Wan Chai's Blue House With Architectural, Community And Socio-historical Value In Hong Kong 香港现存最古旧的唐楼, 湾仔蓝屋
In a city that changes as fast as the weather, it can be easy to overlook Hong Kong's past.
But on a winding street in Wan Chai, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, a house painted brilliant blue stands out.
The "Blue House," a Chinese tong lau from the 1920s, is at the heart of a cluster of historic buildings that paint a picture of old Hong Kong. The Blue House exemplifies Hong Kong's old tong lau architecture. The word tong lau translates to "tenement house".
"Blue House", situated at 72 Stone Nullah Lane in Wanchai, is a pre-war building with more than seventy years of history that shows architectural characteristics of both Chinese and Western styles. Many of the internal structures like purlin, staircase, railing are still preserved in their authentic wooden fabric. There are still residents living inside and some of them have to share the kitchen. Since there is no flushing toilet facility inside the building, it still needs the service of "Tao Ye Heung" (somebody helps to remove the excrement from the building every night)!
如果，你和我是一样喜欢探索老味道风华的旅人，那么，来到香港，这个景点你不能错过 － 湾仔蓝屋。
"Blue House" is a four-storey building, which is named from the brilliant blue colour painted on its external walls. When i walked closer to the building, it is not difficult to recognize that not all the external walls are coloured in blue. It was said that the workers of the Lands Department only got blue paint during the period of repairing work, so it was used to renovate the external wall at the time.
I made a pose before crossing over to Blue House upon arrival in Wan Chai.
The buildings were common commercial and residential constructions in Hong Kong until the 1960s. Typically no more than four stories tall, they featured balconies and partitioned rooms with high-rise bunk beds, where families crammed into close quarters - sometimes 20 people to a room.
所谓 “唐楼” 与香港盛行的建筑风格，为分辨中国人与外国人居住的楼房，蓝屋即为箇中代表，内部窄窄的木制楼梯刻[划画]着湾仔的岁月，屋内横樑、扶手依然维持旧有木制风貌、熟铁几何窗櫺扶栏加上开放式大露台，纪录着曾经拥有过的风采。
Tenement houses like these were once common in the neighborhood and the city.
Now, along with two other tenements next door, the Blue House is one of the few remaining.
Stone Nullah Lane (literally means 'Stone canal street') is one of Wan Chai's oldest streets. The unusual word 'nullah' is "an Anglo-Indian word that means a stone- or concrete-revetted drainage channel". The old drainage channel has long disappeared, and only its name reminds of its past existence.
The Lam Chun-hin Clinic, which specializes in setting broken bones using traditional Chinese methods, is located on the ground floor of the Blue House. Still active today, it is considered the oldest bone-setting practice in Hong Kong that has been operating continuously at the same address.
The same spot used to house a temple dedicated to the god of medicine, Wah To. Later the space was rented to Lam Cho, a Chinese martial artist practicing the art of folk hero Hung Kuen. Lam Cho was actually the nephew of Lam Sai-wing, himself the most famous disciple of the legendary kung-fu master Wong Fei-hung. Lam Cho used the space to both set up the bone-setting clinic and teach martial art students. (Often those two practices occur near each other, to ensure that the injured martial artists have access to fast and effective treatment.) Later, Lam Cho passed down the shop to one of his sons, Lam Chun-hin. The son passed away more than 20 years ago, but his widow is still running the clinic today.
The 1920s-era Blue House, then, is by no means special from a traditional standpoint, that is, because of its aesthetics. The building itself is neither glamorous nor grand; no important historical figures lived there or even stopped by. Instead, its value lies in its relative rarity. Buildings of similar designs were demolished, and the Blue House remains one of the very few of its kind.
首先，现在的香港仍然有社区这个概念吗？从定义上，“社区” Community: 词源于拉丁语，可理解成一群人共同居住的一个地方，因共同关系（例如邻里或朋友关系）而产生共同意识，经由互助合作而自然形成的一个社会组织。社区意识是居民对自己所居住的社区在心理上有认同感及归属感，对所属的社区具有责任心与荣誉感。还有，社区居民亦自动地共同参与改善社区和宣扬的工作。
而湾仔蓝屋便可以说是社区的范本：居住在这里的左邻右里早已互相认识，建立了密切的邻里关系，他们对这里的一屋一瓦，一草一木都有浓厚的归属感。反观现在许多新市镇，盖便是多栋四五十层高的住宅物业和一式一样的商场，尽管几万多人共同住在同一地区，但邻里关系非常薄弱，更不用探讨居民有否对所住的地方有归属感与荣誉感。所以香港在金钱和经济发展的挂帅下，真正的 “社区” 快要被城市化的推土机清除得一干二淨。
Stone Nullah Lane is quiet and traditional, and the Blue House plays a key role fostering its peaceful ambience. If the government didn’t keep the shop-house structure of Blue House, and had changed it into commercial use, it would disrupt the mood of the whole community.
来访蓝屋，不妨可以选择午后的时光。下午一点后，蓝屋一楼有间 “湾仔民间生活馆” 可以让遊客们一探湾仔蓝屋所保留下来的怀旧物品风味。虽然只有小小一间，但充满怀旧风情的古物，仍是可以让人回味一番那年代的魅力。
A quirky little shopfront called The Hong Kong House of Stories caught my eye. Walking into the shop was like being transported back 80 years. The entire space was filled floor to ceiling with nostalgic memorabilias. A classic bike shared wall space with retro posters and folkart, vinyl records competed for space with old toys. I knew I’d hit a treasure trove of classic Hong Kong moments. A friendly lady inside rushed over to share with me the idea behind the House of Stories.
The venue was established in 2012 through funding by the HSBC Foundation, and aims to promote cultural conservation through community tours and education programs. In the past decade, the Wan Chai area went through massive upheaval, with many old tong laus (tenement buildings) having fallen victim to new skyscrapers. Many facets of the old Wanchai local community were uprooted and, sadly, disappeared. In 2007, a group of enthusiastic residents began collecting antiques and recording old stories from the locals. Today, they hope to keep the old Wan Chai spirit alive through community action, exhibitions and workshops. Anyone is welcomed at the Hong Kong House of Stories to sit down and listen or share their unique tales.
Just when I lament the loss of historical remnants to urban restructuring, the House of Stories gives us a shining example of local communities fighting back to preserve their heritage. The Blue House, at least, is saved from the wrecking balls, and I hope the Hong Kong planning agencies can appreciate that where Hong Kongers come from, is just as important as where they are going.
Cultural heritage is not only everyone's treasure, but also helps to remind us many memories of the society. It is sometimes regretful that we pass some historic buildings without noticing them. In fact, many buildings of great historic and cultural significance are around us, they all worth our efforts to explore. Although this is not a thorough study, I have learned a lot through this trip to Wan Chai and have recognized the importance of heritage conservation.
As time changes, old buildings still survive in every city. In some miserable cases, however, the buildings have to be demolished or left abandoned. While others that are lucky enough will be renovated or reconstructed into museums or venues for creation and performances. It is hoped that the "Blue House" can also be turned into a living history museum, which illustrates the perplexing past of Wanchai to the future young generations.
A freelance Singapore-based travel photographer / photojournalist. I seek the extraordinary, but finds beauty in the everyday. Life is interesting, capture it.
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