64-year-old Ho Hau Cheung reflects on the two, three decades he spent in Shatin since first moving here as a teacher at the age of 37. Six years into his sojourn, he decided to join the district council in which he serves as chairperson today. “My maiden name must have been Shatin, I decided a long time ago.” This bond fuels his work. “The first priority of any predominantly residential district is to maintain a quality living environment.”
Tin Sum Wai (aka. Tin Sum Village) sits beside a railway station and is surrounded by skyscrapers, but Choi Chiu Hei remembers a different view. Every acre of it used to be farmland until a few decades ago, according to the indigenous inhabitant representative. “From those private apartment flats at the front all the way uphill: it was fields everywhere, hence the name Tin Sum, ‘heart of the field’.”
The height of each paper lantern hanging in Kak Tin Village Ancestral Hall, measuring from base to crown, is taller than an average adult. Village Head cum lantern master Tsang Kwan Tat said that this Middle Three size is already rare but is only the second largest; it is smaller than the Big Octagonal and the Big Three.
If you want to know something about the Hakka tea cakes, you can go ask Fong Po in Kak Tin Village. Fong Po is an old Hakka lady, got married at the age of twenty, and now she is eighty but she never forgets the art of making these popular red bans. Every year around mid-spring, before and after the Ching Ming Festival, she gets very busy making these traditional tea cakes.
Fotan in the sixties was still a barren marsh. Yuen Je ( Lam Siu Yuen’s nickname, Je means sister) lived in a small cottage on the edge of the field when she was a child. During the slack season between planting and harvest, her friend’s father would carry two heavy wooden buckets of steaming hot congee to sell on the rugged farm road.
Uncle Ping Kan is now fifty-eight years old. In the 1950s, he lived with his father Lee Yau in a small seaside brick house by Taipo Road in Ha Wo Che Village. They remember that between the Fotan and Shatin train stations we have today was the former coastline; the New Town Plaza was the former Shatin Market.