Shek Lo Mansion, Fanling, Hong Kong, August 2019

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HughieD

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1. The History
Shek Lo is a colonial house near Fanling (also referred to as ‘Peter Lodge’). It was built in 1925 by Mr ‘Peter’ Tsui Yan Sau (1889-1980), a convert to Catholicism who was also the founder of Wah Yan College and was the first principal between 1919-1926 (pictured below):

37043614161_a04418cdbb_m.jpgystsui by HughieDW, on Flickr

Tsui was the architect and contractor of his own house. Built on a piece of land calved-out of the adjacent lychee orchard, the two-storey building was a blend of Chinese and Western architectural styles. The colonial-style front porch and European big windows with shutters were complemented by a roof typical of rural Chinese mansions (a pitched roof supported on wooden purlins and battens and covered by Chinese clay tiles); Chinese interior layout; a Chinese doorway with a sliding timber gate; and a kitchen at the back with a wood-burning stove which had a huge wok. In the annex building to the right, a beautiful hardwood floor was installed upstairs to serve as a party room for the teenage sons. After the War, HKU Alumni held its first dance there when hardwood dance floor could not be found anywhere.

I found these fascinating memoirs from Paul Tsui Ka Cheung (1916-1994), fifth son of Peter Tsui Yan Sau, about the layout of the house:

“It was a hybrid between what was conventional in rural China and what my father [Peter] might have personally interpreted to be the American equivalent, as he had read from many magazines he bought for reference. It was a two-storeyed square house, without much external ornamental decorations. The porch in front, was supported by columns of pillars, which gave you an impression as the White House of Washington DC might give you. As you entered, there was a fairly spacious hall, intended as Reception hall and Parlour combined, typical of a Chinese Rural Mansion. There was a dining room on the right, a staircase compartment separating the dining room from the kitchen at the rear. On the left, there was a guest room, and two additional rooms, of which one could be used as a Den, the other an extra bed room which could be used as a store room, as required. The spacious centre room on the floor immediately above, was intended as the family room. The sleeping chambers were all located upstairs. The space beneath the staircase was enclosed to be the bathroom. There was no running, piped water. A bucket was used for hot water, which would be shovelled over the body with a hand towel, in a manner not unlike the taking of a shower, for our baths. The flooring for the ground floor was of cement concrete, rendered smooth and the flooring upstairs was of hard wood laid on beams of China Fir poles”.

Other notable features include the courtyard and located in the middle of the parapet of the roof, a semi-circular brick wall engraved with the characters “Shek Lo”.

Paul Tsui Ka Cheung went on to recall:

“We moved into "Shek Lo" three days before the Chinese New Year in February, 1925 [when Paul was 9]. The house was hardly ready. The external walls were not even plastered. The scaffolding outside the house was still up. The walls inside were just finished and newly white-washed. Windows and doors however were already securely installed. There were no electricity, and we had to use kerosene [lamps] for lighting.”

Due to the lack of a suitable church in the local area, Peter Tsui allowed local Catholics to hold Catholic Mass at Shek Lo. However, in 1930 Tsui took a concubine (called Chiu Ying) and the local priest had to write to the Bishop to tell him there would be scandal if they continued to use the house for Mass. The problem was solved when Tsui and his concubine moved to a new house nearby at Ma Wat village. He left Shek Lo to his wife, Chin Kang Tai, who found the acceptance of her husband’s concubine difficult. In 1941 with the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, Shek Lo was apparently trashed. After that the history of the place gets a bit sketchy. However one thing that is certain, it remained a family residence until the early 1980’s when it was sold by the executors of Peter Tsui's estate on his death.

Shek Lo circa 1950:

37010946381_be469e791b_z.jpgShek Lo 1950s by HughieDW, on Flickr

Today the building is in desperate need of repair and restoration, having sat abandoned since the late 80s. It was, until recently, open access with the land in front maintained clear. However in the Summer of 2014 a fence was built around Shek Lo and its main entrance had been under renovation. This now appears to have halted and the property is now being rapidly enveloped in woodland undergrowth. Apparently Shek Lo is Grade II listed.

2. The Explore
Shek Lo is one of my favourite locations in HK and perhaps anywhere in the world. I first cast eyes on it out of the window of my sister-in-law's flat in Fanling, back in 2003. I first explored in properly back in August 2015 then revisited in August 2017. Needing no excuse to keep up the two-year cycle I went back this August. The place hasn’t changed much in two years. The fauna has advanced and my original entry point shifted to a slightly different spot. The light was the best I've had over the three visits so I managed to get the best set of photos, to date, of this magical place. Plus, for the first time, I discovered the "red room" on the ground floor of the right hand wing.

3. The Pictures

A few externals:

48640209633_17238a6d04_b.jpgShek Lo 02 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48639102437_30c034ecda_b.jpgimg2454 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48638962451_404af0fb42_b.jpgimg2453 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48640699352_21a3ed849e_b.jpgShek Lo 01 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48640208803_53f3dd98c7_b.jpgShek Lo 03 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48638968881_94faf77da8_b.jpgimg2443 by HughieDW, on Flickr

In we go:

48640695872_f6ba879d19_b.jpgShek Lo 07 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Old mah-jong table:

48639128847_c249c6c9f0_b.jpgimg2411 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Hi-Tec security:

48640207628_28aa30a79e_b.jpgShek Lo 05 by HughieDW, on Flickr

More dusty old wooden furniture:

48640696257_cf650a969a_b.jpgShek Lo 06 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48640557876_afb7a4f10d_b.jpgShek Lo 04 by HughieDW, on Flickr



Roof in the main part is reasonably OK:

48640646841_40779ac0a8_b.jpgShek Lo 12 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48640786712_017936315d_b.jpgShek Lo 11 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Up-stairs walk way:

48640555061_4964f1af5c_b.jpgShek Lo 10 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48640555711_bf76cd920d_b.jpgShek Lo 09 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48638981116_9b9f08f0c5_b.jpgimg2422 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Nice vista from the balcony:

48638630643_39082debc4_b.jpgimg2418 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Not too sure what this is a reference to?

48640641376_ff68540209_b.jpgShek Lo 22 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Broken table legs:

48640780927_6421aefb81_b.jpgShek Lo 21 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48640293418_915b4bafab_b.jpgShek Lo 20 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Creepers at the window:

48640781857_1c5c8aefeb_b.jpgShek Lo 19 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Didn't see the red rood on my previous two visits:

48638972996_c56cbcb9e1_b.jpgimg2431 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48638971886_a1b8295772_b.jpgimg2434 by HughieDW, on Flickr

48640294528_9ece755c7e_b.jpgShek Lo 18 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Upstairs:

48640295103_0256a451ea_b.jpgShek Lo 17 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Creepers at the window 2:

48640295708_4df8a526ea_b.jpgShek Lo 16 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Tree at the window :

48640296483_7e90de2c3b_b.jpgShek Lo 15 by HughieDW, on Flickr
 

The Wombat

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I must have seen some previous photos on this place, but always nice to see; Such a picturesque front!
Crazy that view of the concrete from the balcony.
If I get to go again to HK, will certainly visit
 
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