Back to prosperity for remote village

Local | Bernard Charnwut Chan 16 Jun 2021

A little-known, remote Hakka village in the northeastern New Territories, Lai Chi Wo, beat out 46 other entries from nine countries to win the inaugural Special Recognition for Sustainable Development award at the 2020 Unesco Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

The Unesco international jury commended Lai Chi Wo's revitalization project for its "pioneering approach to reviving a once-abandoned rural cultural landscape," noting that "the project upholds the key dimensions of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental."

Lai Chi Wo was established nearly 400 years ago and is home to one of the choice cultural landscapes in Hong Kong. A village embedded between the mountains and the sea, it was aptly named after lychee trees that were once abundant in the area. The village has two connected temples, both considered Grade 3 historic buildings: Hip Tin Temple and Hok Shan Monastery.

Similar to many villages in the territory, its population began to decline in the 1950s due to factors such as migration to other parts of Hong Kong.

About 100 years ago, it was considered a poor village, until a feng shui master advised building three feng shui walls in the village to ward off evil spirits and keep the village safe. After the walls were built, it regained its former prosperity.

Located inside Plover Cove Country Park, Lai Chi Wo can be reached by two popular hiking trails or ferry from Ma Liu Shui. There are also longer hiking trails within the park for those looking to explore the area further.

A visit to Lai Chi Wo offers a glimpse into Hong Kong's storied past. Take the opportunity to see this shining achievement in building an innovative rural sustainability model for Asia and beyond.

Bernard Charnwut Chan is chairman of Tai Kwun Cultural & Arts Co Ltd.

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