Date
18 October 2018
The Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir Dam, declared a monument in 2009, was constructed between 1912 and 1917. The project led to the Tai Tam Tuk village disappearing from the map. Photo: HK Govt
The Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir Dam, declared a monument in 2009, was constructed between 1912 and 1917. The project led to the Tai Tam Tuk village disappearing from the map. Photo: HK Govt

Relics uncovered from lost village at century-old reservoir

A Hakka village that has been submerged under water since 1917 could perhaps be brought back to life in some form, thanks to efforts of a research team from the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Dr. Poon Sun-wah, adjunct professor in HKU’s department of real estate and construction, said a research team had made a conjecture on the location of the Tai Tam Tuk village based on an old military map, and that an investigation was done with help from a diving unit dispatched by the Water Supplies Department (WSD).

As the unit has reached a preliminary conclusion on the whereabouts of the village, Poon said he hopes the WSD can offer assistance again this year and send divers down to the water to further investigate and eventually help in possible recreation of the village.

Disappearance of the village dates back to 1912, when the British government in the colonial era began to build the current Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir, the fourth of its kind in Tai Tam at that time with storage capacity of 1.42 billion gallons to meet rising demand for water.

The approximate 400 workers hired for the project that was designed and supervised by British engineer Daniel Jaffe finished their work in 1917.

To make the public remember Jaffe’s contribution, a road in Wan Chai was later named after him.

While the reservoir has been providing stable supply of water for Hong Kong people for a hundred years since its completion, the nearby Tai Tam Tuk village was forced to make way for it, and became the first village in Hong Kong that was submerged due to a hydraulic engineering project.

Citing descendants of those who had lived in the village before it was gone, Poon said it was built about 300 years ago, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

In 1911, some 70 people living in the village, mostly surnamed Chung, were forced to get a combined compensation worth about HK$5,800 and move elsewhere in order to facilitate construction of the reservoir. Most of them ended up settling in Tsuen Wan and in Wan Chai later.

According to Poon, who led the HKU research effort, divers found relics of mud bricks and several banyan trees at the suspected underwater location of the village, along with a century-old soda water bottle and small opium containers.

Poon surmised that the opium was used by the reservoir workers for the purpose of relaxation after a hard day’s work, while soda water, which was a luxury at the time, might have been consumed by their overseers to beat the heat.

Hoping to unveil more historical data of the village, Poon suggested that the Antiquities and Monuments Office include the site in the Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail that currently comprises dozens of waterworks structures of historical value.

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TL/JC/RC

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