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Sha Lo Wan Tsang Pang
(Photo taken on 1 December 2021)

The name of Sha Lo Wan appeared already in the Coastal Defense Map of Guangdong in the Guangdong Tongzhi illustrated in the Ming dynasty. A village under the jurisdiction of Guanfusi in Sha Lo Wan was also recorded in the Gazetteer of Xin’an County compiled in 1819 in the Qing dynasty. It can be seen that Sha Lo Wan Village has a history of over 200 years at least. Sha Lo Wan was surrounded by mountains on three sides and established at the foot of mountains quite far from the sea. There were farmlands to the north in front of the village facing the sea and there were woods to the south behind the village. On both its east and west were mountains, and mountain streams flowed through the farmlands and then into the sea. In the past, apart from farming, villagers sometimes would pick up clams on the beach, while some of them would fish with “tsang pang” on the shore^.

^“Tsang pang” is usually made by building a shed with net on the shore: bamboo branches are tied to the four corners of a large square fishing net and the net is lifted on the water. Since the bamboo branches are fixed under the water, the fishing net can sink in the water; a pulley is set up in the bamboo shed on the shore to control the lifting of the fishing net in the water with ropes. During operation, the operator first sinks the net in the water, wait for small fish in the shallow area to swim into the fishing net. And then the operator manually (by pedaling) wheels the pulley to raise the fishing net at an appropriate time while the catch is in the net. Since the action of raising the fishing net is called “Au”, it is also known as “Au Tsang”. How much the catch can be depends on how skilful the operator masters the rules of the fishing seasons.

Sha Lo Wan Ba Kong Temple
(Photo taken in 2021)

The Deity Protecting Farmlands from the Waves (Ba Kong Temple)

In the past, most of the farmlands in Sha Lo Wan was facing the sea. Every time when there were strong wind and high tide, seawater would pour onto the shore of Sha Lo Wan submerging the fields. As a result, there would be crop failure and the livelihood of villagers would be affected. Therefore, villagers invited a fengshui master to the village for investigation, hoping to eliminate the risk of flooding. After investigation, the fengshui master said that the port of Sha Lo Wan was too exposed and that a temple should be built there to stop the evil spirits in the north. In order to protect the harbour, he suggested that “Ba Kong Tai Wong” should be enshrined in a temple and the temple should be named “Ba Kong Temple”. Villagers agreed to construct the temple, but the statue for worship in the temple needed to be made based on the appearance of “Ba Kong Tai Wong”. In this regard, the fengshui master said that the deity would inspire them about it. By the time, they just had to portray the deity and have a statue made based on the portrait at a statue shop. Later, some villager did dream of the deity and portrayed it. Villagers brought the portrait to Xin’an County to look for a craftsman to carve it. Upon seeing the portrait, the craftsman immediately pointed to a statue in the shop which looked identical to the portrait. Which deity is protecting farmlands from the waves?

1963
Ba Kong Temple
2021
Ba Kong Temple
Past
Present
Sha Lo Wan Now & Then
Aerial Photos from Lands Department
©The Government of the Hong Kong SAR Reference no. G14 /2022
1
Who was protecting the villagers’ livelihood?
Which deity in the statue shop looked the same as “Ba Kong Tai Wong” in the dream of the villager of Sha Lo Wan?
A
Kwan Tai
Wrong
B
Hau Wong
Wrong
C
Hung Shing
Correct
D
Tam Kung
Wrong
Reset
The Rise and Fall of Incense Trees Growing in Sha Lo Wan

Some says that Sha Lo Wan got its name as there was an abundance of conches (“sha lo” in Chinese). However, Sha Lo Wan was famous as early as in the Ming dynasty for its abundant agarwood*. Later, in the early Qing dynasty, in order to prevent the disturbance of forces trying to overthrow the Qing dynasty and restore the Ming dynasty from Taiwan and cut off the assistance of mainland coastal residents to them, the imperial court issued a boundary relocation order in 1662, moving all coastal residents from Shandong to Guangdong (including Hong Kong) 50 miles inward and burning all their houses to prevent them from returning. A ban on maritime travel was imposed as well. At that time, farmers growing incense trees and other villagers in Sha Lo Wan were forced to leave their homes and the production of agarwood was therefore interrupted. The ban on maritime travel was not abolished until 1682, but the growing of incense trees in the area had never recovered. Nowadays, there is no farmer growing incense trees in Sha Lo Wan, but a few wild incense trees can still be found nearby. In the early years, some villagers would cut off branches of incense trees and pared the barks during slack seasons. Dried under the sun, the branches would give off a faint fragrance. Villagers would also bring a few pieces of agarwood to Ba Kong Temple for worship.

At present, Aquilaria sinensis is a Wild Plant under State Protection (Category II) and protected by the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance of Hong Kong (Chapter 586). It is also taken care of by the local people. If you see Aquilaria sinensis while hiking on Lantau Island, do cherish them. For the conservation of Aquilaria sinensis in Hong Kong, please refer to the following websites:

“Incense Tree Species Action Plan (SAP) 2018-2022” of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (view)

The Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden Incense Tree Conservation Project (view)

*There are about 21 kinds of trees that can generate incense in the world, collectively referred to as incense trees. And Aquilaria sinensis, the local incense tree in Hong Kong, is one of them.

Aquilaria sinensis
(Source: Greening, Landscape and Tree Management Section, Development Bureau)

2
Fragrance from Tree in the Air
Which part of Aquilaria sinensis could be made into incense products?
A
Root
Wrong
B
Fruit
Wrong
C
Flower
Wrong
D
Resin
Correct
Agarwood produced in Sha Lo Wan would be transported to Shek Pai Wan in Aberdeen via Heung Po Tau in Cho Pai Village, and then shipped to Guangzhou, and further north to Suzhou, Hangzhou, Beijing and other places, or down the south to Southeast Asia, and even to the Arab nations in the Middle East. Where is Heung Po Tau in Cho Pai Village?
A
Tsim Sha Tsui
Correct
B
Sheung Wan
Wrong
C
Cheung Chau
Wrong
D
Tai O
Wrong
Which of the following is not a common use of Aquilaria sinensis?
A
Incense products such as thread incense, seal incense and others
Wrong
B
Traditional Chinese food ingredient
Correct
C
Traditional Chinese medicine
Wrong
D
Accessory for wear, or ornaments and carvings for decoration
Wrong
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