Image of Kowloon walled city, just in case you’re wondering why in the world did their forefathers named the place Kowloon, let us take a journey back some few hundred years ago. Long long time ago, in a kingdom far far away, a Chinese emperor traveled to this new area and saw 8 mountains. During the olden days, the Chinese belief that every mountain has a dragon, unlike the Europeans, Asians believes that dragon is a symbol of good luck, and in honor of these 8 dragons, the emperor wanted to name this place as fakloon (meaning ‘eight dragons’ in the Cantonese).”
His adviser quickly retorted, “but your highness, this place should be known as Kowloon (nine dragons).” Offended and curious, the emperor asked his adviser with mixed feeling,” Why is that so? There are only 8 dragons! It should be Fakloon (8 dragons) and not Kowloon (nine dragons).”
“But your highness, you are a dragon as well!” replied the adviser, and the rest is history.
Back to the Kowloon Walled City, it started out as a watch post defending the area against pirates and managing the production of salt, as the population grew, so did the watch post and eventually into a small walled city with its own system.
What makes this city interesting is the fact that without any interference from the British government and the Republic of China, it grew almost organically under the weak triads that govern the city, square buildings folded up into one another as thousands of modifications were made, virtually none by architects or engineers, until hundreds of square meters were simply a kind of patchwork monolith.
A real band aid architecture, some called it messy while others called it artistically arrange from a layman’s point of view. In Batman Begins, the Narrow lanes was based on the slummish nature of the now-demolished walled city of Kowloon in Hong Kong.
From my personal point of view, it looks like a prison to me but then again, a prison has a much more hygienic environment and the fact that they demolish the city sort of sad, they could have turned it into a tourist spot but then again, who wants to remember their unwanted past? Here are some quick facts about the city:
- Most densely populated area on earth
- It had 50,000 inhabitants on 0.026 km²
- The movie Crime Story starring Jackie Chan was partly made in the deserted Walled City
- Demolish in 1993,a park was built in its place
I would love to visit Hong Kong someday, I heard it is a beautiful city. Further reading:
Kowloon Walled City Illustrated
Click image for a higher resolution
I live in Hong Kong and have shot some (professional) video in the park that once was the Kowloon walled city.
It is a really beautiful park, which is ironic considering the areas shady past. It use to be a place of really high crime, where decent citizens didn’t dare enter.
You are right that it was run by the triads. It was like a criminal playground and not a good thing to preserve really.
I just returned from Hong Kong I didn’t get to the park as I just finished a good book about a ladies life as she lived in the walled city her name is Jackie Pullinger she lived there in the walled city, her book is called Chasing the Dragon, I am not trying to sell her book as I also met her and she is a Christian as am I.A very good look from the inside of the walled city check it out and it will answer some questions.
I taught at a Christian School in Kowloon City and was there during the final months of the demolition of the Walled City; I lived there for 2 years and have not seen the final result of the beautiful park planned. I also read Chasing the Dragon…Jackie Pullinger is a friend of a former colleague of mine. A very insightful book!