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The Hong Kong Region 1850-1911

Institutions and Leadership in Town and Countryside

James Hayes

Publication Year: 2012

First published in 1977, The Hong Kong Region is a historical reconstruction of village and township society in Hong Kong’s New Territories between 1850 and 1911. In a detailed study drawing on documentary sources and intensive fieldwork, James Hayes argues for the part taken by ordinary peasants and shopkeepers in running their own communities. It was they who dealt virtually unaided with routine administration of local affairs and with every form of disaster, natural or man-made, that visited their communities. The gentry and imperial bureaucracy, in contrast, played almost no role. In a substantial new introduction written for this Echoes reprint, James Hayes reviews the research behind The Hong Kong Region and assesses its wider implications for our understanding of traditional Chinese society in the light of later scholarly studies.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Series: Echoes: Classics of Hong Kong Culture and History


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p. c-c

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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p. vii-vii

List of Maps

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p. viii-viii

List of Plates

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pp. ix-x

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Introduction to the Paperback Edition

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pp. xi-xxxii

The Hong Kong Region, now being reprinted by Hong Kong University Press in its “Echoes” series, was a historical reconstruction of certain long-settled villages and sub-districts in the New Territories of Hong Kong, and, more specifically, an enquiry into the nature of local society in the late Qing period, 1850–1911.1...


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pp. G1-G8

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pp. 9-10

THIS BOOK, and the doctoral thesis on which it is based , arose from my fascination with the Hong Kong scene and the character of its people, especially with those of the New Territories where I served as district officer south 1957-62 and to which, under the vastly changed physical and demographic circumstances accruing from twenty years of intensive industrial, commercial, and...

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pp. 11-22

THE PROPOSITION that gentry participation was essential to the management of local affairs in imperial times has been long regarded as a theorem of Chinese political and social existence. John Fairbank's classic statement of the position was first made nearly thirty years ago:...

Abbreviations Used in the Text

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pp. 23-24

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1. A General Account of the Hong Kong Region

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pp. 25-55

THERE IS NO SATISFACTORY full length account available in Chinese, English, or any European language which takes in all the complexities of the population and settlement of the Hong Kong region. 1
The Hong Kong region was occupied in prehistoric times by persons whose origin and racial affiliations are, despite plentiful...

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2. The Community of Cheung Chau

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pp. 56-84

CHEUNG CHAU is a small island situated just over five miles west-southwest of Green Island, at the western end of Hong Kong harbor. Its total area is 0.925 square miles. 2 The island is 2.25 miles long at its greatest extent, and takes the form of a three-ended dumbbell whose arms radiate about a mile from the low beach area in the center on which the town is built. The...

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3. The Community of Tai O

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pp. 85-103

IN COMPARISON with Cheung Chau, the coastal market center of Tai O on the adjacent island of Lantau was less bustling.1 Though possessing-for the Hong Kong region-large boat and land populations, it seems to have been at this time in a period of decline, and in consequence attracted criticism from the British district officers who lauded Cheung Chau so frequently. "There...

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4. Shek Pik

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pp. 104-128

I HAVE A PARTICULAR link with Shek Pik and its inhabitants, for between I 957 and I 960 I was responsible for removing the villagers to allow the construction of the Shek Pik Reservoir.
Shek Pik, though for all its history a remote valley on an offshore island, is a long-settled and interesting spot. Its beaches were inhabited in the pre-Han period, and were the site of an...

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5. Pui O

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pp. 129-150

THERE ARE TEN VILLAGES in the Pui 0 group. 1 Lo Wai, San Tsuen, Law Uk and Ham Tin are at Pui 0, a wide, shallow valley running back from the sea and lying behind a long beach. Four others are situated in scattered locations in the Shap Long Peninsula which extends south from Pui 0. These comprise Shap Long itself, Tai Long with Lung Mei, and Mong Tung...

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6. Ngau Tau Kok Village

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pp. 151-162

NGAU TAu KoK was a village of stonecutters and cultivators which was formerly located on the seashore on the north-eastern arm of Hong Kong harbour. 1 It was one of a group of four adjacent villages, known locally as "The Four Hills," 2 whose inhabitants, mostly stonecutters, exploited the rich granite formations in the area until they were used up in the early decades...

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7. Kowloon City and Kowloon Street

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pp. 163-180

KOWLOON was a farming district when the British took possession of Hong Kong Island in 1841 . It then consisted of a central agricultural plain with the walled city of Kowloon in its midst, lying together with its commercial suburb, Kowloon Street, under the shadow of the Lion Rock. Rough, hilly areas with rocky outcrops interspersed with stretches of farmland extended...

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8. Summary and Discussion

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pp. 181-193

GENERALLY SPEAKING, the organizational and leadership situation in the six areas described above was characterized by fragmentation: into lineage and village units in the rural areas, and into street and dialect groupings in the coastal market centers . By their convenient small size and cohesive nature, these bodies both enabled and encouraged self-direction....

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pp. 194-201

BY WAY OF A POSTSCRIPT to this account of local institutions and leadership as they evolved in one outlying part of Hsin-an by the end of the 19th century, I would like to hazard a few guesses about the wider regional situation, including the mainland areas of the New Territories which were the home of the "Five great clans. " 1 In the course of preparing the main work, I found...


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pp. 202-203


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pp. 204-242


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pp. 243-248


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pp. 249-280


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pp. 281-290

E-ISBN-13: 9789882208926
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888139118

Page Count: 324
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 2
Series Title: Echoes: Classics of Hong Kong Culture and History