Friday, 26 September 2014

Luen Wo Market, Fanling

This place has been in the news because it is one of the sites about to be sold by the Govt for redevelopment. Now, before you all cry foul, the good news is that one of the conditions of the land sale is that the old market building - a very stylish single storey art deco structure - must be preserved. Perhaps the Govt is finally beginning to listen to people about heritage preservation (although I won't get my hopes up for other buildings just yet).

It seems, to my uneducated eye, that many of the new towns in the NT have a history and evolution that is inextricably linked to the development of the local market and the political manouverings going on behind the market scenes.

Similar to Tai po’s experience with markets (a new one was set up to compete with an older one due to general grievances with the Tang clan that controlled the older one), Fanling’s Luen Wo Hui (the word Hui -  - refers specifically to a rural marketplace such as this one. Although strictly speaking we are now in Fanling, before development grew the town, Luen Wo Hui was considered to be a separate town/village) was established by a local clan (the famous Pangs – one of the 5 original HK clans) to directly compete with another one not so far away in Shek Wu that was run by the rival Liu clan’s (another of the original 5).

Being the dominant force behind a market seems to have brought out the worst in people and led to all sorts of abuse of power and monopolistic profiteering. The Pang’s (many of the clan still live in the nearby Fanling Wai walled village) felt they were being taken advantage of and so used their money and influence to establish a new market in Luen Wo.

The market building we see today was built in 1951 and was used pretty much all the time until 2002 when it was usurped by a modern version nearby. Since then the building has stood empty awaiting redevelopment but still stirs enough interested for it to have been the focus for one of my children’s kindergarten trips a while back. Here are some snaps and I think you’ll agree it’s an interesting building.

The Chinese writing says (reading R>L)  Luen Wo Si Cheung - Si Cheung is the specific term for a market. Either side of this main entrance are smaller entrances for the vegetable and fish parts of the market. Here’s the fish one (Yue Si Cheung).

Followed by the vegetable one (Choi Si Cheung)

I'm hoping that the development conditions also include a stipulation to preserve this neighbouring curved building, but I suspect that may be just wishful thinking on my part. That would be a shame because the corner section of this block looks to be in fairly good nick (at least compared the the adjoining one).

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