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Forgotten Souls

A Social History of the Hong Kong Cemetery

Patricia Lim

Publication Year: 2011

This book follows on from the mapping and recording of the about 10,000 graves that make up the Hong Kong Cemetery for a database which will be held in the archives of the Hong Kong Memory Project and the Royal Asiatic Society among other places. The silent tombs and elegantly carved inscriptions dating from 1842 up to the present day aroused curiosity in the author about who these long-buried people were and how they lived their lives. Lim has teased out from many sources the answers to these questions. This small, alien and rather disparate band of adventurers came from a number of far distant countries to live and work in the tiny and insignificant British foothold of Hong Kong on the edge of a huge and little understood empire. The book tries to show their relationships with each other and with their Chinese neighbours on the island. It has attempted to breathe life into the stories behind the gravestones so that the Hong Kong Cemetery can be viewed as a cradle of history as well as a final resting place for the dead.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Series: Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Studies


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The first thing to say about this book is that it is long overdue. That is by no means meant to be a negative reflection on the author. On the contrary, she is to be congratulated for filling so well such a large gap in our historical knowledge of some of the people who contributed to the early success of Hong Kong. ...

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pp. xi-xii

I have written this book in the hope that it will fan interest in Hong Kong’s social history and inspire others to continue where I have only just begun to scratch the surface. Where mistakes, inaccuracies and misstatements occur or where opinions might lack balance, the fault is wholly mine. ...

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Introduction: The Hong Kong Cemetery, Its Position and History

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pp. 1-28

In the midst of the concrete sky-scrapers that line the noisy bustling streets of Hong Kong lies an unexpected oasis of peace and quiet. This hallowed ground is arranged in a series of terraces cut into the thick, tree-clad undergrowth that scales the slopes of the hill. The Hong Kong Cemetery contains the main source material for this book. ...

Section I: An Introduction to Early Hong Kong

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pp. 29-42

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Chapter 1: The Early Settlers, the First Opium War and Its Aftermath

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pp. 30-58

Death and life, the theme of this book, is a reversal of the usual order because the book begins with death, the tombstone and then looks backwards in order to breathe life back into the faded and forgotten names that are so difficult to decipher on the old grey granite stones. ...

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Chapter 2: Events Affecting Hong Kong as They Involved the Lives of People Buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery

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pp. 59-72

For a short time after the Treaty of Nanking, the colony flourished, but by the late 1840s it looked for a time as if Hong Kong might cease to exist. Its fearsome reputation for ill health had spread and few expatriates were willing to put their lives at risk by settling and investing in the colony. ...

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Chapter 3: How Early Hong Kong Society Arranged Itself

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pp. 73-90

So as to make sense of the society as it manifests itself in the Hong Kong Cemetery, it is necessary to have a clear idea of how the men and women who made up the early society judged themselves and others and allotted ranks and degrees. The ordering of society in early Hong Kong proceeded on two levels, the formal and informal. ...

Section II: The Early Denizens of the Hong Kong Cemetery, 1845–1860

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pp. 91-104

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Chapter 4: Merchants, Clerks and Bankers

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pp. 92-112

Who were the different groups of people who made up the cliques and coteries of this colony? How did they live and how did the groups differentiate themselves from each other? These are the questions that will be addressed in the following chapters. Table 1 sums up the occupations, of the 332 civilian denizens of the Hong Kong Cemetery from this period whose occupations are known. ...

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Chapter 5: Servants of the Crown

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pp. 113-142

The civil service in this period (1845–60) has been divided into four rather arbitrary categories which range through the ranks of local society from the governor at the head of the pyramid down to the police constables and gaolers at the bottom, who were so poor that they could not afford a gravestone. ...

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Chapter 6: Professionals

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pp. 143-157

Doctors, lawyers, architects and newspaper editors are included in this group. All four professions while continuing to practise privately at this date, moved into and out of government service as needed. The conflicts of interests that arose from this anomaly underlay some of the scandals that rocked the colony in the later years of this period. ...

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Chapter 7: The Merchant Navy

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pp. 158-182

No less than seventy-two officers of merchant navy vessels and ten of their wives and fifteen of their children who died in this period are buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery, bringing the total to ninety-seven souls. A little under half of the civilians buried in the early period, whose occupations are known, served with the merchant navy. ...

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Chapter 8: Tradesmen, Artisans and Small-Scale Businessmen

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pp. 183-210

From the very early beginnings of Hong Kong, adventurers and others who stopped off on the island attempted to seize the opportunity to make money and establish businesses. Those who happened to reach such a distant island were on the whole tough and in some cases unscrupulous men. ...

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Chapter 9: Beachcombers and Destitutes

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pp. 211-213

Unemployed merchant seamen, policemen who had been dismissed from the police force for various offences often including drunkenness, and those who fell into debt drifted downwards into this group of unfortunates. This is where for example Police Constable John C. Smith would have probably ended up. ...

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Chapter 10: Missionaries

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pp. 214-234

In this first period one cannot help but wonder at the missionary fervour that led men to bring their wives and children to China, sacrificing their lives on the altar of their missions with a seeming lack of concern which to us appears irresponsible. Three groups of missionaries stand out in the early years of the colony as being of particular significance. ...

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Chapter 11: The Americans

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pp. 235-241

A surprising number of sailors from the U.S. Navy were buried in the Cemetery during these early years, many being members of the largest American fleet ever assembled up to that time. Of the four earliest sailors, who were all from the U.S. Navy steam ship Constellation, three died on the same day, 14 September 1842. ...

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Chapter 12: The Armed Forces

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pp. 242-268

In the Hong Kong Cemetery, five monuments to particular regiments date from this early period and fourteen headstones commemorate individual officers or sergeants who died then. Two of the most moving monuments in the whole of the Hong Kong Cemetery bring home the plight of the common soldiers who garrisoned the island. ...

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Chapter 13: Women and Children

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pp. 269-285

The average age of death of the fifty-four women, including the four army wives, found in the Cemetery for this period is just over thirty-one years. Twenty of the fifty-four died in their twenties, four were under forty, and six died between the ages of forty and fifty-seven, the fifty-seven-year-old being Sarah Murphy [9/8/13], the tough wife of a colour sergeant. ...

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Chapter 14. The Chinese and Their Position in Relation to the Europeans

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pp. 286-296

Yet, the effect of trying to govern the little island of Hong Kong since 1842 seems to have severely shaken this way of thinking. A newer and more stereotypical view of the Chinese character was attacking the formation of bonds based on mutual trust. The waves of religious fervour that had swept Europe and America at the end of the eighteenth ...

Section III: Years of Consolidation, 1861 to 1875

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pp. 297-310

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Chapter 15: Victoria City and Its European Inhabitants

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pp. 298-320

In the previous section, only those who died within the specified dates have been included. In this section, those who lived and made their mark in Hong Kong between the years 1861 to 1875 have been included, even if they died outside the period. Too many headstones exist in the Cemetery from these years for as many of the denizens ...

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Chapter 16: Hong Kong Society in This Period

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pp. 321-348

By the 1870s, there had been some attempts to ‘form combinations for the purpose of affording amusement of an intellectual and refined nature’. The Daily Press wrote with enthusiasm about the delightful choral concerts, the amateur theatrical performances, the establishment of a croquet club and the rumoured revival of the Debating Society. ...

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Chapter 17: Hong Kong Becomes Cosmopolitan

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pp. 349-363

The British no longer had the monopoly of influence in China. The French, German, Russian and American nationals were taking advantage of the weakness of the Chinese Empire to set up their own concessionary areas and trading outposts in various treaty ports. Hong Kong no longer occupied the premier position on the China Coast. ...

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Chapter 18: Government Measures and Their Effect on Society

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pp. 364-388

As a direct result of the difficulties of the previous governors and the perceived quarrelsome nature of the Hong Kong civil servants, it was decided that Hong Kong needed a strong governor with wide powers and the backing of the colonial office. The governor was seen as the strong arm through which colonial office administered the Crown colony. ...

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Chapter 19: Changes Taking Place outside the Government

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pp. 389-416

By this time fewer professionals died in Hong Kong. Lawyers and doctors were well paid and could afford to take a ship to Britain. But by now some professionals also saw Hong Kong as their home and not just a temporary place of residence. Among them particular mention must be made of three lawyers, Francis Innes Hazeland, ...

Section IV: The Turn of the Century, 1876-1918

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pp. 417-430

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Chapter 20: Age of Empire

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pp. 418-441

This next section of the book takes the reader by a much less detailed path through the last twenty-four years of the nineteenth century and the first eighteen years of the twentieth century. In this part, the concentration is on the Cemetery rather than the social history. ...

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Chapter 21: The Disasters of These Years

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pp. 442-451

Three disasters, plague, typhoon and fire, shattered the peace of Hong Kong society during these years and added to the number of graves in the Hong Kong Cemetery. The typhoon of 1906 was one of the fiercest manifestations of the pure force of nature that Hong Kong had yet endured. And it had endured many. ...

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Chapter 22: The Old Residents Section in the Hong Kong Cemetery

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pp. 452-474

Section 23 of the Cemetery is devoted to the new type of settler, the old-timer. Hong Kong was by reputation a small, unloved and distant island where men came to make money and left as soon as they had gained their competency. Those who stayed were mostly the underdogs who could not afford to go ‘home’, wherever that was. ...

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Chapter 23: Industry at the Turn of the Century

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pp. 475-482

The story of Ernest Deacon [23/4/9] may serve as an introduction to the changes that were taking place in the kind of business transacted by the merchants of the China Coast. It also shows how a family with money earned in the Far East could then climb from relatively humble origins to the heights of squiredom and respectability. ...

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Chapter 24: The History of the Freemasons in Hong Kong

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pp. 483-494

The Freemason symbol of set square and dividers is found throughout the Cemetery from the earliest graves right through to the present century. About eighty headstones in the Cemetery are adorned with the Freemason symbol and furthermore a large number of the men buried in the Cemetery were masons but did not choose to proclaim the fact on their headstones. ...

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Chapter 25: The Chinese Buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery

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pp. 495-511

The Chinese represent a small but especially important minority group in this Cemetery. It is tantalizing and sad that so few could be identified but, among those who were are some significant names. Between the dates of 1891, when the first Chinese as far as can be ascertained was buried in the Cemetery, ...

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Chapter 26: The Eurasians

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pp. 512-521

During the first three decades of British rule, the Eurasian minority, almost all of whom were born to Chinese mothers and European fathers, fell through the cracks that separated the races. They were for the most part brought up by the mothers’ family and disappeared into the Chinese population. ...

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Chapter 27: Other Nationalities: The Japanese and Russians Buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery

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pp. 522-530

It may come as a surprise that the number of Japanese graves in the Hong Kong Cemetery is approximately 465, compared to the Chinese graves which number about 197. The Japanese have a long history in Hong Kong. As early as 1845, Japanese were recorded living there, mostly the survivors of shipwrecks. ...

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Chapter 28: The Second World War and Its Aftermath

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pp. 531-542

This last chapter tells the stories of the Second World War that cannot be left out of a history of the Hong Kong Cemetery. The war ushered in years of turmoil and suffering for Hong Kong and a little of this can be deduced from the Cemetery registers. One hundred and thirteen soldiers, forty-six of whom are entered as unknown, ...


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pp. 543-550


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pp. 551-576


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pp. 577-586


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pp. 587-612

E-ISBN-13: 9789888053742
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622099906

Page Count: 624
Illustrations: 226 colour illus
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Studies