Commercial complexes in the New Towns, late 1960s - early 1980s | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Commercial complexes in the New Towns, late 1960s - early 1980s

Hi everyone!

I'm working on a PhD thesis on consumption culture in the New Town public housing estates, and while I've found out rather a lot about hawkers and markets, I'm missing quite a lot of information and images of the commercial complex 'malls' inside the housing estates. The only images I've seen are of the interiors of Lek Yuen Estate's 'Swing Department Store' and the new Wellcome supermarket opened between 1975-77, but I've struggled to find any further information about Swing Department Store - what did it sell? What were the prices? Who worked there? Was it popular? When was it closed in the end? Other aspects are the restaurants and cafes - It's clear there was at least one large Chinese restaurant in every estate but I'm yet to find any images or stories of people using them.


Here are the list of malls I'm interested in:

In Sha Tin - Lek Yuen, Wo Che and Sha Kok Estate commercial complexes

In Tuen Mun - Tai Hing, On Ting, Sam Shing, Yau Oi Estate commercial complexes

In Tsuen Wan/Kwai Tsing - Lei Muk Shue, Cheung Ching Estate commercial complexes especially, but actually any in this area would be useful!


So far, I spent a few months this year sifting through various Hong Kong archives - PRO, GIS, History Museum, Heritage Museum, as well as one particular private collection (modernism HK on Instagram, I believe he's got a rather substantial collection, related to his interest in graphic design). The GIS Photo Library in North Point actually came up with some of the best material, but is limited - I'm sure so many government photographs were taken during the period but sadly many are still stuck in boxes or destroyed. MMIS also has some awesome photographs of other aspects of my research, but I guess that these commercial complexes are simply seen as too mundane and maybe too recent history to be interesting... Because of this I've visited as many existing places as I can and photographed as much as possible, but they are of course in their present state. I've also tried to use find as many oral histories as I can, with mixed results. I have conducted some interviews, but sadly my Cantonese language skills are rather subpar so they've not always been productive. In the UK I have done a first scour of the National Archives and British Library, and still in the process of going back again. On the web, I've been in touch with Ko Tim keung (who supplied many images to Hong Kong Memory) and SCMP Photo Archive. Both have been helpful, but again limited and very few images of the new complexes of the time.

The subject is rather close to my heart - as a diasporic Hongkonger with most of my family still living there in New Towns, I have fond memories of visiting lots of these labyrith-like shops. They're also kind of peculiar structures - these days they vary between bustling and empty, and I always wondered why they were built there in the first place. Now in doing all this research, I've realised that they're barely even mentioned in histories of housing in Hong Kong, even though they seem so central to the change in architecture and urban planning.


I would be grateful for any snippet of information or stories you might have! Any memories of moving in and visiting the shops or restaurants for the first time? Or maybe you had a particular favourite spot? Would you have any photographs from those days?


All best!



Hi Vivien,

You've looked in most of the places I'd have suggested. One other idea that popped up is to look at the Government year books for the years that the various estates opened. Sometimes there are photos of government construction projects that had finished, so you might get lucky there.

I'll mention this in the newsletter, in case that helps. Then I suggest you create a Place page per estate (see, with a few photos of what you've seen and a note of what you're looking for. They'll attract Google searches, and may also get replies from newsletter readers.

Good luck, David

Hi David,

Thanks for your reply! Yes I have seen a few of those, I was hoping for orginal images but published images are a good second best.

Thanks for this, I'd appreciate the mention in the newsletter, and I will definitely try the Place entries! Hopefully there's some interesting stories out there.

Fingers crossed! Vivien

Would working at the district level turn up anything?

eg do the district councils keep albums that would have relevant photos:

Or would the team behind the "Cultural and Historical Resources Corners of 18 Districts" have any useful material that isn't listed on MMIS:

Ooh! Didn't think of those, I'll look into it - thanks so much!


It happens that a classmate of mine was a Lek Yuen Estate resident in the 1970s and I've got his consent to let you contact him to acquire information you want from him. Yet how can I get your email address so that I can forward his to you?

Hi, thanks so much for getting in contact with your classmate! My email is

All best,