designed and built my own solar hot water heater system – in daily use and saves many dollars on the electricity bill throughout the year. Have also built my own renewable energy system which includes wind turbines and a photo-voltaic panel unit which automatically tracks the sun from rise to sunset.

Latest foray - challenges on Gwulo.

Next: fine finishes to the BBQ/Roasting spit – buffing and polishing the stainless steel to draw out the gleam and shine. 

Yes, it would be nice to determine if the pagoda in the screen capture is indeed from Tsui Sing Lau. For comparison, a map of the area from 1936 from HKPL. Please note some areas in the vicinity of Ping Shan were flattened for the proposed airport at Ping Shan in 1945/1946. The scheme was abandoned in 1946. Castle Peak Road runs through Ping Shan near the Police Station. 

1936 Ping Shan.jpg
1936 Ping Shan.jpg, by HKPL


Hi there,

I would like to throw in a bit of curiosity and uncertainty into the mix.

I went to Ping Shang to refresh my bearings earlier today  I went to the Ping Shan Tang Clan Gallery and bumped into a guideed tour there.  I pretend to be part of the group and tag along.  The tour was a short one.  The volunteer docent mumbles his way through the exhibits.  He did mention the Pagoda as purely Feng Shui structure built by the Tang Clan long time ago.  However they did not keep any records of when did it become what we see today.

He mentioned when he prepare for his notes he asked the village elders about the pagoda of its origins and legends but no one could pin point when it become three storeys.  One of the elders only said some sixty-seventy years ago when he was a kit, the pagoda was already like that.  

Suzie mentioned the film was converted into video around 20 years ago.  I wonder when was the original film was shot.  If it was post WWII and if the village elder was right about his memory, the image capture would be in conflict.

On the other hand, when I was on-site, I was unable to find any slopes so steep behind the Pagoda in any direction.

My opinion is, it is inconclusive and is still a mystery.  What I saw did not add up. 

My 2 cents,


Hi T, Suzie writes that the film was taken in 1948, ie 66 years ago.

Regards, David

Visited the Tin Shui Wai West Rail station at 11.30 hrs this morning - Monday 15th December 2014.

The ridge lines can be seen from ticket concourse Exit A, plus another tree/bush knoll that can be seen in Suziepie's photograph.

Attached is a photograph taken this morning, but its very poor due to the polution and haze. I will try and upload another annotated photograph in a while.

Would anyone like to meet up with me at the railway station to give a second or third opinion? My moble is nine, zero, one, one, eight, one, double four. Keep ringing until I answer.

Pagoda 15th December 2014.jpg
Pagoda 15th December 2014.jpg, by Dave W


Hi David, If that is the case it looked like an uncertainty to me. This being: 1. The information of the legend of the Pagoda was handed down verbally in generations; 2. There was no written down records it. Even if there was, it would be written in an older form of written Chinese that not all modern people would easily comprehend; 3. If the Pagoda was only three storeys some sixty to seventy years ago, it did not match the photo despite they are of the same time frame as the one captured was taller; I really have no idea........... If the original shot was a long enough one to show other scene that some of us could recognize I would suggest there is insufficient information to decide the location. My 2 cents, T

Marked up photograph with comments.

Pagoda 15th December 2014 annotated.jpg
Pagoda 15th December 2014 annotated.jpg, by Dave W



Thanks for your comments. The problem is that there is an awful lot of hearsay around which may not be accurate. Were getting closer!

Want to meet up for a site visit?

There is still a lot more that can be done. We have a very long wall and a substantial building behind it. 

I am going to enquire if the DLO Yuen Long can help. They must have some records.

This research is like extracting teeth.

Spoke to a lady in the Antiquities and Monuments Office just now and she has seen a picture, sketch, drawing, painting of the pagoda some years ago when the plan arose to make it a protected monument. She is going to ask her staff to do some research.

For the compound wall and substantial building I need to visit the District Survey Office not the DLO Yuen Long.

The AMO are going to be wondering what all the interest in the pagoda is about! I sent them an email today asking if they know the date of the sketch map in their pamphlet: http://www.amo.gov.hk/form/ping_shan_pamphlet.pdf, as it shows the pagoda in its current, three-storey form. It also shows the Ping Shan police station, so it was definitely drawn after 1899.

I'll leave a comment if I get any news. 

Regards, David

Doctor Chang of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department has been in contact with his resources and sent me this e-mail yesterday ----

Thanks for your additional information which sounds very interesting indeed.  I have referred your findings to the attention of the researchers of the HKM project in HKU and below are the notes from Dr. Patrick MOK and is self-explanatory:-

"The HKM's description ​was based on Dr. Shiu's (蕭國健) History of Hong Kong Before 1841 (香港前代社會), p.160-162.  Dr. Shiu traces the origin of pagoda from the Indian Buddhist culture, and according to his research, the architecture took various form of 3, 5, 7 floors.  He frankly admits that the exact date for building the Ping Shan Pagoda couldn't be traced, and he cited local stories or hearsays to support the description of the Pagoda.  

Other sources such as those from the Internet, or short pieces of writings / pamphlets about Hong Kong's heritage sites usually describe the Pagoda of 7 floors, but most of them seldom address the source which I believed all without exception the description came from local stories, legends or hearsays.  What is more than just hearsays is Dr. Shiu's additional evidence to confirm his view by referring to heritage sites / findings in the neighboring areas such as the Boan's Fengyan Pagoda, which was 6 floors and built during the late 18th century to early 19th century.  I believe the colleagues who wrote for the meta may consider Dr. Shiu's  view and the indirect evidence to support the case, though there is still no conclusive evidence."

We'll further verify different findings from various sources and discuss with the researchers of HKU on this matter.  Will also share the findings or any new discoveries with colleagues in AMO. 

Does anyone know where the Boan's Fengyan Pagoda is?

No architectural drawings, no dimensions, no records, lots of hearsay and Suzipie's cine film frame. My next stop this morning is the Survey Office in Yuen Long to see what contour maps they have. "We" still have access to lots of information and the best way (as I see it) is to find a suitable survey contour map and then transcribe it into AutoCAD and then dimension all the details associated with this search. A survey contour map will have a scale to it and from that pandora's box should open up considerably.





Hi there, Boan (寶安) is likely Baoan in Putunghua, over in Shenzhen. http://ibaoan.sznews.com/content/2013-03/21/content_7903587.htm T

Visited the Mapping and Survey office in Yuen Long and got talking to the staff who were very interested and helpful.

I have purchased an aerial photograph of the Ping Shan area taken on the 2nd June 1949. On the Survey office computer screen, the shadow from the pagoda is huge. On the photograph attached it appears not so huge. The photograph was taken from an altitude of 8,000 feet so it should be possible to correlate the pagoda shadow to an approximate dimension for height.

Now for some good news. After the Mapping and Survey Office I took the West Rail from Long Ping to Tuen Mun. Whilst sitting down and passing the time I was was looking at Suzipie's brown and white cine film photograph. As the train moved around a curve in the track sunlight shone on the photo. Then I hit myself on the head, and the appasengers looked at me.

The so called perimter wall, compound wall, protection wall is not that at all. It's a damn great fish pond or water filled rice paddy. The white effect comes from the sun shining on the water surface. How easy it is to make an error. This means the we are looking at the unobstructed base of the pagoda and the corbel levels we see are true i.e. ground level. first level and so on.

On the way back I called at Tin Shui Wai West Rail Station and took some more photographs in better weather and will up load these later.

From the Survey office I have ordered two sets of survey maps with contours which I can then over draw with AutoCAD and eventually identify the ridge lines with the Suzipie's photograph. This work will not be done until after Christmas.

This pagoda is Suzipie's Tsui Sing Lau pagoda - I just want to give you more evidence.

1949  2nd June aerial photograph copy.jpg
1949 2nd June aerial photograph copy.jpg, by Dave W



Some more information from the visit to the Survey and Mapping Office in Yuen Long yesterday (16 Dec 14)

The staff showed me a data print-out for the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda dated 2005. The height was indicated at 17 metres which is around 55 feet. Note that the Heritage Trail booklet mentions a height around 13 metres (about 42 feet) for the existing 3 tier (level) pagoda.

I have e-mailed the Observatory asking for the sun azimuth and elevation each hour from 9 am to 5 pm on the 2nd June 1949 so that I can commence working out shadow length from the photograph. I am going to try and use fairly simple geometry to calculate the pagoda height by its shadow.

I returned to the Survey and Mapping Office this morning (Wednesday 17th Dec 2014) and took another look at the photograph taken on the 2nd June 1949. I enquired if it’s possible to obtain an enlarged copy of the pagoda and its shadow. Yes it is, so I have ordered a 10 x 10 inch copy and forumites will have to wait until the first week of January 2015 to see what comes out of Pandora’s box. The image will be an enlargement of the 1949 pagoda direct from the original negative. The image will be much sharper and better defined.

The existing image - posted above yesterday - does show me on my computer the triangle shape of the apex of the pagoda so the future 10 x 10 inch enlargement will tell us a lot more. I also discovered that there are no more same scale aerial photographs either side of 1949 so the outcome will be interesting.

For those who wish to contemplate taking a replica line of sight photograph from the original photographer’s 1948 position should forget it. Tin Shui Wai West Rail station is in the way and the line of cine film sight takes a diagonal cut across the station. The original cine film photographer’s position is also several hundred yards further back to the North from Exit A.

I hope I have not frightened people off with my comments. 

There is nothing like a site visit to generate questions.

Thursday 14.30 hrs 18th December 2014 visited the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda.

TNgan you may be able to help with the following.

So far I have used Western logic to count the pagoda floor levels – Ground, first, second and so on. When I show the various pictures and drawings to Chinese people they count – Yat Chaan, Leung Chaan, Saam Chaan and so on. What is a chaan?

On site, the bottom floor, base floor, or whatever you want to call it, is not exactly at road level, or ground level if you like. It’s about one metre above outside road level. Therefore instead of calling the inner base, bottom floor, or, ground, should it be called Level 1 or Yat Chaan in Chinese?

If it’s the latter, then the count of Levels rising becomes more interesting.

We would have Level 1 (base), Level 2 and so on.

The next observation blends in with the above comments.

The corbel lines have always interested me. After looking at them a short while ago I observed that:-

The first corbel line was made up of 5 horizontal brick lines,

The second level had 4 horizontal brick lines, and,

The third level three horizontal brick lines.

Stretching the logic further the fourth level should have two horizontal brick lines, and the fifth level one horizontal brick line. Thereafter comes the “roof.” Do the brick horizontals in the corbel levels have a meaning?

To show all readers the above comments against a drawing for easy reference please see below:-

Corbels and levels.jpg
Corbels and levels.jpg, by Dave W

Please comment, anything!

This research is worth a university thesis.

Hi there, Chaan sounds like 層, literally means a layer of something, is also the unit being use for counting floors. I am uncertain about Chinese people from other Provinces, but generally for Cantonese speakers, we usually count the Ground Floor as First floor, and start the count upwards from there. If we use Grand floor in Chinese then we usually say the floor on top of Ground Floor as the second floor. Ground Floor and First Floor.mean the same thing in Cantonese. The G/F, 1/F, 2/F... nonsense was imported, not native here. :-P Maybe it took those who invented Pound/Shilling/Pence to come up with it...... I don't know........Oh well, at least they are not as ridiculous as those high rises that are skipping floors or using unreasonably floor numbers in town. A note, a single Chinese word could have multiple meaning and multiple uses. That is why Chinese is so difficult to learn and comprehend even for us natives. Thanks & Best Regards, T

Please see Photos 14 and 15 on this Chinese page.  This pagoda is in Fenghuang (phoenix) Village in Fuyong, Shenzhen.

C your link to the pagoda at Fenghuang (phoenix) Village in Fuyong, Shenzhen is a treasure.

The general view of it seems to be a mirror image of the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda in the architectural sense. However there are cosmetic differences which is not surprising since the person paying for the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda would want the motifs and inscribed tablets at each floor level to suit his requirements. Likewise the apertures at different levels.

If you, or TNgan, ever have the time to visit this pagoda could you find a way to take a photograph of the apex of the pagoda of this structure - possibly from a high rise building close by. This is the view missing from the Fenghuang photographs and Suzipie's cine film.

Secondly, could you take a tape measure with you and record the horizontal width of any of the hexagonal faces at ground floor level. Also, the doorway between the stone faces.

Thirdly, could you or anyone else, measure the thickness of the wall at the doorway entrance portal at the ground floor. Yesterday (Thursday) when I met the lady guard at Tsui Sing Lau she mentioned that she had measured the wall thickness at 30 inches.

If I have time today I shall visit again and take some ground level dimensions and publish them in a later post. I will also take some close up photographs of the corbel lines so that they can be mirrored with the Shenzhen pagoda for visual comparion. 

I would actually go to Fenghuang myself to carry out this work, but my China visa has expired. If no one is in a position to follow up in this direction please let me know and I shall see what I can do.

Yesterday I thought study work would taper off for a while, but now I see a lot more to do.

Bit by bit this jigsaw is coming together.

Thanks to TNgan and "C" everything moves forward.

C gave a link to another pagoda in Shenzhen which is the spitting image of the Tsui Sing Lau padoga. Architecturally they have significant likenesses, but the motifs and apertures on different levels are different. Why not, these were built to suit the whim of the man with the money. i have cropped the images from the website link mentioned in a thread above for easy reference. My next job when the weather is better is to photograph the corbels of the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda and then side by side post them for comparison. Note the aerial wires wrapped around the Shenzhen pagoda.

Corbels and levels updated to compare Funghuang and and Tsui Sing Lau padogas.jpg
Corbels and levels updated to compare Funghuang and and Tsui Sing Lau padogas.jpg, by Dave W


Pagoda mainland 1 cropped.jpg
Pagoda mainland 1 cropped.jpg, by Dave W
Pagoda mainland 2 cropped.jpg
Pagoda mainland 2 cropped.jpg, by Dave W


Using the 2nd June 1949 aerial photograph of the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda and various Internet calculators, I have been able to place a rough indicator on the pagoda height. These are the parameters used.

Time   15.00 hours

Date 2nd June 1949

Height photograph taken 8,000 feet

Sun azimuth on this date 280.750

Sun elevation 39.80

Result 84.07 feet, or 25.6 metres.

The Heritage Trail booklet gives an approximate height of 13 metres for the existing 3 level structure, so 25.6 metres puts the pagoda in the 6 level (layer) range. A useful indicator.

Hi Dave 

Following along with all of this I am amazed at how it is all unravelling!  

Thank you so much for your perseverance and your ability to achieve this. For me it was the logical assumption from the start when you mentioned that it could be the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda.  I could see no other possibilty, taking into account the region, the neighbouring buildings and the distant hill and mountains - and the local legend of its missing top part.

It would seem from the comparative pagodas in China that this was a 6 level pagoda, not a 7 level one.

If you or David want to send to the Heritage Trail people my "stills"  of the pagoda, you are welcome to do so.  

Kind regards and Merry Christmas to you all


PS:  When you have a free moment - perhaps after Christmas - can you please look at my "Is it the NT Boundary crossing" photos (3) I uploaded a couple of weeks ago - and give me your thoughts on where this is?  Thank you.


Firstly a reply to Suzipie's note above.

There is still some excitement to come - the enlargement of the aerial photograph taken on the 2nd June 1949 - which will appear in the first week of January 2015.

Before tackling the other mystery posted frames, I would like to see the cine film in DVD version first. That will tell us a lot.

Regarding the so called Border Crossing, I think that will be solved by where it is not - elimination. The railway train frame I would follow the old Tai Po Road for that and look at ridgelines between Shatin and Hong Lok Yuen.

Yeserday's foray took me to the Ping Shan Heritage Centre where I surprised the staff with the Fenghuang pagoda photographs. They were a bit cautious at first and mulled over the idea that it might be Tsui Sing Lau. Eventually one asked me the location and I revealed all.

After this visit I walked to the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda and concentrated on photographing the corbel lines. I am curious to see how similar these two pagodas are in structural design as opposed to architectural layout. To start with I am concentrating on the easy aspect by counting the corbel bricks and have immediately run into a problem - at least I think I have. This means I will have to renew my China visa and visit the Fenghuang pagoda and count the corbel bricks with the naked eye and take better quality photographs.

The following photographs (quality uncertain) have been annotated and readers should be able to follow them without me writing more. The first photograph is Tsui Sing Lau pagoda:-

Tsui Sing Lau pagoda corbel bricks count.jpg
Tsui Sing Lau pagoda corbel bricks count.jpg, by Dave W


Funghuang pagoda corbel bricks count.jpg
Funghuang pagoda corbel bricks count.jpg, by Dave W

I counted the Tsui Sing Lau brick line several times and it is definitely 18 bricks. The Funghuang photograph is not so clear.

Happy Christmas.

Hi there, This had been nagging me from the very beginning. Is it just me or could anyone estimate what is the distance between the Pagoda and the hills behind? Many questions here: 1. Is it just one hill or a hill in front with a ridge going way back? Are they connected? 2. Why I have the feeling just by looking at the screen shot that the pagoda is very close to the hills? 3. How tall are the hills/ridge behind the pagoda? We are unable to see the full skyline in the screen shot...... 4. What about the elevation angle from the lens toward the top of the pagoda and beyond? From the screen shot the hills looked much taller than the pagoda to me; My 2 cents, T

The original question on this thread was “Where is this pagoda?”

The film clip images appear to show a pagoda with multiple levels with very large hills/mountains very close behind it.

The assumption appears to be that this is the pagoda at Tsui Shing Lau/Ping Shan as pagodas are rare in Hong Kong, despite it not having a similar number of levels to that in the screen-shot.

Local village hearsay from various sources claim that at some time in the past, but with no certainty as to actually when, it did have more levels, up to seven have been quoted

However it has yet to be explained how the pagoda in the 1948 screen-shot if at Ping Shan somehow reverts to just the three levels shown in the photograph of the Ping Shan radar unit dated around 1950. Ands no one seems to notice or documents the reduction in height at this time period?

I do not believe the screen-shot in question was taken in Hong Kong unless someone can come up with an image of an alternative pagoda in Hong Kong in a similar environment and background.

In 1948 it would have been quite easy to cross the border into China to take such a film clip, especially if the person shooting the film was acting in an official capacity or as a liaison officer dealing with those on the other side. By October 1949 the border was effectively closed.

Doctor Solomon Bard, the eminent historian in his book “In Search of the Past-A Guide To The Antiquities of Hong Kong” has a brief section on the Ping Shan pagoda saying:-

The Pagoda is thought of as a characteristically Chinese building; it achieved its greatest development as the marker of a sacred Buddhist relic or as a place of Buddhist devotion.

There is a paucity of pagodas in Hong Kong compared with the Main1and, where splendid tall pagodas are a common enough feature of the view. Among the few, Tsui Shing Lau is the sole authentically ancient pagoda.

It stands in Ping Shan in the heart of the Tang clan district. Though small and modest by any standard, it enjoys a special and honoured place in local tradition, which sets the date of its building in the 14th century, early in the Ming dynasty. Local people relate that it was built as a protection against “unfavourable influences from the North”. Its location in alignment with Castle Peak mountain was later interpreted as being propitious for scholarship and distinction. The Tang clan of Ping Shan claims, with historical truth, that among its members have flourished a number of distinguished scholars and high officials.

The Pagoda is a six-sided structure, about 10m wide and 20m high, built of Chinese grey brick. Granite blocks frame its entrance. The intricately arranged brick corbels separating the three storeys form a pleasing architectural feature. Of a graceful and dignified aspect, the Pagoda is nonetheless simple in style with little embellishment.

It is said to have been originally seven storeys high and subsequently to have lost the four upper storeys in two separate incidents, presumably caused by the violence of typhoons; a geomancer had then advised the villagers to let the Pagoda remain at three storeys.

Its name of Tsui Shing Lau, which is carved on one of the tablets decorating the Pagoda, may be translated as the “building of many stars”. Two other stone tablets claim for it a heavenly connection, and within is an altar with wooden deities; nonetheless, the Pagoda is neither temple nor Buddhist shrine, but principally a fung shui structure “

It’s strange that there appears to be no photographs/ paintings/drawings or mention of a large pagoda in the New Territories similar to the film clip for any period except the much more recent Shatin pagoda on the hillside. Such a multi-story pagoda would be a magnet for any pre-war/post-war tourists to visit and picture, but no images appear to exist. Even those found for the Tsui Shing Lau pagoda all appear to be post-war including the black and white images.

In 1945 the Royal Air Force decided that Kai Tak airport was “too dangerous” to function as a military airfield, and as an aside even as a civil airport for modern post-war aircraft due to the close proximity of the surrounding mountains An immediate decision was made to build a new airport in the New Territories at the Ping Shan area as it was flat with no mountains to cause a threat to aircraft..

The RAF’s Airfield Construction Units descended on Ping Shan to prepare the ground for an airport using thousands of local workers. The book “Airfield Construction Service 1936-46” has a chapter of their time in Hong Kong.

While prepared to clear whole villages, graves, hills and rivers there is no mention in this book or in the many official documents and newsprint reports I have seen is there any mention a “tall pagoda” being in the way of the airport site or being an impediment to flying aircraft.

The RAF’s effect on the area must have been massive at the time.

To partially quote from the book:-

“A preliminary survey was made for the proposed joint civil and military airfield project at Ping Shan, some 20 miles away from the city in the New Territories. The proposed site for a new airport to replace the badly sited Kai Tak had been selected from maps, and Squadron Leader Ronald MacKintosh was to be responsible for the survey. A very gallant elderly gentleman, recently released from a prisoner-of-war camp, drove the team around the New Territories. They were able to report favourably on this site, subject to more detailed examination. The four members of this party were the first Europeans to penetrate into the Ping Shan area since the Japanese occupation. Some 7.5 square miles was surveyed in an area where life had hardly changed for a dynasty. The site seemed ideal, with both approaches over the sea. The valley was fairly level, but with hills on either side, including Castle Peak west of the southern approach. A number of small villages and homesteads would have to be re-located elsewhere, but more importantly for the local people, it would involve the cutting down and removal of several hills which were the burial grounds of ancestors from the villages.

Cutting across vast areas of paddy fields, the runway was planned to be 1,800 metres (5900 feet) long and 45 metres (150 feet) wide, beginning from Nai Wui village and ending about 280 metres (920 feet) beyond Shek Po towards Deep Bay, passing through Sun Fung Wui, Chung Uk Tsuen, Tin Sum and Li Uk Tsuen. It was planned to be extendable by another 800 metres (2,600 feet) and double the width at a later date.

Further site exploration was more encouraging, and on the basis of preliminary reports Air Ministry approval was given for construction work to proceed. One month later the quarrying flight set to work on a hill of granite; they commenced on digging out a new channel into which to divert the river. The first construction squadron was moved from Kowloon to a tented camp on one side of the valley and, as might be expected, villagers became much alarmed as to what future lay in store for them. Initial preparation completed, access roads and a con­necting light railway were built to the quarry which produced 15,000 tons of broken granite monthly.

Many high-ranking officers visited the site, including the C-in-C, Lord Mountbatten. On 27 October 1945 Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park and Admiral Sir Cecil Harcourt visited Ping Shan and for them a special rock blast at the quarry was laid on.

The road between Tsun Wan and Tai Mo Shan Peak was rebuilt by the Wing to take heavier motor traffic and the clearing of the hill outcrop at Taiwashan in the Ping Shan valley meant the removal of 230,000 tons of rock.

Work went on apace at Ping Shan until March 1946, when work had to stop!

New international standards had been agreed governing the design of international airports, and Ping Shan did not satisfy these regulations, the southern approach being too narrow. The RAF could have used it, but Air Ministry was not prepared to go it alone. This was a great relief for the local people, who had objected most vehemently because so much of the rice paddy would have been lost.”

More can be found on the Ping Shan airport saga relating to the villagers in one of the chapters in the pdf below that has been highlighted previously on Gwulo.


There is also a UK Imperial War Museum documentary film featuring the Ping Shan airport construction site but no signs in it of any tall pagodas.

Interesting extract as follows:-

Extract from the HK PRO record - re Tiger Balm Garden pagoda

Image for 365-1-38/c042-1_t.jpg

Part of text -  “The white pagoda has seven storeys, conforming to the Chinese belief that the number of storeys should be odd.”

 Date August 1959


 TNgan - Is it just me or could anyone estimate

What is the distance between the Pagoda and the hills behind?

Between 1.2 and 2 miles. Source Google ruler.

1. Is it just one hill, or, a hill in front with a ridge going way back?

Yes and multiple ridges. You can see these from the village carpark just a few yards away from the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda.

Are they connected?

Yes, but looked at from the pagoda, or Exit A of Tin Shui Wai West Rail Station, they blend in with each other. In the present poor weather conditions with pollution haze, the ridge lines merge with each other.

It also depends on the angle and elevation from which they are viewed.

You can see them from Google Earth, or by taking the West Rail to Siu Hong, but keep your eyes peeled – the train is rather swift.

2. Why do I have the feeling just by looking at the screen shot that the pagoda is very close to the hills?

Perception, depth of view.

Remember you are only looking at one frame.

We have yet to see the DVD run which may well put everything into a better perspective.

3. How high are the hills/ridge behind the pagoda? About 15 metres up to 271 metres. Google Earth referenced. No idea how accurate this is.

We are unable to see the full skyline in the screen shot......

Yes, we also cannot see the top (apex) of the pagoda either. I think this is due to strong sunlight on the day and the angle of the sun at the time. Remember that the picture started from 8mm film which has been converted to video film. It is now being converted again to DVD format. There will be loss of resolution with each conversion.

4. What about the elevation angle from the lens toward the top of the pagoda and beyond?

As before, the apex of the pagoda is not visible. Measure your own eye height above the ground and you will have your first measurement. The distance of the photographer from the pagoda is something I am trying to work out by triangulation. I have a few more ideas but more study is required.

*********** What is important is the type of camera lens and its magnification and focal length. This we don’t know, but it would answer some of your questions above.

During the day of Christmas Eve I collected two sets of contour drawings and the enlarged aerial photograph of the pagoda from the Survey and Mapping Office, Yuen Long. With regard to the latter, the greatest of luck has arrived because it shows the hexagon shaped stone pedestrian level fence/wall around the base of the pagoda which is still there today. When I have a moment I will visit and measure all sides of this hexagon wall and from that I can calculate a ball park measurement that will offer something for the height of the pagoda.This will be the first "true" measurement obtained in the current day.Updated mathematics to follow.

The other items are contour maps – to scale – of the hills that interest you. After I have put these through an A1 scanner and saved them in TIFF format, I can then import them into AutoCAD. After that I shall trace out the contour lines. Thereafter I can identify the contours to show the ridge lines. Tracing contours my way is doing it the hard way. It can be done via Google Earth and converting the data through different software programmes and then dumping it into AutoCAD. 

I hope the JPEG's are good enough to view clearly. Remarkable small differences in detail concerning the eave tiles (round green shaped) and the drip-off tiles at two corbel levels on each pagoda. I wonder why there is a difference? Different builder? Someone dared to copy another architects structure? Highly dangerous 4-600 years ago! Damage repair. Dimensional differences of materials?

Tsui Sing Lau pagoda corbel bricks count plus eaves and drip tiles.jpg
Tsui Sing Lau pagoda corbel bricks count plus eaves and drip tiles.jpg, by Dave W
Funghuang pagoda corbel bricks count plus eaves and drip tiles.jpg
Funghuang pagoda corbel bricks count plus eaves and drip tiles.jpg, by Dave W


Sunday morning 28th December 2014.

Visited the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda and took my file with me. The purpose was to measure the hexagonal shaped stone pedestrian wall which surrounds the pagoda. This can be seen on the enlarged photograph shown below.

The longest side measures 173.25 inches which is about 4.4 metres.  By using a  protractor to walk off the wall top measure measurement against the shadow and the approximate centre of the pagoda the length over the ground is around 50.53 feet.

Knowing the Latitude and Longitude of the pagoda from Google Earth, I then used a US Navy calculator to work out the azimuth and elevation of the sun on the 2nd June 1949. Hong Kong Summertime (GMT +9) was also factored in. For the purposes of local time I selected Noon (12.00hrs) and then made successive calculations for each hour of the afternoon.

The known data was then put through TANRADIAN using Excel and produced the following heights based on each hour:-

Noon              139.66 feet                42.57 metres

13.00hrs        75.80                          23.10

14.00hrs        46.48                          14.17

15.00hrs        28.08                          8.56

16.00hrs        14.26                          4.35

17.00hrs        2.61                            0.80

What I don’t know is the time the photograph was taken.

Whilst doing all this work a rather interested crowd gathered including two Russian tourists. One man, a local resident on his way to work, was adamant that the pagoda had seven levels. As he was in a hurry he said he would copy the information he has and would leave it with the security guard in due course. I need to follow up.

Would any local Hong Kong resident like to borrow my aerial photographs and various known dimensions and conduct his own set of calculations?

David, please note that the enlarged photograph has Lands Department copyright protection. If they find it and jump up and down I may need to ask you to remove it in due course.

The next event on the calendar is to wait for the 2nd June 2015 and see where the shadow falls for the hours mentioned above.

It is tempting to note that the calculation at 14.00hrs is awfully close to the Heritage Trail booklet mention of approximately 13 metres, and 17 metres I have seen on a Survey and Mapping Office document.

tsui sing lau enlarged cropped.jpg
tsui sing lau enlarged cropped.jpg, by Dave W




Hi there, I wonder if we could trying to figure it out by the shape and outline of the shadow........ Thanks & Best Regards, T


You’re right. Using the best optical accessories I can find to offset my descent into hereditary blindness, I rotated the photograph and looked again. In the photograph below you will see three arrows pointing to bulges. All those interested in this topic will instantly know what these mean. The photograph is dated 2nd June 1949 so the picture ties in exactly with IDJ’s lengthy note above concerning the saga of RAF Ping Shan.

In the space of 105 forum topic notes by interested people, this matter has been through the washing machine and tumbled around. The outcome has been marvellous, with all sorts of views and opinions. I regret and apologise for my less than welcome remarks which are due an excess of fresh bread with cheese, and my favourite wine. My comments are, fortunately, not from the heart. They derive from sheer interest, zeal, and intense curiosity.

The wheel has more-or-less fully turned and I am beginning to think that the Tsui Sing Lau was indeed built with seven layers, but four of these went before the invention of the camera to record “true” film records. I use the word true in inverted commas because I have a wild thought that cine film could be used to take a picture of an artist’s painting. But why would an artist paint a boring landscape with a pagoda on the left hand side? Surely and artist would want to paint the magnificence of the structure?

We are back to square one – “Where is it?”

Until we can see Suzipie’s cine film as a YouTube run, and then verify that any one scene was taken in Hong Kong, we don’t know where it is.

tsui sing lau enlarged cropped copy with arrows.jpg
tsui sing lau enlarged cropped copy with arrows.jpg, by Dave W


Dear Dave and TNgan and IDJ and all

It would seem logical therefore, following on from the above disclosures, that this is perhaps the last photo/film taken of the pagoda befoe it lost its top 3-4 levels.  The RAF B/W photo is dated June 1949.  My film image is in the week of 14 February 1948 - so that means the top levels were removed during those 14 months.  Obviously it lost its top before the RAF came along.

I am still convinced that this is the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda - because the distant hill, the far distant mountains, the trees and buildings to the right - and the terrain all "fit the picture" - unless someone can come up with another pagoda in the vicinity with all these contributing factors, which I believe would be far too big a coincidence.. If another such big pagoda existed in this area we would all know about it!

Other points:

- Ron Brooks, the camerman, (my Dad) was certainly not galivanting around China - this film footage was taken at the time of the birth of his son (my little brother) at the Kowloon hospital, while he was visiting the Hospital in the week of 14 February 1948. He was an officer at the HK Fire Brigade and was not "acting in an official capacity with liaison or any other Govt work over the border" as has been implied - for a start it was not his "portfolio".  He was simply filling in time between visits to his wife and new born son.

- It has been mentioned that traditionally the pagodas were 5, 7 or 9 levels - odd numbers being good luck - yet the Funghuang pagoda in Shenzhen has 6 levels - which is contrary to that statement.

- Within the same 5 minute footage that includes the pagoda Ron Brooks also "shot" the Kowloon Hospital, my baby brother, my molther, the Yaumati Theatre, a train crossing the New Territories, boys on buffalos, an Atlas plane with passengers taking off from an airfield - and a building with the Union Jack flying, that looks like it is somewhere on the border, so all these have to be in the same vicinity - ie: a few miles radius of the Kowloon Hospital.  

Thanks for your efforts,





 Please don’t go away just yet.

I did ask in an earlier post if the sequence of scenes in the film could be briefly described from start to finish with a short explanatory sentence i.e Yaumati theatre. 

Like this:-

Scene 1 …………..

Scene 2 ……………

Scene 3 ………….

Scene 4………

Scene 5 ………….

The reason for asking is to try and follow the photographer’s movements. If this precise sequence detail can be made available Google Earth can be used to paint the picture of movements.

 I am interested to ascertain if the scenes follow what was, in my day (late 1960’s early 1970’s), called a “Round Robin” trip around the New Territories and back to the start point in Kowloon.

I have already started work on the “border crossing” structure and have entered most of the Sino British border police and international crossing posts with identifiers on my Google Earth. Likewise the Ping Shan pagoda of 1949.

In the next week or so I shall also visit the Kowloon Canton Railway Museum at Tai Po and see what ancient photographs have been hung on the wall. This may be a lucky (probably unlucky) short cut into finding the ridgeline behind your train scene.

Have you ever considered writing to the current day Director of Fire Services to enquire if you father’s service record is still available? If it is, you might like to add in the nature of your enquiry and, in particular, try and find out where he was posted in 1948. The nature of his duties would be a bonus.

The address is here:-

Mr. LAI Man Hin, FSDSM  

Director of Fire Services,

Fire Services HQ Building,

1 Hong Chong Road,

Tsim Sha Tsui East,


Hong Kong.

Pagodas do not vanish from the earth very easily.  

It is interesting to know that your father was a fire officer. His knowledge of Hong Kong would have been extensive, and he would also have had access to many places which may have been out of bounds to the public.

Hong Kong has been eliminated as the location for the pagoda shot on Suziepie's film.

I missed the following and I think it gives a hint to look in a different direction.

"this 'still' frame is from the same 8mm film and was taken just prior to the footage of the pagoda, if not the same day then probably the same week in 1948.

This "still" frame concerns the "border post" which has an uncertain location. The next frame is the not in Hong Kong pagoda. Perhaps the photographer could see it from the border fence (without crossing the fence) and it was located on what we call the mainland side.

If the cine camera was a good one with several lenses including a telephoto (Bell & Howell type for example), then it would have been easy to take an unobstructed shot.

I have a montage of three images in colour taken from the Lok Ma Chau lookout in 1970 or 1971. I will dig them out and post them later.

Any thoughts?

Hi all -

Okay - its not the Tsui Sing Lau - and I have learnt a lot about pagodas and Ping Shan!

I list here the sequence of Roland's tour - starting from the Kowloon Hospital on week of 14 February 1948 (I will also upload a few more "still" frames of this sequence to correspond with the list below - you can follow how close they are to each other by the running time sequence on top left corner of each frame):

1. Kowloon Hospital

2. Atlas plane at Kai Tak airport

3. Panorama of coastal settlement and sea

4. Panorama of same settlement with distant mountains

5. Train crossing presumably heading for Kowloon

6. A small Chinese stone bridge in fields

7. A Chinese town with several covered trucks

8. Same town with more trucks

9. Chinese women carrying baskets and crossing bridge

10. Presumably a border crossing with flag, hut, barricade

11. Same area with barricade 

12. Presumably a border crossing building with high fencing and Union Jack

13. Operation of a pump in channal in Chinese town

14. Same area showing street with bridge over the channel

15. Terrain on right of pagoda showing a stone arch and thatched roof

16. The Pagoda with buildings on right and hill behind and distant mountains

17. Boys on buffalo

18. Houses in hillside near sea

19. Sampans

20 Coast with junk

That is the end of the sequence and the end of Roland's "round robin". Some photos showing these scenes are already uploaded - you can find them by the running time schedule on left corner - and others I will add now. 



Hi Suzie - is there any chance of you uploading the pictures for 5, 18 and 19?

Regarding the border crossing, there are several now including Lo Wu, LokMa Chau, Man Kam To and Sha Tau Kok. Sha Tau kok seems too far away to be included on your dad's trip but I wonder if Man Kam To was a border control point in 1948? Of course, it could be the the 'assumed' border control point on your video is in fact simply the guarded entrace to one of the large barracks in the area. Most were guarded by a small hut and barrier.

Some 1937 photos of Hong Kong are being sold on eBay. One is of the pagoda at Ping Shan as shown here If the date of the photo is corrrect, then this is the earliest pre-WWII photo of the pagoda that I have seen showing its 3 levels.

Thank you Moddsey for this link. 

I have looked at it and find that it is the same (almost) photo as the one located by David B and linked to the site on Wed 2014-12-10:

Quote:            ......I've searched for pagoda in Images at the Public Library's MMIS. There are a few shots of Tsui Sing Lau pagoda, but the earliest is dated "ca. 1950s": https://mmis.hkpl.gov.hk/coverpage/-/coverpage/view?_coverpage_WAR_mmisp...

This is a HK Museum of History photo that they label as:  ‘Date created/published ca 1950s’.  Nowhere does it say the photo is dated in the 1930s.

The author in eBay needs to be careful of false advertising and fraudulent sales if he/she cannot verify that the photo was definitely taken in 1936 - your link was   here

If you compare the eBay photo with the HK Museum photo (almost same) you will see they were taken at the same or almost same date. On the roof of the pagoda a shrub is growing.  It is in both photos and it is identical - there would be a big difference in the shrub within two years either way! Plus the surrounding bushes are the same.

BTW - I am still not yet convinced that ‘my’ pagoda is not the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda in Ping Shan as I cannot see any logical explanation for me to believe otherwise: the Feb 1948 film was ALL taken within this region of the NT; the HK Museum of History itself says the pagoda is ‘the only surviving ancient pagoda in HK.’;  the surrounding terrain is sympathetic; the basic structure is of the same design -


  1. we have established the pagoda lost its top before the RAF came along - because the B/W RAF photo dated June 1949 shows only 3 levels.- and  
  2. my film image is taken in February 1948 - it coincides with the birth of Ron Brooks’ son at Kowloon Hospital (in same footage) and with the visit of Atlas Air with big display at Kai Tak Airport on 25 Feb 1948 as-reported in newspaper - (also filmed in same footage).

Thus all that being correct it obviously means the top levels were removed during those 14 months.

I have found there was a typhoon on 28 July 1948 - about 5 months after the film was made in Feb 1948, which could have caused the lost ‘top’ - see below:  


HONG KONG HAVOC:  20 DEAD - July 1948

HONG KONG, July 28 ( A.A.P.-Reuters) . — At least 20 people are known to have lost their lives last night when a typhoon hit the city and surrounding area.  A much higher casualty list is feared when full details are known. Large numbers are missing and many homeless. Several houses collapsed under the combined force of the wind and torrential rain, burying an undetermined number of Chinese occupants.  

Many junks and sampans were sunk, and a number of small steamers were washed ashore in Hong Kong Harbour. The British India Company's 10,000 ton ship Sangola broke away from a buoy, but the anchor held.  A 90ft landslide has cut the Kowloon-Canton railway, and services are dislocated.  A tidal wave is reported to have struck Cheung Chow Island 20 miles east of Hong Kong sinking about 50 boats of all types.

The typhoon was originally expected to pass 150 miles to the east. But it suddenly switched direction yesterday and headed for the colony. The city was hurriedly battened down, thousands rushed for home by the ferries, while small craft sought shelter.





If you scroll right down on the ebay link/posting it will show the offered image is part of a picture album dated 1937 owned by someone who appears to have spent time in Hong Kong.

"A page of the album is shown with other images as are details of the original owner. From an album collection of Hong Kong postcards (and photographs) taken by Mr. L. Thorne in 1937/38 - a very candid, personal and professional view of life in and around Hong Kong and the New Territories"



Another photo from the 1937 album collection of L. Thorne as seen here

even without these 1937 pictures, it was fairly obvious to me (and others after talking to them) that the pagoda on the film is not the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda.

Sorry Phil and IDJ to remain stubborn but until someone can tell/show me where in the same vicinity (on the 'round-robin' route in the Northern New Territories) this pagoda is/was then I have no choice but to remain adamant that it HAS to be the Tsui Sing Lau pagoda. The film footage I have does not, cannot, lie. (Sooner or later I will put it on the site).

And as I have said previously  - the postcard is NOT dated and is too similar to the 1950s image used by the Museum. It could very easily have been slipped into the album at a later date. I have done the same thing with albums inherited from my own father. The album referred to above was sold at an auction by auctioneers who had acquired it, not by the author of it, so who can really verify where and when that postcard originated. . 


It looks set to forever remain a mystery...

Hi There,

I managed to locate the mentioned concrete base back in November 2015.  The coordinate is approximately 22.512028, 114.121452 in Google Maps.

I was unable to determine how old it is though.



Hello tngan

I cannot find where this - concrete base - was mentioned, or the relevance of it?

Kind regards,




Hi Suzie,

It is only a reply to IDJ's message concerning the piece of story he quoted from a book, talking a demolished pagoda.  Litterally speaking it is sort of off topic.

The concrete base (if you click on the Google Map link embedded in my previous message), is a white\grey dot among the trees on the upper left.