Management Maintenance Conservation


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A Report on Maintenance and Management in Conservation of Historical Building in Hong Kong -


Historical buildings are important to the community as they not only reserve the history of the local culture but also store the collective memory of society. It is vital to conserve them in a good condition that we can visit them in years later, and even for our generations.

Buildings' envelope became worn out without maintenance as time goes, especially in historical buildings. Even buildings are maintained and repaired, they could easily become defective both in appearance and building sturctures when the maintenance approach so adopted was not appropriate to the situation. A proper maintenance and management method is significantly important for preserving historical buildings.

By looking into the topic “Maintenance and Management in Conservation of Historical Building in Hong Kong - A Case Study of the Tang Clan Ancestral Hall, Ping Shan, New Territories”, a typical maintenance and management method is shown and assessed for the concerned mechanism.

Chapter 1 Introduction

1.1 Definition of Historical Buildings

Historical buildings are buildings having high heritage values in both architecturally and historically. Referred to the China ICOMOS (China ICOMOS, 2002), it defines heritage sites including the following important elements:

  • Significant events or activities associated with historic figures;
  • Significant undertakings in science and technology, production, transportation, and commerce;
  • Traditional institutions;
  • Ethnic groups and religions;
  • Family and society;
  • Literature and the arts;
  • Folk customs and trends of a period; and / or
  • Other historical attributes of particular significance.

By the definition above, buildings can have high historical value by some historical events and person happened inside. For example, the Red House in Tuen Mun is a building where Dr Sun Yat-sen worked and lived. A building with high historical value became part of the history. In addition, some historical buildings could have a high historical value assessed by their ages and their related historical interests, such as important civic or social functions, Those functions mean any common public activities such as the worship of traditional festivals or facilities such as halls, theatres, churches or libraries that constitute part of social interests.

1.2 The Importance of Historical Buildings

Historical buildings are symbols that relate to our cultural identity and continuity. They have various kinds of academic and aesthetic value. According to Venice Charter, it revealed that “Imbued with a message from the past, the historic monuments of generations of people remain to the present day as living witnesses of their age-old traditions. People are becoming more and more conscious of the unity of human values and regard ancient monuments as a common heritage. The common responsibility to safeguard them for future generations is recognized. It is our duty to hand them on in the full richness of their authenticity.” (Venice Charter, 1964)

The matter of conservation of historical buildings has gradually aroused the public concern since the demolition of a precious heritage - the Queen's Pier. Many other historical buildings, such as Kom Tong Hall, King Yin Lei, Wan Chai and Central Police Stations, and Lui Seng Chun etc, which would have to be demolished unattended if no voice has been made to reserve them. However, when we determine to maintain a historical building, there is a serial of problems and obstacles should have to be faced and overcome such as the ownership, costs of repair, method of repair, and maintenance and management works in the future. Furthermore, owners are more interested in substantial benefits derived from re-development of the site than maintaining the heritage.

Cultural heritages not only provide us a means of knowing and interpreting social, cultural and economic changes, but also become our collective memory and provide us with a sense of Hong Konger's identity.

1.3 Maintenance and management of historical buildings

Maintenance and management not only keeps up the physical condition of a building but also provides a safe and comfortable environment for the user and maintains the value of the building. Good maintenance and management programme can help to retain the significance and function of the historic building.

Good maintenance and management can prevent a great deal of damage and decay of historic buildings and therefore the significance of the buildings can be retained. The establishment of a maintenance and management programme should be carried out with forethought, control and use of records based on a historic building inspection and condition survey.

1.4 Background

1.4.1 Conservation in Hong Kong

Historical buildings were important for us to understand the history of Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, apart from the HKSAR government, there are many organizations participating in the conservation works. The statutory control of the heritages, the legislation is the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, Cap. 53 (the Ordinance). The current heritage conservation policy is to support and promote the conservation of heritage in Hong Kong with regard to the following fundamental principles:

(a) To conserve but not to take over ownership;

(b) Conservation should be based on heritage value, not simply the age of a building;

(c) Balance between conservation needs and economic cost should be maintained; and

(d) Private property rights should be given due regard.

(Home Affairs Bureau, 9 November 2004)

For those historical buildings which had been conserved, it was very common that they were conserved in individual manner and their original uses had also been changed. Sometimes, advanced building services were also installed in order to upgrade the building.

1.4.2 The Characteristic of Historical Buildings in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has been the colony of the Great Britain since 1842 and this has driven the architectural works built during this period towards western style or a mixture of western and eastern styles. Since the return of sovereignty to China in 1997, these historical buildings have even greater historical values. They are visible and tangible historical attributes of colonial development in the territory that assembled both Chinese and Western culture. Most of these colonial buildings, such as the former Supreme Court (Legislative Council Building) and the Flagstaff House (Museum of Tea Ware) etc, are located in the Central district in close proximity to one other.

In addition, Hong Kong has historical vernacular buildings unique to the Southern China Chinese which region and those are still being used by the local inhabitants for their original purposes. Many of these historical buildings such as shrines, ancestral halls and temples are still being used in New Territories as places for different kinds of traditional practices, such as religious festivals, ancestral worship and celebrated activities.

1.4.3 Antiquities and Monument Office

The Antiquities and Monuments Office is the executive arm of the Antiquities Authority. It was set up in 1976 and the main work of Antiquities and Monuments Office is to serve the Antiquities Advisory Board. Antiquities and Monuments Office is headed by its Executive Secretary and it is divided into four sections, namely Archaeology Section, Historical Building Section Planning & Management Section and Education & Publicity Section. A separate section was set up to provide secretariat and administrative support to both the Antiquities and Monuments Office and Antiquities Advisory Board. The responsibility of Antiquities and Monuments Office relating to historical buildings includes:

  • searching, recording and identifying the historical buildings and its items;
  • keeping files or writing and photographic materials of the buildings;
  • organizing the restoration, protection and maintenance of declared monuments;
  • arranging adaptive reuse of suitable historical buildings; and
  • producing a series of publicity and educational programmes.

(Antiquities and Monuments Office, HKSAR)

1.4.4 Antiquities Advisory Board

It is a statutory body consisting of members with expertise in various fields covered by the ordinance. The Board was set up to advise the Secretary for Home Affairs on any matters relating to antiquities and monuments, but it also has an important role in supporting and guiding the work of the Antiquities and Monument Office.

The Antiquities Advisory Board should advise the Secretary for Home Affairs:

  • on whether an item should be declared as a monument
  • on any matters relating to monuments
  • on measures to promote the restoration and conservation of historic buildings, including the annual programme of restoration works;
  • on measures to promote awareness of, and concern for the conservation of Hong Kong's heritage.

(Antiquities and Monuments Office, HKSAR)

1.4.5 Grading of Historical Buildings

For the identification of historical buildings preservation, a grading system is used to define their ranking from Grade I to Grade III by the Antiquities Advisory Board and the Antiquities and Monuments Office. (Antiquities and Monuments Office, HKSAR)

Grade I

Buildings of outstanding merit of which every effort should be made to preserve if possible.

Grade II

Buildings of special merit; efforts should be made to selectively preserve.

Grade III

Buildings of some merit, but not yet qualified for consideration as possible monuments. These are to be recorded and used as a pool for future selection.

1.4.6 Declared Monument

According to the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance Cap.53, section.2A, the Antiquities Authority (i.e. the Secretary for Home Affairs) may, after consulting the Antiquities Advisory Board and with the approval of the Chief Executive as well as the publication of the notice in government gazette, legally declare a place to be protected. The Antiquities Authority is then empowered to prevent alterations, or to impose conditions upon any proposed alterations as s/he thinks fit, in order to protect the monument.

1.5 Problem Statement

In fact, since the change in sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997, heritage conservation had received much more attention than before. The Chief Executive, Mr. Tung Chee Hwa in his 1999 Policy Address emphasized the importance of preserving heritage:

“It is important to rehabilitate and preserve unique buildings as this not only accords with our objective of sustainable development but also facilitates the retention of the inherent characteristics of different districts, and helps promote tourism. The concept of preserving our heritage should be incorporated into all projects for redeveloping old areas. The Government will review the existing heritage policy and related legislation for protection of historic buildings and archaeological sites.”

In 2001, when the Urban Renewal Authority was established, preservation of buildings, sites and structures with historical, cultural or architectural interests was designated as one of its statutory duties. The Urban Renewal Strategy, published in the same year, clearly stated, “Heritage preservation should be part of urban renewal.”

Heritage preservation had been included as one of the new initiatives under the guiding principle - “Enlightened People with a Rich Culture” in 2003 Policy Agenda by the Chief Executive. And it was said that a comprehensive approach would be adopted to heritage preservation in the 2003 Policy Agenda of the Home Affairs Bureau. Indeed, the Home Affairs Bureau is now reviewing the current policy of heritage preservation. All these seemed to reveal the government's recognition of the value of heritage conservation and its commitment in safeguarding the valuable assets.

However, heritage protection was not an issue which can be solely handled by the government. Without the support of the public, heritage conservation would hardly be successful. Furthermore, the current policies and administration could not fully protect the historical buildings which had not defined as declared monuments.

  • Aims

The aim of this report was to evaluate the difficulties of management and maintenance of historical building conservation in Hong Kong.

  • Objectives
  • Review the management and maintenance of the historical buildings in Hong Kong.
  • Analyze the problems of maintenance and management of historical buildings in Hong Kong.
  • Investigate the maintenance and management programme of historical buildings in Hong Kong.
  • Methodologies

In order to find out the current government policies, attitudes and the problems of maintenance and management of historical buildings in Hong Kong, literatures from journals, books and newspaper were studies. Besides, interview would carry out to collect further detail information. Apart from the interview, a case study was used to investigate the management and maintenance works on a declared monument in Hong Kong.

1.9 Limitation

Conservation of historical buildings was a big topic that included a lot of matters such as different types of conservation methods and techniques applied on historical buildings over the world. All of these factors would affect the performance of conservation works against the historical building. Due to time limitation, this dissertation would only focused on the management and maintenance problem of traditional Chinese Temple in Hong Kong.

Chapter 2. Literature review

2.1 Overview

In this chapter, literatures related to the conservation of historical buildings were reviewed. This review proposed to provide a background for better understanding of the research problem and to stress its urgency. There were seven sections. Section 2.2 was the studies related to the concept/ standard of conservation. Section 2.3 was the explanation of the maintenance in Conservation. Section 2.4 was the maintenance explanation related to the China Principle. Section 2.5 focused on the literatures about current Hong Kong government policy of the conservation works. Section 2.6 reviewed the problem to conservation of historical buildings in Hong Kong. Section 2.7 reviewed the problem to management and maintenance of historical building.

2.2 Concept of conservation

“The concept of an historic monument is defined to embrace ‘not only the single architectural work but also the urban or rural setting in which is found the evidence of a particular civilization, a significant development or an historic event.' The aim of conservation is to retain and safeguard the cultural significance of a place with unswerving respect of the existing fabric: the aesthetic, historical and physical integrity of the cultural property.” (LAM Sair-ling, 28 March 2003)

“Replacements of missing parts must integrate harmoniously with whole, but the same time must be distinguishable from the original so that restoration does not falsify the artistic or historic evidence.” (LAM Sair-ling, 28 March 2003)

In historical building conservation, the choice of repair materials is important. “Many more materials are available now for repair and these create serious problems for old houses. The house owner needs to understand the differences between traditional and modern materials and the consequences of using them.” (Janet Collings, 2002)

“Modern buildings are designed to be rigid, so most conventional modern materials need not allow for deformation. Most movement is restricted to carefully movement joints. On an old building, there are usually no specific movement joints because every part of the structure tolerates slight movement.” (Janet Collings, 2002)

2.3 Meaning of Maintenance in Conservation

The meaning of maintenance is defined in the British Standard, BS 3811 as a combination of actions carried out to retain an item in, or restore it to, an acceptable condition. However, maintenance for Conservation means something more. Since there are no standards or principles laid down in Hong Kong for conservation of historic buildings, The Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China is used as a reference.

2.4 The China Principles

The key principles for maintenance were stated in the ‘Conservation Principles” and ‘ Conservation Interventions' of the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China. (China ICOMOS, 2002)

“Regular maintenance is the most basic and important means of conservation. A routine maintenance program should be established to carry out regular monitoring, to identify and eliminate potential threats, and to repair minor deterioration.” (Article 20 of China ICOMOS)

“Regular maintenance is a preventive measure to reduce damage from the cumulative effects of natural processes and human action; it is applicable to all sites. An appropriate maintenance program, which includes continuous monitoring of potential problems and archiving of records, must be established and carried out in accordance with the relevant standards.” (Article 29 of China ICOMOS)

The ‘Commentary on the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites' gives further explanation on maintenance of historic buildings and sites as follows:

“10.2 Routine maintenance refers to the regular implementation of a maintenance program. This is an extremely important part of management and is aimed at addressing potential problems and thereby preventing the need for further intervention.”

“10.2.1Routine maintenance includes works on the site itself, any ancillary protective installations and related physical intervention to the setting.”

“10.2.2 Maintenance procedures should be classified, standardized, and carried out at regular intervals.”

“10.2.3Monitoring should be integrated with maintenance.”

“10.2.4Maintenance of areas susceptible to damage or disaster is particularly important.”

2.5 Hong Kong Government Policy affecting the conservation works

Hong Kong Government policy would affect the effectiveness of the conservation work directly. “Many historical building are in private ownership and Hong Kong is still lack of a comprehensive conservation policy to deliver a mechanism to protect valuable historical buildings. Although the government is statutorily empowered by the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance to repossess sites or buildings with heritage value, such legal power is never supported by a policy to deliver the conservation objective.” (Dr Gordon Ng, 11 February 2003)

“It is clear that the existing policy is inadequate, under-funded and narrow in its approach. Many examples exist where the building was only saved at the last minute such as with the Haw Par Mansion at Tiger Balm Gardens, or as a result of a response to public outcry, such as with Kom Tong Hall. A more proactive and comprehensive approach is required as at present all the significant buildings and sites have not even been identified. It is only when they are under threat that action is taken.” (Public Affairs Committee, Hong Kong Institute of Planners, March 2004)

“Land policy. One of the reasons for Hong Kong's poor performance in built heritage conservation is the Government's restrictive land policy. As the owner of the freehold of virtually all land in the territory, the Government has generally restricted the supply of new land, and also restricted the rezoning of land in existing use. These restrictions have put potential conservation sites under extreme pressure. If the Government were to adopt a more relaxed policy, for example permitting much of the existing land zoned for industrial/commercial use to be rezoned for residential or other purposes, this would increase the options for conserving sites of heritage value.” (Alan Lung Ka-lun, 18 May 2004)

“The Hong Kong Institute of Architects reckons that Hong Kong has longed for an effective governmental policy on heritage conservation. Such a policy should not only address individual heritage sites and building, but also closely relate to urban renewal. The Hong Kong Institute of Architects takes this opportunity to urge the HKSAR Government to establish the concerned policy without further delay. With respect to both urban renewal and heritage conservation, the Hong Kong Institute of Architects believes in the following general principles and looks forward that the HKSAR Government will take up solid actions accordingly. 1.Integrative Planning 2.Holistic Approach3. Cultural Significance 4. Collective Memory 5.Community Participation 6. Collaborative Attitude” (Hong Kong Institute of Architects, 2005)

2.6 Problem to conservation of historical buildings

“We agree that heritage conservation is an essential part of any cultural policy. It is the government's responsibility to make long-term commitment to heritage conservation. Therefore, in 2003, we launched a comprehensive and systematic review on antiquities and monuments in order to examine how heritage conservation could be carried out effectively. We find that the existing policy in built heritage conservation faces the following problems: 1. Public consensus and community support to heritage conservation needs to be enhanced. 2. There is no comprehensive approach to systematically assess and select heritage items for protection. 3. The Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance is rather inflexible in that it provides only one form of conservation (i.e. to declare buildings as monuments). 4. It is difficult to conserve a whole street or an area when some buildings within it do not meet the stringent requirements for declaration. 5. High land price makes the built heritage conservation extremely difficult. 6. Economic incentives are insufficient.” (Home Affairs Bureau, February 2004)

A paper, which was issued on 9 November 2004 by The Conservancy Association, indicated that the government usually focused more on tourism led more than conservation led on historical buildings. “Because of the significance of heritage conservation for this Central Police Station Compound, the project should definitely be conservation led. As such the Home Affairs Bureau should be assigned the project host Bureau rather than the Tourism Commission. The former marine headquarters was classified as important heritage, same as Central Police Station. However, the project was set to be a “tourism development”. The marking scheme only provided a weighting of 25% on heritage preservation. It must be conservation led instead of tourism led. The project should maximize conservation and public should be given the rights to access the Central Police Station Compound.” (The Conservancy Association, 9 November 2004)

2.7 Problem of the maintenance and management of historical building

"It is unfortunate that in Hong Kong we do not have the expertise to maintain temple's figurines - small, detailed sculptures that originated in the Ming Dynasty. So we had to take them down from the walls and transport them back to the Mainland for restoration, it is best to use old or original materials for restoration but these were difficult to find, modern materials were used instead.” (LEE Sheung-yuen, 23 April 2006)

The installation of modern building services provides the effective management of the historical building. Excessive installation would damage the original of historical building. “Minor adoption and improvements regarding safety. Lightings and provision of caretakers office, etc. to enable the building to be opened the public were carefully designed without compromising the buildings' historic value. (LAM Sair-ling, 28 March 2003)

Chapter 3. Methodology

Various research methodologies were used to collect the related data. They included reviewing the problem to conservation of historical building in Hong Kong and international standards and principles in conservation, questionnaires, and a case study with site visits on Tin Hau Temple in Lung Yeuk Tau.

3.1 Literature Review

The basic concern throughout the initial stage is to identify and access some of the parameters likely be relevant in the research topic. A comprehensive review of the relevant literature would be carried out in order to develop an understanding of the conservation work in Hong Kong. This literature review included these major areas: current Hong Kong government policy on the conservation works, problem to conservation of historical buildings, problem of the maintenance and management of historical building, concept of conservation problem, the meaning of maintenance in conservation works and International Charter of heritage conservation such as China Principles of China ICOMOS.

3.2 Interviews

Formal and informal interview with five people were conducted between August and October. The interviews aims to get the most updated information regarding to the conservation of historical buildings in Hong Kong and the difficulties of management and maintenance of historical buildings in Hong Kong. As the case study target building is a traditional Chinese temple, the information of current management and maintenance works of Chinese temple in Hong Kong were useful for analysis.

Mr. Lam Sair Ling

He is the Senior Property Services Manager of ASD. He is experienced in handling the conservation of historical building project and worked in this section more than 20 years. He provided the information related to the difficulties of maintenance of historical buildings.

Mr. Tang Kun Nin

He is the village's representative of the Lung Yeuk Tau Village. He provided a lot of historic information and villagers' opinions about the conservation of historical building. He also provided the information related to the difficulties of maintenance and management of historical Chinese temple.

Mr. Lee

He is the owner's representative of Tin Hau Temple, Tai Po. He provided a lot of information about the management method of Tin Hau Temple, Tai Po. The source of the capital for the operation and maintenance were asked. He also provided the information related to the difficulties of maintenance and management of historical Chinese temple.

Miss Clara Leung

She is the assistant manager in the Chinese Temples Committee. She provided a lot of information about the operation of Chinese Temples Committee. The management and maintenance procedures of Chinese temple were also provided.

Mr. Lee

He is the management staff of Hau Wong Temple, Kowloon City who is directly employed by Chinese Temples Committee. He provided a lot of information about the new modern management of Hau Wong Temple. He also explains the history of Hau Wong Temple and the function of new equipment installed in the temple.

3.3 Case Study

A case study would be conducted to analysis the conservation works on historical building. The details of the case were examined whether there was sufficient resources provided for the conservation of historical building under the existing policy. The management and maintenance methods of the case study target were also investigated and compare with similar cases in Hong Kong.

3.4 Resources Used

The various literatures were gathered from previous research papers, journals, textbooks and electronic information through the library and Internet.

Chapter 4 A Typical Management framework of Chinese Temple in Hong Kong

4.1 Chinese Temples Ordinance

In 1928, legislation - the Chinese Temple Ordinance, Chapter 153 - was passed to suppress and prevent abuses in the management of Chinese temples and in the administration of the funds generated from those temples. Chinese temples embrace all temples, Buddhist monasteries, Taoist monasteries, nunneries and places where worship of gods for rewards are as defined in Section 2 of the Ordinance. The management of the temples is vested in the Chinese Temples Committee who empowered by section 7 of the Ordinance, has absolute control of the revenues, funds, investments and properties of all Chinese temples. Moreover, the Chinese Temples Committee also has other authorities including:

  • The power to make regulation on the registration, management, control and inspection of Chinese temples as well as the audit of the funds. (Section 3)
  • The power to make regulation on the duties of temple keepers. (Section 3)
  • The use of the revenues to the due observance of the customary ceremonies and the maintenance of the temple buildings and the temple properties. (Section 8)
  • Discretion to decide what are the customary ceremonies of any particular Chinese temple. (Section 8)
  • The power to require any person to transfer or assign any Chinese temple to the Secretary for Home Affairs Incorporated. (Section 7)
  • Enforcement of the Ordinance with power to enter, search any place suspected to contain Chinese temple or any registered Chinese temple and to use such force as may be necessary with written authority form the Secretary for Home Affairs. (Section 14)

4.2 Chinese Temples Committee

Appointed by the Chief Executive who has delegated the power to the Secretary for Home Affairs under the Chinese Temples Ordinance, Chapter 153

As in December 2005, there are 347 registered Chinese temples in Hong Kong. Only 24 numbers of them are under the direct management of the Chinese Temples Committee and out of which 23 are graded historical building as classified by AMO. (Above information were provided from the staff of Chinese Temples Committee verbally)

4.3 The operation of Chinese Temples Committee

The operation staff carry out an inspection once a year to make sure 347 registered temples are used lawfully as temple. Most of their effort has been spent on the 24 direct-control temples in:

  • Checking the performance of the temple keepers
  • Arranging the collection of donations from the donation boxes in temples
  • Assessing the need for repair and improvement works

The in-house technical team handles the maintenance works. For minor works value is below $1 million, the technical team will issue works orders to the team contractors to carry the repair works. For the major works value is above $1 million, this works will be tendered out and only those contractors with experience in temple repairing will be invited. (Above information were provided from the staff of Chinese Temples Committee verbally).

Chapter 5. A case study of Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau

5.1 Introduction

There were now 80 declared monuments in Hong Kong. In this dissertation, I have chosen Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau as a case study target research. It was aimed to analysis the conservation works adopted on declared monument. The scope of research included standard of works, repair methods, management and effect of the conservation work.

5.2 Approach of Conservation Work

The essential principles and aims of conservation were that original structure and appearance of historic building must not be altered since those had a special message from its significant. The great buildings of the past ‘do not belong to us only, they have belonged to our forefathers and will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not in any sense our property, to do as we like with. We are only trustees for those who come after us.' (William Morris, 1875)

The approach of ‘conservative repair' respected the additions and alterations that had been made to old buildings over time and opposed speculative restoration to an earlier form. It was encouraged the repair rather than the replacement of original fabric. Any intervention must be considered in minimum necessary and reversible if technically possible. The condition of the building before any intervention and all methods and materials used during treatment must be carefully documented.

For the conservation works, replacements of missing parts must integrate consistently with the whole, but the same time must be understand from the original of historical buildings so that the works did not damaged/ destroyed the artistic or historic significant. Minor adaptations and improvements regarding safety and lightings etc to enable the building to be opened to the public were carefully designed without compromising the buildings' historic value. (LAM Sair-ling, ASD)

In order to enable the significance of a historic place was to be retained, the process and approach to conservation projects was showed in the following diagram (James Semple Kerr, 2000):

5.3 Understanding the Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau

5.3.1 Background of the Legend of Tin Hau

It is believed that Tin Hau was born about a thousand years ago in Fukien Poutin, a coastal fishing village in the South China. Her name was Lam Mak. She possessed the power to foreknow things since young. She helped the local villagers solve problems and saved them from calamities. Poutin was hit by a drought when she was twenty. She was asked by the official of the prefecture to pray for rain and it rained heavily after her praying. At twenty-two, she made two evil deities of the north-west who were known as Thousand-li Eye and Wind-following Ear surrender and become the left and right generals to help saving the people suffering from shipwrecks and disasters. The statues of the two generals are found guarding Tin Hau in the temples nowadays.

Lam Mak saved people from plight with her super power. She became an immortal at the age of twenty-eight. Since then, fishermen in coastal areas in China would see a lady in red flying on a straw mat saving the drowned from shipwrecks. The saved all believed that the immortal dressed in red was Tin Hau. Tin Hau has been widely worshipped by the people living near the coast and has become an important patron of the sea in China. (Source from website of 香港道教聯合會)

5.3.2 Statement of Significance

  • Historical Significance

Situated between the Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall and Lo Wai, Lung Yeuk Tau, Fanling, the Tin Hau Temple is the main temple in the area. According to the village elders, there was a temple on this earlier than Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall, i.e. before 1525, although the present building probably dates from mid-19th century.

  • Architectural Significant

The temple is a traditional two-hall building with an internal courtyard and is one of the finest examples of its kind in Hong Kong. The whole building is exquisitely decorated with fine wood carvings, polychrome plaster mounldings, ceramic sculptures and murals of auspicious Chinese motifs, fully reflecting the superb craftsmanship of the olden days. The Main Hall of the temple is devoted to the worship of Tin Hau and her guards, Chin Lei Ngan (“Thousand Li Eyes”) and Shun Fung Yi (“Heavenly Wing Ears”). The oldest relics surviving in the temple are two bronze bells which are placed on the floor of the chamber one of which was cast in 1695 as a gift from the Tang clan to thank Tin Hau after having their sons adopted to her. The other bell was cast in 1700 as an offering to Tin Hau so that the young men of the clan could be blessed during their journey to the city for taking the provincial examinations.

  • Contexture Significance (Physical/Social)

The temple had been carried a restoration in 1913 and 1981 respectively and declared a monument on 15 November 2002. The property is owned by the Tang Clan of Lung Yeuk Tau and is stilled used for worship and celebrations of traditional festivals and ceremonies.

5.4 Repair Project

In 2005, a repair project for Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau is proposed and funded by AMO (Antiquities and Monument Office), as the AMO had the responsibility to keep Hong Kong's declared monuments in a sound maintenance condition. In this project, AMO and LCSD (Leisure and Cultural Services Department were Project Proponent who were responsible for funding the project and will also act as the building conservation adviser. AMO had engaged the Arch SD (Architectural Services Department) as their works agent who will be responsible for project management, site supervision and monitoring. During the works, AMO acted as the historic conservation adviser. For further historic information of the temple, the Tang Clan of Lung Yuek Tau, who are the owners of the Tin Hau Temple would be consulted at all stages of the project. (Antiquities and Monument Office, January 2005)

5.4.1 Ordinance

According to the Section 6(1) of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance (Cap. 53), no person shall demolish, remove, conduct, deface or interfere with a monument, unless a permit is granted. As the Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau is a declared monument, the required permit will be obtained from the Antiquities Authority before any work may commence on-site. Any person who contravenes Section 6(1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for 1 year. Moreover, the proposed works will comply with the requirements of the Permit in respect of building preservation.

5.4.2 Standard of the Project

As the work involved a declared monument, a higher degree of care would be taken in all phases of the work. There were a serial of standard of workmanship included:

  • All works should be matched the original design including materials, dimensions and colours etc.
  • All new building works and paintworks should not appear too obvious and for this reason all colours for painting and all materials employed must be approved by the ASD and AMO before use.
  • The appointed contractor was required to employ experienced craftsmen and artists to reconstruct missing, damaged or deteriorated elements of the building where no similar elements can be found.
  • The appointed contractor was required to keep a record of methods and materials adopted in this project while the format of the record should be accepted by the ASD and AMO. A copy of the record will be given to the AMO for future maintenance purpose.
  • The record should contained types of materials used (including common names and technical names), area of application, mix proportion, method of mix, method of application, etc., to allow future maintenance with the same materials and methods.

(Antiquities and Monument Office, January 2005)

5.4.3 Site Survey

A detailed structural and condition survey of the Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau had been carried out to identify the problem areas. The draft specification for the proposed work had been vetted and revised by AMO to check that it fully complied with international conservation standards. (Antiquities and Monument Office, January 2005)

5.4.4 Scope of the Repair Works

After the site survey, there were a sequence of building defects were located. The purpose of the project to carry out repair and restorations works for the Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau. The scope of work included:

  • Dismantling defective roof structure, including roofing tiles, purlins and truss system. Reconstruct the roof with termite-proofed roof timber and new tiling as necessary. Also, repair and re-paint the ridge and gable ridge.
  • Re-plaster and re-paint the internal walls of the temple.
  • Clean, repair and re-point the external wall and “dentist” replacement to individual damaged bricks. Also, re-paint the frieze of the external wall with matching original form.
  • Repair and re-paint the timber doors, wooden frame and the windows.
  • Dismantle, supply and install lightening system for defective roof. Also, supply and install new conduits and cables.

(Antiquities and Monument Office, January 2005)

5.5 Repair Methods for the Project

5.5.1 Partial Reconstruction of the Chinese Tiled Roof

The main timber roof structure of the Tin Hau Temple was extensively affected by termite infestation. It caused serious weakening of the structure strength of the timber and stability of the roof tiles.

All new timbers would be pre-treated by the timber-suppliers in their own workshops with approved preservative. Termiticide would be sprayed on the existing and salvaged timbers to prevent termite infestation. The works would be conducted by specialists with great cares to avoid negative environmental impacts.

During taking down of rotten or broken timbers, great care was required to take out the built-in section so as not to damage the adjoining plaster work during the progress. The Contractor may be required to cut the exposed part of the timber away first and carefully break down the built-in section into pieces by drilling (using only hand-held powered tools) before taking the section out.

The existing roofing tiles would be removed and stacked for reuse carefully. New tiles and sound old tiles would then be reused for the retiling of the roof. New tiles should be matched in size, quality and colour to original. Sample of tiles must be approved by AMO before ordering. All new timber must be the best of its kind, free from worm holes or other defects such as cracks. Temporary scaffolding would be provided during the work progress. (Antiquities and Monument Office, January 2005)

5.5.2 Replacement of Deteriorated Bricks

Areas of missing or deteriorated bricks would be replaced by new or salvaged bricks should be indicated on site to the Contractor by the ASD and AMO. Deteriorated bricks include those cracked, broken bricks, worn bricks for more than 3mm depth, and bricks with the hard surface skin worn away.

Replacement of bricks shall be done by “piece-in” method as follows:

  • Areas identified to be replaced including deteriorated bricks, mortar/cement fillings or plaster should be completely taken out without affecting the neighbouring sound bricks.
  • All existing mortar joint and pointing to be carefully removed to leave a tidy position to receive the piece-in bricks.
  • Header and tie bricks adhered to both the inner and outer leave of the walls should be completely taken out even though only one side of it may be deteriorated or missing.
  • The final surface over the replaced area should be flat in relation to the existing surface of the wall.
  • Bricks used for piece-in repair should in one complete piece with similar colour and dimensions as the existing neighboring bricks and should be laid in the same pattern as the existing.

(Antiquities and Monument Office, January 2005)

5.6 Management of Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau

According to the verbal information provided by Mr. Tang Kun Nin, the village's representative of Lung Yeuk Tau, the Tin Hau Temple is managed by a voluntary villager who lives in the 2-stoery house adjoining to the temple. She is responsible for the cleaning and setting the free joss stick before the opening of Tin Hau Temple (The temple is open daily to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

5.7 Other Typical Chinese Temples

There are 2 other typical Chinese Temples chosen for the comparison. Hau Wong Temple, Kowloon City is directly managed by Chinese Temples Committee and Tin Hau Temple, Tai Po is private owned register Temple. Since these temples management methods are different from these of Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau. Comparing different kind of management method in order to access the best way to manage the Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau.

Both Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau and Hau Wong Temple were carried a restoration works within one year, the different maintenance methods are comparing to access the best way for maintenance of the Tin Hau Temple.

During the site visit on Hau Wong Temple and according to the verbal information provided by Mr. Lee, Temple Assistant of Hau Wong Temple, the temple was built in 1730 to commemorate Yang Liang Jie, a loyal and courageous general of the exiled Song Dynasty's boy-emperor Ping. The general's birthday is celebrated on the 16th day of the sixth month on the lunar calendar. A medium in the temple interprets the advice of Hau Wong by means of kay fook or praying for god's blessings. (Chinese Temples Committee, 21 May 2006)

This Hau Wong Temple was carried out the renovation works from the September 2006 to Mid of April 2006. The cost of renovation is about $4 million and this cost is to be paid by the Chinese Temples Fund which relies on worshipper's donation. The renovation works include the replacement of the main temples roof tiles, repartitioning the temple for better utilization, repainting the walls, restoring plaques and couplets, and refurbishing the temple's rear garden.

The major difficulty in renovation works was restoring the temple's Shi Wan figurines. As there is no any expertise to maintain these figurines in Hong Kong, these figurines were taken down from the wall and transported them to the Mainland for restoration. (Verbal information from Temple Assistant in Hau Wong Temple, Mr. Lee)

After the renovation works, in order to protect the newly renovated Temple, the staff in the Hau Wong Temple will encourage the worshippers to bring only a set of three joss-sticks into the temple and to burn their paper offerings outside. There is environmentally friendly incinerator installed to handle all the paper offerings. These measures can minimize the effect of smoke on the temple wall, keep the air fresh and protect worshippers' health. There a new security monitoring system was installed to enhance the security.

In order to promote public awareness of the Hau Wong Temple, the Chinese Temples Committee organizes some activities to introduce the history and architectural value of the Hau Wong Temple. During the July 2005 to September 2005, the Committee organized the exhibitions and crossword puzzle competitions in the 10 places in Kowloon City and Wong Tai Sin.

The committee has also published temple tour ‘passports' to encourage the public visit its 24 temples. Information leaflets on individual temples have also been prepared to help visitor learn about their historical background, features and relics. If the visitor visits the 6 or more CTC direct managing temples, and get the stamps from these temples. The visitor can get a souvenir in Hau Wong Temple, Kowloon City.

There are some courses which teach the worshipper about paper folding held in the temple regularly.

There are 2 temple assistants directly employed by Chinese Temples Committee. The temple is open daily to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

5.7.2 Tin Hau Temple, Ting Kok Road, Tai Po

This Tin Hau Temple was built in 1691 in Ting Kok Road, Tai Po. The temple had been carried a restoration in 1834, 1937, 1970 and 1986 respectively The temple houses a historical bell, plaques and tablets commemorating the restorations it has undergone. Adjacent to the Temple are the Tang Sin Shrine and Hip Tin Shrine. Chinese opera and other activities are staged during the Tin Hau Festival, on the 23rd day of the third month of the Lunar calendar

This Tin Hau Temple is one of the registered temples in Hong Kong. The owner of this temple contracted out the management of this temple to the Temple Keeper. There are 2 temple-keepers responsible for the operation of the temple and selling the worship items such as joss-sticks and paper offering. They are also responsible for the maintenance of the minor maintenance works.

5.8 Interview Result

The aim of interviews is to compare the three different type of management of traditional Chinese temples. Also the most difficulty of maintenance is assessed.

Opinions and advices from all the interviews:

Questioned Items

Difficulties of maintenance

The use of traditional building

Any preventive maintenance measurement

New equipment installment


Mr. Lam Sair Ling

Senior Property Services Manager of ASD

It is difficult for us to know the original of the historical building, there is no written record of the temple. Besides, the maintenance of aesthetic drawing of historical building is the most significant problem in heritage conservation

Not suggest changing the original use of the historical building. It will carry a lot of modifying work in order to change the use.

AMO staffs will inspection the declared monument every year to find out any deficiency.

The original of the historical building would be destroyed if the new facilities were installed.

Mr. Tang Kun Nin

Village's representative of Lung Yeuk Tau

It is difficult to repair the detail of ceramic sculptures and fresco painting of temple, it is necessary to employ the mainland workers for maintenance

For the villager worship and the ceremony activity

AMO staffs will inspection the Tin Hau Temple every year to find out any deficiency.

Install the new equipment for the convenience of the villager

Mr. Lee

Owner's representative of Tin Hau Temple, Tai Po

Difficulty in obtaining funding for maintenance works

For use of the worshipper and the ceremony activity, the birthday of Tai Hau

Limited capital budget in private-own temple, no any preventive maintenance measurement. The maintenance of the temple in ad-hoc basis.

For the convenience of the worshipper

Ms Clara Leung

Assistant Manager of CTC

It is difficult to find the old or original material for restoration of the traditional Chinese temple.

Use as original function

Maintenance team will inspect the temple regularly

Install the new equipment for the effective management and enhance the protection of temple

Mr. Lee

Temple Assistant of Hau Wong Temple

It is difficult to repair the detail of ceramic sculptures and fresco painting of temple, it is necessary to employ the mainland workers for maintenance

Use as original function

Maintenance team will inspect the temple regularly

Enhance the effective management and protection

Questioned Items

Public support in maintenance



Mr. Lam Sair Ling

Senior Property Services Manager of ASD

Compare with 80's and present, the public support in heritage conservation is better.

The standard of Hong Kong heritage conservation is fulfilled the international standard of heritage conservation

Mr. Tang Kun Nin

Village's representative of Lung Yeuk Tau

The resistance of villagers is lesser than before 20 years. In past, the villager only interested in the profit, likely demolished the old building for redevelopment.

The usage of the temple is reasonable. The heritage trail enhances the local tourism industry. More visitors come to the village but lack of supplementary facilities for the visitor.

Mr. Lee

Owner's representative of Tin Hau Temple, Tai Po

The awareness of local people was insufficient. It is difficult to collect the cost for maintenance.

The support of government and Chinese Temples Committee are insufficient.

Ms Clara Leung

Assistant Manager of CTC

The support of the public for the historical Chinese temples is insufficient.

The promotion activities can be organized to promote the temple in order to enhance the awareness of public to conserve the historical Chinese temples.

Mr. Lee

Temple Assistant of Hau Wong Temple

The visitors are likely to obey the new rule of temple management for the temple protection

The temple assistants also act a guide to introduce the history and background of the temple to the visitors.

From the interview, it appeared that the major problems are:

  • It is difficult to find the historical records and references in order to know the original sharp and image of the historical building.
  • It is difficult to find the craftsmen and materials for the repairing of aesthetic figures in the historical building.
  • It is difficult for the owners of historical building to obtain funding for the maintenance.
  • The support from the community and society in conservation of historical buildings are insufficient.
  • It is difficult to change the function of the historical building.
  • The installment of the new modern facilities only focus on the user even these new facilities would affect the significance of the historical building.

5.9 Analysis

In accordance the conservation project of Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau, the management of the Hau Wong Temples, Kowloon City and Tin Hau Temple, Tai Po and the interview result to analyze the effectiveness of the management and maintenance of these historical building in Hong Kong.

Operation Management Method

For the Hau Wong Temple and Tin Hau Temple at Tai Po, there are on-site management staffs in the temple for the daily operation of the temple. The 2 temple assistants in Hau Wong Temple, their work duty are selling the paper offering, souvenir and act as a guide for the visitor to introduce the history of Hau Wong Temple and the significance of some figures and structures in the temple.

The Temple Assistants also notify the worshippers to bring a set of three joss-sticks intro the temple and to burn their paper offering outside in order to minimize the effect of smoke on the temple wall. In the long run, the deterioration of the temple would be slower and the maintenance cost could be reduced.

For the Tin Hau Temple at Tai Po, there are 2 temple-keepers for the daily operation and cleaning. They are also responsible for the minor maintenance works of the temple.

However, there is no daily management staff in Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau. Only one voluntary villager is responsible for the opening and closing of this temple. There is no any security guard sit in the Tin Hau Temple but there a security guard in the Tang Chung Lung Ancestral Hall. The Tang Chung Lung Ancestral Hall is also a declared monument in Lung Yeuk Tau and located near to the Tin Hau Temple. The village's representative of Lung Yeuk Tau, Mr. Tang Kun Nin conveyed that AMO could only employ a security guard to monitor the Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall. There is no more funding to employ a security guard to monitor the Tin Hau Temple.

Source of the Maintenance Cost

For the Hau Wong Temple, the $4 million renovation cost was paid directly by the Chinese Temple Fund which is strong and healthy Trust Funds. The Chinese Temples Fund is well managed in commercial principle and accumulated to $198 million (market value of investment amounts to $312 million) as at 31 March 2005. (Source from Financial Report of Chinese Temple Funds for the Year Ended 31 March 2005)

For the renovation cost Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau was mainly paid by local village and the donation of worshippers. As this Tin Hau Temple is a register temple under Chinese Temples Committee, part of the cost was sponsor by Chinese Temples Committee. However, Mr. Tang Kun Nin (village's representative of Lung Yeuk Tau) conveyed that the amount from Chinese Temples Fund is relatively insufficient to the total cost of renovation works.

The owners representative of Tin Hau Temple, Tai Po, Mr. Lee conveyed that the owner could apply the funding from Chinese Temples Committee as this Tin Hau Temple is one of the registered Temples in Hong Kong. The amount of sponsorship was still insufficient to the total maintenance cost. He said, “If the total maintenance cost is about $ 300,000, the maximum approved funding amount from the Chinese Temples Committee is about $ 10,000. It is difficult for the owners of private-own temple to collect the remaining maintenance cost $290,000 from the donation of worshippers.” He also said, “ The donation of worshippers is just balance the operation cost of the temple.”

Preventive maintenance

It was a good practice that the AMO staff will carry out the inspection to the declared monument every year. The village's representative of Lung Yeuk Tau, Mr. Tang Kun Nin conveyed that AMO staffs are responsible to carry out the inspection and monitor the Tin Hau Temple. It is not necessary for the villages to employ the consultant to carry out inspection.

For the Hau Wong Temple, the CTC staff will carry out the inspection regularly. Besides, the management staff will monitor the situation of the temple. If they find out the defect, they will report to the CTC. The CTC will carry out the inspection and minor works by CTC term contractor.

For the Tin Hau Temple, Tai Po. Mr. Lee, the owner's representative, he conveyed that there is no any inspection to carry out. There is no any preventive maintenance measurement for the temple.

“Regular maintenance is the most basic and important means of conservation. A routine maintenance program should be established to carry out regular monitoring, to identify and eliminate potential threats, and to repair minor deterioration.” (Article 20 of China ICOMOS)

Repair Methods

For the Tin Hau Temple, Lung Yeuk Tau, all new timbers at the roof would be pre-treated to prevent termite infestation. As much as salvaged material was used in the conservation works to provide authenticity. In particular, the original method of construction temporary scaffolding would be provided to ensure that all sections of the roof would be easily accessible for dismantling and no undue stress would be placed on any damaged materials.

Also, for the brick wall of Tin Hau Temple, replaced the deteriorate bricks by “piece-in” method was acceptable in accordance theArticle 12 of the Venice Charter asReplacements of missing parts must integrate harmoniously with the whole, but at the same time must be distinguishable from the original so that restoration does not falsify the artistic or historic evidence”. (Venice Charter, 1964)

However, the restoring the Hau Wong Temple's Shi Wan figurines was not acceptable in accordance the Article 8 of the Venice Charter as &l

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