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Guided Graveyard Tour Brings City'S History Back To Like

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  • Guided Graveyard Tour Brings City'S History Back To Like

    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:/ /