Kowloon Walled City Park Travel Guide
A Few areas of Hong Kong have a richer historical background than the Kowloon Walled City Park, originally the site of a walled fort.
A senior mandarin commanded the garrison with his own administrative headquarters in an official "Yamen". While not particularly distinctive to look at, being a rectangular structure with a typical tiled roof, a Yamen represented the power of the Emperor as passed down to the Mandarin in charge, and so was both highly respected and feared by those who passed it.
After Hong Kong Island was ceded to Great Britain in 1841, the fort¡¯s role was to police the Chinese side of Hong Kong Harbour. But the British seized on a minor skirmish between the two sides to demand the garrison´s withdrawal on pain of a naval bombardment. Having already suffered enough from British guns, the Chinese had the good sense to abandon the fort although, by Treaty, the site remained theirs.
Squatters soon moved in and for about 100 years it remained a quiet rural hamlet huddled behind its protective walls. However, during the Japanese occupation of 1942-45 the walls were torn down and the stone used to enlarge the nearby airfield at Kai Tak.
War´s end soon saw hundreds of thousands of Chinese refugees flock to Hong Kong, bringing a fresh wave of squatters, particularly criminal elements attracted by this legal no-man´s land. Lacking law and order, the area mushroomed into a squalid eyesore of illegal buildings where crime, drugs and vice flourished side by side in a maze of dank, dark alleyways.
The situation became so out of hand that the Chinese and British authorities finally agreed to clear the festering slum in 1994 and resettle its occupants.
The cleared site was then transformed into the beautiful Chinese park and garden which today delights visitors from all over the world. It is built in the classical Jiangnan style and its features include a Garden of the Chinese Zodiac, a Mountain View Pavilion and a Hill Top Pavilion.
Amazingly, the Commandant´s Yamen survived the chaos of the area´s worst years and has been perfectly restored.
It is one of the few remaining ones in South China. Other reminders of the old walled fort include the original stone plaques from the South Gate, stone tablets and Qing official inscriptions, plus the only two cannon to survive.