MRI Forum 78

“I Add Nothing & I Take Away Nothing” - an UNESCO Asia-Pacific Office award-winning Project on Cultural Heritage & Conservation at YimTinTsai, Hong Kong

by Anna S Y Kwong

21 May 2014







Press Play to listen (Full length: 50 minutes)

Summary of the Presentation

The island of Yim Tin Tsai (YTT) is situated in the Inner Port Shelter, off the coast of Sai Kung in the New Territories, Hong Kong and is reached only by kaido (a type of Chinese junk). It is a small island of less than 1 km square and has been the home of the Chan’s clan of Hakka origin for over a century. It has a unique Catholic character, symbolized by the Chapel of St Joseph (built circa 1890). The Chapel sits on the summit of a hill and commands a panoramic view of the strings of islets in the nearby waters. It is now a significant site for religious, cultural and eco-tours.

Around 1880, the Austrian priest, Rev. Josef Freinademetz, made frequent visits to the Island and converted the entire Chan's clan into the Christian faith. These visits occurred before Fr. Josef went to China to spread the Gospel in Jinan, Shandong and before he passed away in 1908. With ancestors who migrated from the central part of China back in the Qing Dynasty, the Chan's clansmen had made a living from the salt-making industry and the transportation of salt to the inner provinces of China. The rapid urbanization and the change in economic activities in the post-war days led to the departure of many young clansmen for Europe. They sent money back to support their families in YTT, but by the 1980’s the island soon became derelict and much neglected. In fact, by the turn of the 21st century it was already uninhabited.

Rev. Josef Freinademetz was canonized in 2003 and remains the first and only missionary who preached the Gospels in Hong Kong to have been proclaimed a saint by the Vatican.

The work of conservation of the St Joseph's Chapel served as a catalyst for enhancing the cultural landscape of YTT and for revitalizing the salt-making community of Hong Kong. In 2005, it received an Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation from the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Office.

In 2012, the revitalization of the salt-pans project was launched. On 17 March 2013, Mrs Carrie LAM (Chief Secretary of the HKSAR Administration) officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony. The blessing of the project took place on St. Joseph’s Feast Day, on 1 May 2013. The Chapel was packed with villagers, and some of them flew back all the way from Europe, to celebrate the completion of the project, which will soon be open to the public.

In January 2014, the launching of a technical feasibility research for the first phase of the Jesuit Liberal Arts College "to educate young people for leadership & to fashion a humane, just and sustainable future for all" was announced by the Jesuit community in Hong Kong.


Profile of the Speaker

Ms Anna S Y Kwong (鄺心怡) is a professional qualified architect who possesses over 35 years of practical experience in the industry. She was the first female President of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects (2009-2010).

Ms Kwong has worked both in the commercial and public sectors before establishing the Diocesan Building and Development Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong in 1997. Her commitment to carry out the renovation to the Cathedral at Caine Road and the St Joseph’s Chapel at the island of YimTinTsai, Sai Kung, both over a century old, has won her the “Heritage Conservation Award” by the UNESCO Asia Pacific Cultural Heritage Office (2003 & 2005). She started her private practice in the summer 2006.

Ms Kwong has a record of over 40 years of community volunteer service, at local, regional and international levels. Appointed by the Hong Kong Government, she was member of the Town Planning Board, the Legal Aids Service Council, the Green Building Council, the Infrastructural Advisory Committee of the HK Trade Development Council, and Council and Court member of Lingnan University, as well as panellist and juror of many conferences and competitions. Her dedication to the promotion of civic education and government cemetery management has earned her a medal of honour, awarded by the HKSAR Government in 2005.

In August 2013, Ms Kwong was invited by the Architects Association of Macau to be one of the jurors of an “Open Space” Design Competition. In Feb 2014, she delivered a talk on YimTinTsai at a seminar organized by The Albergue Santa Casa da Misericordia, Macau.