No Heritage Found on the Map: The Vanishing Villages of Hong Kong

Project: Research project

Project Details


Twenty years after its 1997 handover back to China Hong Kong remains a unique place on the world’s stage. British colonialism has left many enduring marks on Hong Kong identity as well as on its physical landscape. One of the most peculiar, and controversial, is the legacy of the Small House Policy of the New Territories; an agreement reached between the British and the village leaders after it leased the New Territories in 1898. In a city of severe land scarcity, this unusual law grants decedents of ‘original villager’s’ families (mainly Hakka people), upon their 18 birthday, rights to build a maximum three story house of no more than 2100 sqft. With skyrocketing housing prices downtown this has created a boom of these ‘village houses’ being build and sold, mainly to ‘new villagers’ migrating from the city, on lands that once were Hong Kong’s farms and rice paddies. This has led to rapid changes in the visuality of these once traditional villages. Most notable is the disappearance of the traditional Hakka ancestral family homes. This visually driven study employs both audio and visual methods to seek a more indepth picture of current village life in North Eastern New Territories, Hong Kong by observing, documenting, collaboratively creating, and jointly analysing the multimedia data captured. This study documents the derelict, intact, restored, in ruin structures, attempting to trace revitalized elements of traditional Hakka villages via their design, layouts, and relationship with the natural environment. The study looks at how the making and sharing of imagery can foster dialogue and analysis of the current state of flux of these villages, its land and reconsider the ‘place’ they occupy how these changes may affect visual cultural identity.

Funding Source: RGC - Early Career Scheme (ECS)
Effective start/end date01/01/2030/06/23


  • Hong Kong, visual methodologies, Hakka, image-based research, small house policy


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