Kowloon Walled City - History and Facts | History Hit

Kowloon Walled City

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About Kowloon Walled City

Once the most densely-populated location on earth, Kowloon Walled City in the former British Hong Kong once housed 50,000 residents in an area less than a hundredth of a square mile in size.

Though it was demolished in 1994, some historical artefacts from the walled city such as its yamen (administrative) building and the remnants of its southern gate have been preserved as part of the Kowloon Walled City Park.

History of Kowloon Walled City

The existence of a walled city on the site can be dated to the Song Dynasty (960-1279), when an outpost was constructed to oversee the trade of salt. Few changes were made for hundreds of years afterwards. In 1842, Hong Kong Island was ceded to the British via the Treaty of Nanjing. The Qing authorities therefore improved the fortification to rule the area and monitor the British.

In 1898, The Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory assigned further parts of Hong Kong to the British for 99 years. However, this excluded the walled city, which was then lived in by around 700 people. China was permitted to keep officials there so long as they didn’t interfere with the defence of British Hong Kong. However, the British governor believed that the city was being used to coordinate resistance movements. In 1899, British forces attacked the walled city but found that all of the soldiers were gone.

In 1912, Qing Dynasty rule ended and the city was left to the British, who did little with it over the following decades. In 1933, Hong Kong authorities proposed demolishing the decaying buildings; however, the Nationalist Chinese government protested against the plan and claimed jurisdiction until the war between China and Japan erupted.

By 1940, only the yamen (administrative centre) and one house remained, and during World War Two, much of the stone was used by Japanese forces to expand the nearby airport.

After World War Two, refugees and citizens poured into the city. Over the following decades, the city became a hub for crime and was practically ruled by Triads, or crime syndicates. In the 1960s, the city was further developed, and skyscrapers were built up to 14 storeys high. It was so cramped that sunlight didn’t reach the ground, and living conditions were appalling.

In the early 1990s, the British and Chinese authorities agreed to demolish the city and turn it into a park, and by 1994, demolition was complete.

Kowloon Walled City today

Today, Kowloon Walled City exists as a park. Its design is modelled on Jiangnan gardens from the early Qing Dynasty and is divided into eight landscape features. The fully restored yamen is the centrepiece, while paths and pavilions are named after streets and buildings in the walled city.

Other artefacts, such as inscribed stones, cannons and wells are also on display.

Getting to Kowloon Walled City

The walled city park is best accessed from Tung Tao Tsuen Road in Kowloon. By road, it is about 5 or 6 kilometres away from Star Ferry. The Lok Fu MTR station is less than a kilometre away and is the closest station.