12 January 2020
Visitors can read about the history of Lai Chi Wo at the entrance of the walled village. Photo: EJ Insight
Visitors can read about the history of Lai Chi Wo at the entrance of the walled village. Photo: EJ Insight

Lai Chi Wo: A Hakka walled village with a living forest

Lai Chi Wo, surrounded by mountains on three sides, is regarded as the feng shui woodlands of New Territories Northeast.

Thanks to the hard work of its original settlers, the remote spot in Double Haven (Yan Chau Tong) thrived and grew into one of the most affluent Hakka walled villages of the city, while showcasing perfect harmony between human activities and nature preservation.

Lai Chi Wo, which has a history of around 300 years, was so named because villagers used to harvest lychees from the surrounding forest.

The first settlers were the Wong family, who came from Fujian during the Qing Dynasty. Later, a branch of the Tsang family from Mui Tsz Lam in Ma Mo Shan also came and stayed.

Unsurprisingly, the village was mainly occupied by Wongs and Tsangs.

Like most of the villages across the territory, many of the families migrated overseas during the 1960s. Lai Chi Wo became quieter, but it was not completely abandoned.

With the establishment of Geopark and the Geoheritage Centre, the village has become a popular destination of eco-tourists.

The villagers themselves got together to restore the former vitality of their ancient home. Their efforts resulted in the restoration of the?Hip Tin Temple, Hok Shan Monastery and the village walls.

Visitors gather at the open square outside?Hok Shan Monastery, where they are treated to unique Hakka dishes such as chicken congee prepared by the villagers themselves at the former Siu Ying School compound.

From the 1930s up to the 1980s, the school was the only educational institution in the village.

After the hearty repast, visitors proceed to the Feng Shui woodlands, a hectare of land boasting more than 100 varieties of plants tended by the villagers themselves.

Following the Lai Chi Wo Nature Trail, visitors encounter strange and ancient trees such as the “hollow” tree, the “five-finger” camphor tree and a huge tree with interlocking branches.

Getting there:

To go to/return from Lai Chi Wo: Take green minibus 20R at Tai Po Market MTR station to Wu Kau Tang. Walk along Tiu Tang Lung Path for two hours to the village.

Time: About four hours

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 23, 2014.

Translation by Darlie Yiu with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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One encounters strange and ancient trees such as the "five-finger" camphor tree (left) and the "hollow" tree on the Lai Chi Wo Nature Trail. Photo: EJ Insight

There’s a bowl of delicious chicken congee waiting for the tired and hungry visitor at the former Siu Ying School compound. Photo: HKEJ

HKEJ contributor