Civilization of man originates from the use of resources, gifted by our mother Earth; thus, a stable and abundant landscape is a basis of survival. To fulfill the desire and hope to dominate nature, people have been worshiping Gods of mountain and land for their blessings and protection. 

In villages of Northern Lantau, with harsh living environments and inaccessibility to education, villagers have created their own unique and vernacular way of ritual devotion, through worshiping oval-shaped and triangular stones collected in the landscape. In particular, triangular stone resembles the shape and robustness of a mountain, which is therefore recognized as the image of the God of mountain.

In Sha Lo Wan, a well-crafted altar is built in front of villages houses. Different from the other altars in Northern Lantau, villagers are substituting stones with coral, which signifies the inseparable relationship between villages and the sea. With over 300-year of history, this altar had witnessed the occupation of pirates in the 1930s.

Just a few-minutes walk from the altar, a set of Tun Fu can be found next to the gatehouse of Sha Lo Wan. Tun Fu (躉符) is a common vernacular ritual in South China. Villagers believe that Feng Shui would be adversely impacted during construction work and would even startle the Dragon King which may bring turmoil to families. Therefore, Tun Fu is constructed for reconciling any malignant deity, and wishing for peace.

Villagers in Sha Lo Wan have established a strong and unique set of ritual practice. During our way out to the pier, we have encountered an old lady walking to Pa Kong Ancient Temple for worshiping Hung Shing Ye (洪聖爺). Despite her back-pain, ritual practices have been a routine which is melded with her daily life. It has been an indigenous identity embedded in villagers’ life and has certainly enriched villagers’ sense of belonging to Sha Lo Wan.  Such intangible value of the village is often unspoken, but once it is revealed, it can definitely show the unity between the people, the environment and the Gods in this village. 



Date: 28th May 2020 ( Thursday)                                                                             Weather: Cloudy


Carried out on 28th May, our first official expedition set off, accompanied by a group of amazing experts. Our expert group comes from different backgrounds, like Mr Loong who works in design thinking strategy in Mui wo, Kay who works as a social designer, Bonny who is a flower artist and so on. Our research team were thrilled to be accompanied by them in this journey and excited by the insights they have given towards the Tung O Ancient Trail.


Group photo @ SLW


At first, we divided our team into three main groups. In each group, there are three researchers and also three to four experts. Every researchers and experts are given a kit with several maps and notes, so as to facilitate the data gathering process in the later stage. There is clipboard, two maps, stickers, draft papers and pamphlets.



The tide was high in the morning and we couldn’t get near to the mangroves shore where the locals used to collect oysters. Our expert from Policy for Sustainability Lab, HKU, pinpointed her concern of the climate resilience of the site and worried that the site is prone to flooding in the not-near future in the wake of rising sea levels.



Furthermore, we carried out some interesting conversation with the local villagers. Emily, owner’s daughter of  坤記士多 said,  “We will go to Tuen Mun market to buy eggs and other food supply. We take our father’s car. Although it is further away, we got used to it. And because of the remoteness of the area, it is hard to get maintenance for the broken electrical appliances.”



After a brief discussion on the findings in Sham Wat, we continue to venture through the forest towards Sha Lo Wan. We spotted some interesting scenes on our way and we drew it out later in the collective mapping.



We came to our final checkpoint which is the tuckshop. Despite of the tight schedule, everyone got a chance to share their views/ reflections on the development of TOAT.
Loong and Kay expressed their interest towards the rural economy development along the trail. Since the farmlands produce papaya, banana, pineapple, this production process creates proudness and identity among the villagers, also they can utilize the fruits to create other products like green bean soup.
Kay quoted the Japan reference with the government subsidizing the farmers to invite designers for rebranding. While Loong suggested another direction, which is the cooperation between restaurants and local farmers and the former can provide special menu depending on the produce from the farmers.


Interacting with an elderly who is selling cold drinks (left), Rebranding example in Japan (right)


Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to finish the collective mapping practice at the end since we need to catch up the 4:20 ferry at the pier, but we did the overlaying map practice which helps us to understand more on the interest cluster and interest area from different profession.


Overlaying maps with remarks (left), unfinished collective mapping (right)


Till next time!!






Materiality of TOAT

From hiking website to online critic, people commented on the issue of concrete paving along hiking trail. Visual pollution and irreversible environmental damage, they say.
So, let’s try to create a conversation using Tung O Ancient as the starting point, and understand: why will we use concrete paving?
But first let’s understand our selected trail.
Tung O Ancient Trail is a trail framing the northern costal line of  Lantau Island. It has been a trail that the local villagers relied on to commute and visit different villages for trading. Unlike other ancient trails in the New Territories like Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail, it is still in use by the villagers today. The villagers is also eager to develop and expand thus there are construction of small scale village houses. 
From the previous 2 visits, we recorded different materiality along the trail at six points as shown on the map above.

Record and Analysis

From the record, it is seen that almost three fourths of the materials is made of concrete and the remaining is composed of barren soil and rock. The surface of concrete paving is flexible and able to solidify according to the site’s need. For example, since there’s a sudden slope around photo 3, the trail is indented to create friction so that users won’t fall down. 
Criteria\ Materials
After a brief analysis, we believe there are several points that make concrete attractive for builders and officials:
  •  Convenient (many sub-contractors in hk is capable to cement a path)
  • Large elderly community (elderly prefers to walk on smooth surface rather the rocky paths)
  • Stability (concrete is impermeable and has proper drainage channel like 2. And 4. thus won’t be unstable during rainy days)
We can see that concrete is a prevailing and effective solution to create new paths among hilly terrain, but should this practice be continued in light of the environmental damage it caused and the repulsion from the public? 
Please check out our next post “How walkable is this trail? #2” which will continue to talk on the issue and delve into the sustainable development of hiking trails in Hong Kong.