Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hong Kong past: Sam Tung Uk Museum

As part of Tori’s class study of Hong Kong past and present, we visited the Sam Tung Uk village last week. The Sam Tung Uk village is an old Hakka village in the New Territories that has recently been restored into a branch office of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. The Hakka people are a subgroup of the Han Chinese, found predominately in the southern Chinese provinces. The Hakka people were mobile, leaving China at time of political or economic unrest. Perhaps because of their migration, the Hakka are associated with agriculture and also with education and public service. It was a lot to learn but the juxtaposition of past and present was easy to grasp. Walking through the main gate of the village, we came to a room with an open roof. Looking up all you see through the ancient roof are modern buildings, tall apartment blocks and offices.

The Sam Tung Uk village was founded by the Chan family in 1786. Sam Tung Uk literally means three beamed building and accurately describes the structure of the village. After entering a large beautiful gate, one comes into three main halls. The halls are placed like steps, ascending upward to the Ancestral Hall, with a large altar. The three halls were the common spaces for the people living in the village. Individual families lived in small contained houses off various lanes for foot traffic. The first graders loved running through the village’s small narrow lanes exploring the houses. I felt okay with the running as the whole village is obviously walled in and no one could get too far.It was a pretty easy field trip to chaperone.

I continue to be impressed with Hong Kong’s museums. Nicely put together, great dual language displays, enough technology to keep it interesting and up to date. We wandered into one of the village houses that had been converted into a display of women’s items, mainly cooking implements and clothing. The Hakka were a patriarchal hierocracy which left the women doing a large portion of the agricultural work while the men were in their public sector jobs. One of the displays talked about how tough the women were particularly duing the rice harvest. Later that night, when Royce was picking up her room under duress, Tori challenged her to be “tough like a Hakka woman”. I am not sure anything there was particularly on point, but something was remembered and something was picked up.


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