A tent village in the midst of modern Kowloon

Nga Tsin Wai: The Last Walled Village of Kowloon

Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村 is widely known as the last walled village of Kowloon 九龍. Located not far from the former location of the infamous Kowloon Walled City 九龍城寨, the village traces its history back to the 1352 founding of its modest Tin Hau Temple 天后宮. It was fortified in 1724 to defend against bandits and pirates but has, in modern times, lost the moat, walls, and watchtowers that once protected residents from harm. As the very last of its kind in the urban heart of Hong Kong 香港 it has become a flashpoint for conflict between the Urban Renewal Authority and the many activist groups and citizens passionate about preserving what remains of Kowloon’s cultural heritage.

The entrance to Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
The entrance to the last walled village in Kowloon.
Gateway to a lost world
Gateway to a lost world.
Inside the walled village of Nga Tsin Wai
On the other side.
An old stone house in Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
An old stone house near the heart of the village. You can see the entrance in the distance. The historic temple is in the opposite direction.

I visited Nga Tsin Wai on my third trip to Hong Kong in the springtime of 2015. At that time the village was almost completely abandoned with the exception of about a dozen holdouts. In January 2016 the final eviction order was posted and the remaining residents—including the humble barber featured in many human interest stories about the village—were forced out forevermore. Construction fencing has gone up and the URA has undertaken impact assessments that have complicated plans to develop the village into four residential towers.

The historic temple inside Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
The entrance to the historic temple inside the old walled village.
Door guardian in Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
Guardian of the door.
Inside the historic temple in Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
Inside the small temple.
Regal lion door knocker in Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
A regal lion door knocker at the gateway to the Tin Hau Temple in Nga Tsin Wai.
All boarded up in the last walled village
All boarded up.
Government property notice in Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
Trespassers will be prosecuted.
Danger in Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
Danger!
Skulking through the corridors of Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍
Slinking through the cramped streets of the old walled village.
Village exoskeleton
Many of the old buildings have metal frames propping them up.
Behind the street in Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
Behind the street in the old walled village. These buildings were likely storefronts with living quarters on the upper levels at some point in the distant past.
Nature reclaimes Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
Nature reclaims a part of the hollowed out heart of the old village.
Urban renewal notice in Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
Another notice about ongoing urban renewal efforts.
Past and present collide in Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
Past and present collide.
Gritty detail on an inner courtyard door
Gritty detail on an old door in the southeast corner of the walled village.
Traces of what once was
This is one of the most well-preserved areas of the old village.
Corner lot home at Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
This is the southeast corner lot where the wall would have taken a turn. These buildings seem to be doing well enough.
Hollow shell at Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
An empty shell on the north side of the walled village.
North side of Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
Looking into the old walled village from the outside. This shot is opposite the previous one.
A sign outside Nga Tsin Wai Village 衙前圍村
An old business on the north side of the former walled village.
A tent village in the midst of modern Kowloon
The west side of the old village is a ramshackle assortment of tents amidst the urban vastness of Kowloon.

For more coverage of Nga Tsin Wai in English follow these links here, here, here, here, and here. If you enjoyed this photo essay be sure to check out Postcards From Kowloon.