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Industry

The lime ash industry holds an important status in Hong Kong's modern history.The history books don't record exactly when the lime ash kilns became the largest of the four primary industries on Peng Chau, but at the beginning of the 1800s there were more than 11 workshops here, which made Peng Chau's lime ash industry the largest in Hong Kong.

According to the histoical record, as early as the 7th to 10th centuries AD, Han people living in the islands of Hong Kong during the Tang Dynasty used the lime produced from burning shells and coral for building materials and as a fertiliser (balance the soil pH and add oxygen to the soil) and as a pesticide, an herbicide, in paper making and as a dye and for many other things.

The decline of the lime ash industry: In the middle of the 19th century imports of cement and lime from China and Japan start to dominate the Hong Kong market due to lower production costs. The competition eventually forces the lime ash kilns in Peng Chau to all close.

matchplaque1.jpg The Great China Match factory was built by Shanghai's match king Lau Hung Sang. The internal disorder and foreign invasions of 1930s China, Lau realised that investing all of his funds in China was extremely dangerous. Therefore Lau decided to invest some of his money overseas and decided that Hong Kong, then under British rule, would be comparitively calm and secure. According to local legend, Lau's decision to build the factory on Peng Chau was due to opposition on Cheung Chau because of fears of a major fire at the match factory.

kiln.jpg At that time many Peng Chau residents were unemployed due to the decline of Hong Kong lime ash industry. The ash kiln at Bak Wan (North Bay) had just gone out of business, and the land was sold to Lau Hung Sang for a residence. Lau then bought a major part of the northeast side of Peng Chau, which then became the home of the Great China Match factory. Boundary stones were placed to mark off the property. Some of these can still be seen and some are lurking in the vegetation that has reclaimed some of the property. The Peng Chau Rural Committee did not oppose the construction of the match factory because of the local unemployment and trust that the factory managers would work to overcome safety issues. When the factory officially opened in 1939, Peng Chau residents were given first priority for jobs and the administrative personnel were all Zhejiang officials.

By the 40s Peng Chau entered another stage of industrial development. Peng Chau's residents were fully employed by local firms and residents of other islands, including Hong Kong Island, came to Peng Chau to find work. In addition to the Great China Match factory, there was a unique pipe mill, a ceramic processing factory that was renowned in Hong Kong and abroad, marine service shops, a knitting mill, a cane factory, a pomelo lumber mill, leather factory, light bulb factory, a glove factory and so on. Small Peng Chau at its most flourishing had a hundred factories of various sizes, making it Hong Kong's only industrial island.

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