No heritage found on map: The vanishing villages of Hong Kong


Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Before Hong Kong’s ‘fragrant harbour’ was colonized these lands were settled by Hakka people who escaped uncertainly and started new lives at the end of the Pearl River Delta. They settled mostly around the area now known as the ‘New Territories’. Later as the colony grew with successive waves of immigration, Hong Kong’s housing strained under the pressure, resulting in riots and unrest. The government looked to the New Territories to provide the space to grow and build new towns. Over one hundred and twenty years later British colonialism has left many enduring marks on Hong Kong’s identity as well as on its physical landscape. One of the most peculiar, and controversial, is the legacy of the ‘Small House Policy’. Unlike Hong Kong and Kowloon, the New Territories were leased and not ceded and this led to Hong Kong developing very differently due to dual policies which govern the land use to this day. The Small House Policy was seen as compensation for ancestral lands given up by villagers for development. This policy grants decedents of ‘original villager’s’ families, rights to build a three story house of no more than 2100 sqft.With skyrocketing housing prices downtown this has created a boom of these ‘village houses’ being built and sold, many becoming homes for ‘new villagers’ migrating from the city, on lands that once were traditionally farming and fishing villages for centuries and once fed Hong Kong. This has provided new opportunities for the villagers to be lifted out of poverty but also 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. Ancestral lands and thereby traditional ancestral homes have been commodified in exchange for economic advantages and social gains. Through the facades and entranceways of these simple homes this visually driven research project* witnesses tensions, politics, culture, commerce, and a tracing of the past two centuries. Copyright © 2021 IVSA.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021
EventInternational Visual Sociology Conference 2021 - Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 05 Jul 202108 Jul 2021


ConferenceInternational Visual Sociology Conference 2021
Abbreviated titleIVSA 2021


McMaster, S. (2021, July). No heritage found on map: The vanishing villages of Hong Kong. Paper presented at International Visual Sociology Conference 2021 (IVSA2021), Dublin, Ireland.


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