Marauding Tigers

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May 20th 1964
Published: November 15th 2018
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1964 Diary Entry

"The next day Mr Sung once again picked us up. This time he was taking us out to the New Territories. This trip was to take five hours. First of all we went to the Dragon Inn which looks right out over the bay. I took a picture of this wonderful sight. Then we got in the car and drove on. For 1/4 of an hour we drove through nothing but rice fields and soon after that we stopped at another restaurant where we all had something to drink. After drinking we drove on. Again we drove through ricefeilds (sic). After about 1/4 of an hour we stopped at the walled city. As you can guess this means that it's a city with a wall around it. People still live inside this city and they all wear black. I took a photo of a little child walking down the main street in the city.

Then after that we went on once more through ricefeilds (sic) and this time we saw water buffalows (sic). After driving for quite a while the road started to leed (sic) us up a hill. When we got to the top of the hill we looked down on rice-feilds (sic) and in the distance Red-China. Mrs Sung bought a pipe for me. These pipes are long and thin and are either made out of copper or silver. Then we drove on. About 1/2 an hour later we saw the Amah Rock which is world famous.

We then went to Sha Tin Heights Inn where you could look right out over the valley. Then we went to the Carlton Hotel and had a drink. This hotel looks right over Kowloon. Then we went into the city and Mr Sung took us to a tomb that was 1,000 years old. Inside the building that leads to the tomb all the things that were found in the tomb are displayed. We then went back to the hotel. Then we had lunch and that afternoon it was to (sic) hot to do anything so we just rested."

It seems that the walled city we visited was called Kam Tin and it dates back more than 500 years. It was built to protect its inhabitants from pirates and various other undesirables, as well as the marauding tigers that apparently roamed the jungles here at the time. Some of the descendants of the original inhabitants apparently still live there.

I remember looking over towards "Red-China" and thinking that it must be an extremely forbidding place. It was well and truly off-limits to westerners at that time, and judging by the numbers of refugees in Hong Kong in 1964 it seems that a lot of people were very keen to escape from it. I went to Sunday school with a girl whose parents were missionaries, and a couple of years after we visited Hong Kong a boat they were all on travelling from Hong Kong to Macau was intercepted by the Chinese Navy, and all those on-board were detained. It was front page headlines in Melbourne at the time, and extensive diplomatic efforts were required over several weeks to secure their release.

I'm not sure Amah Rock is quite as famous as I made it out to be. The literal translation of the Chinese name is apparently "the stone gazing out for her husband". It looks like a lady carrying a child on her back and legend has it that she was the wife of a fisherman who climbed the hill every day to look out for his return, not knowing that he had drowned. As a reward for her faithfulness she was turned into a rock so she could be reunited with hubby in the afterlife. I'm not sure it had ever occurred to me before that being turned into a rock might be considered a good thing.

Based on what I managed to find in a shoe box full of souvenirs in the attic of our family home, it seems that the tomb we visited was "The Ancient Chinese Tomb at Li Cheng Uk". This was only discovered in 1955. At the time the land was occupied by squatter refugees from the mainland, and the tomb was unearthed during large scale excavation of a hillside for a major settlement. Some of the settlement's apartment blocks had already been built. Its historical significance is that it is likely to be at least 1,500 years old, and thus proves that the area had been continuously inhabited from at least 400 years earlier than had previously been believed. I was pleased to note from some of the photos that Mum had thought to add a pair of white gloves to her outfit for the day, presumably so she would be allowed to handle some of the tomb's ancient relics. Unfortunately I think it's far more likely that she thought she was underdressed the day before in only a long dress, pearl necklace and hat, and that she needed to add a pair of gloves to ensure that appropriate standards were being maintained.

Mr Sung must have had us on the go fairly solidly. We seem to have packed quite a lot into a morning's touring, and it's not too surprising that we all decided that we needed the afternoon off.

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