Hong Kong Temple Exchange

Kowloon Walled City

Before I came to Hong Kong I came across a Tumblr post that talked about the Kowloon Walled City. It had pictures from the book “City of Darkness” by Greg Girard and Ian Lambott. Since the book is now out of print, I decided to do research about the Walled City and made it one of my “must go” places when I got here. The Walled City was torn down 20 years ago (this year is the 20th anniversary) and in its place is now the Kowloon Walled City Park. To my luck, HKBU is located in Kowloon, and it was only 10-15 minute walk. Turns out the park is actually right next to a shopping complex that I frequent for groceries.

53284c4ac07a80a406000002_kickstart-the-latest-edition-of-city-of-darkness-the-authoritative-text-on-kowloon-walled-city_530f5bd8c07a80ce8b00019a_the-in© Greg Girard and Ian Lambot

So before the Walled City was torn down, it was a densely populated area that was ungoverned in Kowloon City. The architecture of the building was not governed at all and was no more than 14 stories tall. The infrastructure was so close that people could pass things to each from their windows. In the 50’s to 70’s the Walled City was overrun with the Triad who opened brothels, gambling parlors, and sold drugs (notably opium). Even with the Triad, the most fascinating thing about the Walled City was the community that was built within the city along with the architecture of the building with little government interference.

It’s hard to go into the nitty gritty details of the Walled City, but this video made by students of University of Waterloo  did a great job of explaining everything. If you have time I suggest watching it!


The Old South Gate



The Walled City began demolition March 1993 and finished in April 1994, after that the construction of the Walled City Park began. The only remnants from the Walled City in the park is the Old South Gate and the Yamen, which has restored to how it looked liked in the Qing Dynasty.

kwc04 kwc03 P1050090

There is also a 3D model of about the Walled City looked like along with a map of how things operated inside the buildings.

P1050098 P1050107 P1050112

The park itself is a very beautiful park which a small museum about the Walled City inside the Yamen. On my walk through the park, I saw a lot of the elderly either taking their afternoon stroll or doing taichi under some of the pavilions.

To be honest, I was slightly disappointed with the amount of material that was shown about the Walled City. There was an interactive wall where you watched interviews of those who lived inside the City, but they were only 2-3 minute videos. But I felt like there was so much potential that the HK government could have done to showcase the ins and outs of the Walled City but they chose not to. Granted, not everything about the Walled City was positive (The Triad, drug abuse, prostitution, etc.) but the way the architecture was built with only the help of architects who volunteered, how the city functioned by itself without outside help, etc.

Side note! The authors of the City of Darkness are actually reprinting their book but with new material. It’s called City of Darkness Revisited and it is in honor of the 20th anniversary of the City.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: