by Wendy Leung

The Standard, Hong Kong
October 17, 2005

Most of us probably wouldn't think of spending a day off looking
at graves, but a local historian turned Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy
Valley into a history museum Sunday, attracting dozens of visitors
who came to learn about their city by visiting the dead. Cemeteries
and history are closely related and different cemeteries can tell you
different stories," said Joseph Ting, the chief curator of Hong Kong
Museum of History, who organized the tour.

Long known as the Colonial Cemetery, the burial ground _ opened by the
British in 1844 _ overlooks Happy Valley Race Track and was the final
resting place for generations of Hong Kong expatriates and prominent
Chinese Christians. Throughout the three-hour walking tour of the lush
green hillside cemetery, Ting told stories about the departed notables
and their impact on Hong Kong in the 19th and 20th centuries. Pausing,
he pointed to a monument engraved: Daniel Richard Caldwell. Died in
1872." He started working as a court interpreter because he was of
mixed race and was able to speak many languages," including Malay,
Portuguese, Cantonese and English, Ting explained.

Caldwell became an important figure at a time when corruption and
illegality were facts of life in Hong Kong.

He eventually became chief secretary.

He had many friends who were pirates, and that allowed him to do
many illegal things," Ting explained. But he was so talented that
the government couldn't fire him." Ting then turned to the tomb of
Karl Friederick, a German who died in 1851. This guy was one of the
first Lutheran missionaries to China. He was also the interpreter
at a meeting of the Chinese and British during the Opium Wars,"
Ting explained. Nearby lies chief colonial surgeon William Morrison,
who died after catching a fever and is buried in a large tomb under
an imposing cross.

Fever is a cemetery theme, a disease that killed off many Europeans
who could not cope with the heat and humidity of Hong Kong in the days
before antibiotics and air-conditioning. Happy Valley, Ting says, is a
suitable place for a graveyard, given its early history as a swamp and
breeding ground for mosquitoes long before it was a venue for horse
racing. Sir Kai Ho Kai, one of the most prominent Hong Kong Chinese
of the 19th century, and for whom Kai Tak airport was named, is also
buried here. Ho Kai was the one of the earliest Chinese legislators and
was more than a thinker," Ting said. He was Dr Sun Yat-sen's teacher,
and an advocate of a constitutional monarchy in China." Nearby is an
unmarked monument with no names, its top shorn off. It is the grave
of Yang Chu-yun, an important turn-of-the-century revolutionary and
the first chairman of the Revive China Society, associated with Sun
Yat-sen. He was killed by Ching Dynasty officials," Ting said. Cutting
the top off the monument, Ting explained, was a way to show that a
person's life had been cut short.

Beneath a white marble grave lies one of the most famous names in Hong
Kong _ Catchick Paul Chater, a wealthy Armenian trader, for whom Chater
Garden is named and whose first name and last name both grace local
streets. A major landowner, Chater was an early and successful advocate
of harbor reclamation, a legislator and an executive councillor. Ting
next points to the grave of another famous Eurasian.

Ho Tung was the richest land investor in Hong Kong before World
War I and identified himself as a Chinese. He wore a Chinese long
gown everyday," said Ting. Ho married two mixed-race wives. One
was Margaret Mak, a devout Christian, who is buried next to Ho,"
explained Ting. The other" wife, a Buddhist, is buried in Pok Fu Lam.

The 40 participants of the walking tour consisted of professionals,
retired employees, tour guides, teachers and the plain curious.

We never heard these stories in school," said Michael Chan, who was
attending the history lesson with his girl friend Kay Lee, who chimed
in: I didn't know that graves could tell me that much about historical
figures." Another participant, who was reluctant to give her name,
said graves are one of her favorite subjects. I visit graves whenever
I get the chance," she said. I have visited graves in Macau, London
and Paris. But I didn't know that Hong Kong had a colonial cemetery
like this." The tour, advertised on the Hong Kong Museum of History
Web site, drew so much interest that many who had wanted to join had
to be turned away. Another tour is planned for December 18. Information
is available at: http:/ /