Chek Chu - Our Community Heritage

1. Chik Chu - Past and Present
2. Heritage Walk in Chek Chue


Chik Chu - Past and Present

Chinese Text & photo by Mr Chan Yat Fong,98.5.5 [printed in Race Programme '98] Stanley (Cantonese as Chik Chu or Chek Chue), though being a famous site in history, for many, is just a spot for shopping and a day out on the south of Hong Kong Island. The convenient transport, Chinese cuisine and big bargains in the street market bring great satisfaction to people who come for a day of fun.

Stanley in Books and Journals

During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Stanley has already got a growing population while in the Chinese geography books of the same period, the name of Stanley was repeatedly mentioned. In 1938, a Chinese Scholar, Chen Gong-zhe wrote a book about the history of Hong Kong. In this book, he described Stanley as follows: "After crossing a slope people can see the grandeur of Stanley, the place where British army first landed. Yet, they soon abandoned the place because of the moist weather that brought epidemics around. There were a few cemeteries as a multitude of people died of epidemics. Now the place has turned into the hostels of St. Stephen's College. Stanley village was once a haunt of bandits." In 1949, a book edited by An-ping, "A Profile of Hong Kong", documented the impact of British rule on Stanley. According to the book, when the British arrived at Hong Kong, they first settled at Stanley, a fishing village not far from Aberdeen. A dark-grey hillfort was built, it was the first British prison in the Far East. Over 3000 people of different races lost their freedom there.... On the peak of Wong Ma Kok Hill stands the Stanley Fort. As it was a restricted army camp, Stanley was not bustling with as much noise and excitement as that in Aberdeen. Besides, the Church founded St. Stephen's College and a probation centre for children nextby. A Feng-shui master Zeng Zi-nan highly praised Stanley in his book. He said the whole range of hills in Stanley could bring great fortune to the entire area. It was mainly due to the beauty of Stanley Mound (The Twins). Since the front and back peaks of Stanley Mound were identical and looked like twins and a spur (Fein*) come out right from between, the features, thus the strength are so outstanding as if tigers coming out of the forest, dragons running down to the sea.... In 1996, the Southern District Board published a historic and geographic guide to the southern side of Hong Kong Island. According to the book, the name "Stanley" is to commemorate the British naval general who defeated the leading bandit of the time, Cheung Pao-tzu, and occupied the place. However, this story does not coincide with historical facts. According to related historical literature, Cheung was defeated by the Ching army and died in the second year under the rule of Emperor Daoguang (1822 AD). Later, another gang of bandits headed by Xu Ya-pao were rampant along the coastal areas from 1846 AD to 1851 A.D. They mainly robbed the British vessels. Finally, they were captured by the British and were locked up in Stanley Prison. In 1849, the British army attacked Xu and his gang. Being out-numbered, all the bandits were trapped. Xu boldly confessed as the murderer. He then hanged himself in the prison. People believed he was such a brave man that he would rather commit suicide than being insulted by the British. The above materials quoted can help our young generation to know a bit more about the past of Stanley. Almost all books and journals about Hong Kong mentioned Stanley. This shows the importance of Stanley in the history of Hong Kong.

Stanley - a bright prospect

The dragon boat races in Stanley Bay are different from others. Many foreigners take part every year. Both Chinese and people of other nationality join the races in harmony and laughter. The whole atmosphere is so joyous that the audience feels like joining a global community. Our expat friends usually arrange some unexpected programmes to amuse the audience. That is one of the reasons why the dragon boat races in Stanley Bay are so fascinating. In 1995, it was my honour to be invited by the Race Editor to write about Stanley's heritage. In the article, all famous temples in Stanley have been introduced in detail. That will not be repeated here. Recently the reclamation work at Ma Hang has changed the whole view of Stanley. Squatters and cottages were cleared and high-rise flats were built. Yet, all the historical sites like Tin Hau Temple, Pak Tai Temple, Kwan Yin Monastery, and Tai Wong Temple remain intact. When the new construction projects is completed, it will be even more convenient for people to visit them. Finally, I should also introduce the old historical building, Murray House, which was built in 1844 during the Victorian period. It was originally located in Central and was pulled down in 1983. Due to its historical value, the Government decided to preserve it. All parts of the building are numbered (there are four thousand high-quality granite blocks) and stored in Tai Tam. The Executive Council has authorized the Housing Department to rebuild Murray House at Ma Hang in Stanley. This plan includes the construction of a six-storey high shopping arcade with an open-air tea garden. The complex will be named "Stanley Plaza", with construction expenditure over six billion. That of Murray House alone is about 1.7 billion and it will be completed by September 1999, while "Stanley Plaza" will be opened in 2000. From then on, Stanley will be even more prosperous. With all its cultural relics, Stanley can form a good heritage walk blending cultural essence from the East and West.

Heritage walk in Chek Chue

[printed in Race Programme '95] Many people complain that there isn't much to see in Stanley. In fact there are some historic attractions of which visitors may be unaware. Generally, visitors are forced to converge in the Main Street and outer Ma Hang area as a large proportion of the Stanley Peninsula is either restricted (the Fort, prison) or private (schools, residential) areas.

HEARSAY:

There are several stories connected to the origin of the district's Chinese name CHEK CHUE, meaning "red pillar". This name appeared in several official historical documents in southern China, dating back to the Ming (1268-1644) and Qing (16344-1911) Dynasties. They mentioned that Chek Chue was an important place for defence and that some English people already stayed here since the Qing Dynasty. According to (ed.) Lai C.W.'s book "Centenary History of Hong Kong" (1948), the name Chek Chue Shan (Red Pillar Hill) derived from a big cotton tree in early Qing. After a typhoon, all that was left of the tree, was the strong trunk which stood firm for long, but with no bark - like a red pillar when looked at from afar. When the CHAN's family settled near the tree, they named the whole area as Chek Chue. The other story says that as the numerous cotton tree flowers were in blossom in spring, they made the area look like a red-hot pillar during sunset. As to avoid using the word 'fire' - which conflicts with the strong water element around according to Yin-yan, the word 'Chek' (Red) was adopted. [Editor's remark: according to contemporary oral reports of the Chan descendents, Hakka People usually introduced the place in their dialect as Chak Chu (the thieves' place)to newcomers, when pirates were abundant nearby in those days]

WATER DEFTIES & ANTIQUITIES

If you first ignore the shops but walk to the east end of the Main Street, with some difficulties you'll find the Shui Tsein Temple [A] next to a household on the rock stretching out from the seafront. The old word TSEIN, meaning "the immortals", is most popular during the "Six Dynasties" Period several hundred years ago. Besides, it is only this temple in the Island worshipping solely this Water God. (There is only a tablet, no statue) Walking past the pubs, neighbouring the Stanley Residents Assn. is the Tai Wong Temple [B]. Further into Ma Hang is the famous Tin Hau Temple [C] which shows that Chek Chue used to be a fishing settlement as Tin Hau is commonly worshipped by fishermen. The iron pots and 2 stone lions outside and the big old bell inside were all made in the Qing Dynasty. The undated big stone weight is probably also a century-old relic. Besides other popular Chinese immortals, there on the wall is a tiger-skin blackened by smoke. In 1942 one [of the four] ethnic Indian policeman from the Stanlev Police Station [itself now a relic, built in 1858] shot dead a tiger which weighed 240 Ib. Up the path behind the Temple we can find the more comtemporary Kwun Yum [Guan Yin] Temple [D] (and the big statue), which was founded by a Burmese Chinese. Along the seafront of Ma Hang to the S.W. we can find the small Pak Tai Temple [E], built in 1805. On the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month many fishermen celebrate Pak Tai's birthday in the temple [also a parade]. If you are still un-impressed, maybe the relocation project in Ma Hang of the former Murray Building (originally in Central, demolished in1987) may invite you back.
"Rainbow Calligraphy", a special Chinese art form which is easily found at Stanley Market, is illustrated on the left of our front page.It depicts the name of the Race.
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