Culture & Festival
in Peng Chau
Simple is a Beauty
Every Day Life on the Zero pollution island
Peng Chau is only four kilometers from Hong Kong Island, and yet it has a striking contrast with the city. As soon as the tourist set foot on to Peng Chau, a feeling of relaxation and ease will overcome the visitor. Children are extremely happy here, because there are no cars on the street, so they can run all over the place. The lack of traffic also makes this broad spaces popular with the elderly, who like to sit under the Chinese banyan trees, enjoy the sea breeze and gossip.

The Peng Chau resident lives peacefully and more relaxed in the leisurely environment and enjoys cleaner air. Relations between the residents are friendly, and even though the community has diverse backgrounds, it still retains a high level of community spirit. Until now, Peng Chau has the lowest crime rate in all of Hong Kong.
Commercial Trade
As early as the Qing Dynasty Peng Chau was already an extremely prosperous trade market.

Wing On Street, the main street in front of the Tin Hau temple, has more than a 200 year history. In its heyday the daily street fair there would have shops and vendors of everything to satisfy the daily needs: foods, spices and sauces, teas, writing sets, fishing nets, farm fences, live butchers, an inn, delicacies from the sea, a tailor, housewares, tea houses, raw materials for medicine and so on.

Peng Chau had quite the selection in those days and the island could be self-sufficient. But as the most important trade center in the area, the customers and vendors weren't just the fishermen buying the essentials. The villages on East Lantau and other nearby islands would plant the melon vegetables, paddy rice and raise chickens to sell to the Peng Chau residents or to wholesalers. Furthermore the trade steamships often stopped on Peng Chau to pick up provisions, like grain and water. And when the local fishing fleet came ashore for the summer, one could imagine what a grand occasion and spectacle it was.
Perhaps Peng Chau agricultural development started in the era of lime ash kilns. The primary group involved in cultivation were the Hakka. They endured bitter hardships but worked extremely hard and were thrifty. They got out to the fields at sunrise and rested during the midday heat. Besides planting vegetables and paddy rice, they raised pigs and poultry, like chickens, ducks and geese in order to basically be self-sufficient. Some Hakkas also fished or sold goods from makeshift shops and stores.

The ancient Chinese respected all aspects of nature whenever a new place was settled. The first immigrants to Peng Chau who were serious about settling down were the Hakkas. The verbal history handed down tells of immigrants checking the feng shui of the island, checking for fertile agricultural land and a source of fresh water, and noticing the island has ranges of hills on many sides of the island which helps shelter the island from the most violent storms. Once the location has been selected, first a sacrifice is offered to the mountain spirit and the land asking for "the right of residence". Then an offering of obeisance to the world and to the ancestor, officially informs the land, the local gods, and everything living there that they are temporarily invading. Then the new residents would build a house and plant a feng shui forest. The feng shui forest would include fruit trees that would grow very large and medicinal plants and bamboo to shield the rooms from excessive sun in the summer and the cold northerly winds in the winter.

Once this was done they would clear the fields for planting paddy rice and vegetables and dig the irrigation trenches and fish ponds. Simultaneously they would erect the ancestral land tablets in hopes that the mountain spirit will bless them.
Peng Chau originally had a dumb-bell shape, has a reasonable amount of level ground and has a sufficient source of fresh water. In addition to the abundant fishing grounds nearby to support a fishing village, the land was fertile and supported farmers as well, which meant Peng Chau attracted many people here, some of whom settled down while others were temporary residents.

Peng Chau has natural mountains on almost four sides which creates a screen against the largest of storms and the east and west bays were even more sheltered from the wind. The west bay is the site of the temple for Tin Hau, which fishermen believed would protect them and has provided a safe asylum to this very day. According to the historical records and verbal history of native Peng Chau residents, the island was established as an extremely well developed fishing port as early as 200 years ago. At that time there were over 200 boats that called Peng Chau home port.

When the ships came back to port for the summer's month-long Cantonese Opera performances (the self-imposed summer fishing ban to allow for stocks to breed), it was said that you could walk from Peng Chau to Lantau without getting your feet wet due to boats completely filling the channel. The fishermen's verbal history shows that because the surrounding water produced more fish, the lives of the fishermen of that era was more comfortable than of the present era and had a lot more time for relaxation.

The fishermen thought that mechanisation would make them rich, but it has actually made the job more laborious and the anxiety levels of fishermen have increased as well. After the 1950s increase in Hong Kong's urbanisation, the population has increased, the industrial development increased, harbour reclamation increased (even reclamation of the harbour around Peng Chau). All of these things have increased the pollution of the harbour, which has greatly damaged the fishing industry. In addition, the mechanisation of the fishing fleet has increased over-fishing and the fishing catch has dropped suddenly. The government have done nothing to improve the sustainability and long-term future of fishing in Hong Kong and many fishermen have switched to other professions.

Peng Chau's fishing community has been decimated with a ripple effect in to the rest of the community as government development plans have either destroyed local fishing areas or zoned them as forbidden territory, including Discovery Bay, Penny's Bay/Disneyland and Hei Ling Chau.

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 historical 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.

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 comparatively 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. 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.
From the early time inhabitants of Peng Chau were tied to the sea. Some of these were the Tanka, who lived on their ships or next to the ocean and caught fish for a living. The slang name for these people grew from their regular purchase of large quantities of duck eggs from the people who lived ashore. The whites of the duck eggs were used to strengthen and improve the fishing nets, but this was unknown to the land dwellers who started to refer to them as "eggs", because of their seemingly strange shopping habits.

The next group of people are the immigrants from Fuzhou or "crane men". (One explanation for the slang name is that "Fuzhou man" in the Fuzhou dialect sounds the same as "Crane man" in Cantonese. Another explanation is that many of the Fuzhou people moved back and forth between Hong Kong and Fuzhou with the seasons like the cranes migrate with the seasons. The fact that the Fuzhou person would take "only its shell" from Fuzhou to Hong Kong to live led to another slang name of "shell men".) The Fuzhou immigrants can be divided in to two kinds of Peng Chau work: The first kind is the temporary resident. They live on Peng Chau mainly during certain seasons catching fish and shrimp to sell to the island merchants. During the off-season they would go back to Fuzhou, so their residences on Peng Chau were mostly temporary thatched huts and lived a very simple life. The second kind of Fuzhou immigrant had a fixed occupation. For example they might excavate coral and dig shellfish from the neighbouring waters, took the meat from the shellfish and sold the coral and shells to the lime ash kilns. Some would also cut grasses and firewood to sell as a livelihood. The majority of these people lived in log cabins or in seashore stilt homes and their lives were quite stable.

The third kind of immigrant settled down on Peng Chau and were mostly Guang Fujen and Hakka from the Pearl River Delta cities like Zhongshan, Panyu, Dongguan, and Guangzhou. Hakka were engaged in agriculture and some fishing. But the Guang Fujen were engaged in the commercial shops and the ash kiln industry and so on. These land dwellers primarily lived in stone buildings or brick rooms, as compared to the temporary residents' poorer log cabins.

The final kind of Peng Chau resident came from areas around Shanghai and Zhejiang. They mainly were involved in the industrial development on the island. These immigrants were a major component of the industrial management and technicians here. Although Peng Chau's residents come from near and far to live here, they all live together in peace and harmony and even develop a community spirit that promotes mutual assistance and mutual love for Peng Chau.
Peng Chau, as a result of its geography, social and historical factors, retains 70 percent green belt and 60 percent natural seacoasts. Because of the retention of green space, Peng Chau provides habitat for many diverse species of plants and animals, including natives and introduced exotics like the Euphorbia antiquorum, a succulent plant that grows like a tree, and many meter high American agaves.

Peng Chau also has many diverse kinds of traditional Chinese medicinal herbs growing here. And because Peng Chau is far enough away from the urban air pollution, a lot of different lichens can be found here.

Peng Chau may also be the small bird and insect heaven. There are more than 50 species of small birds and hundreds of different kinds of insects. At dawn every morning you can hear the birds calling out to one another. And during the warmer months you can see many types of butterflies and bees flitting between the wild flowers and fruit trees and dragonflies dance in the air as they hunt their prey and everywhere you can hear the call of the cicadas by sunlight and the call of the frogs and toads by moonlight.

With 60% natural seacoast, many marine animals and small shore birds call Peng Chau home. The older folks tell of a time when the waters off Peng Chau were clear and revealed the spectacular colours of many corals. Perhaps as many as 40 species of soft and hard corals can still be found off of Peng Chau, though scientific work is still underway to determine precise data and the impact of local and regional development, reclamation, and pollution upon the marine biology in this part of the harbour. The Chinese white dolphin also has frequently appeared in the waters around Peng Chau. Because of Peng Chau's unique advantages and convenient transportation, Green Peng Chau Association is coordinating with the Peng Chau Rural Committee, the government departments and other local organisations to create a Green Culture Island, that will become a new eco-tourist destination as well as become a model for sustainable development and eco-tourism education center within Hong Kong.
Festival in Peng Chau
Peng Chau also retains the traditional festive atmosphere, which is rare in today's modern metropolis of Hong Kong. We welcome all!
Lunar year date
Hung Sing Ye's Birthday
13th Day of Second Moon
Lights Incense As A Sacrifice To Honour Hung Sing Ye
Tin Hau Festival
23rd Day of Third Moon
Cantonese Opera Performances (神功戲)
Kam Fa (Lady Golden Flower) Festival
17th Day of Forth Moon
Lion Dances To Celebrate Kam Fa's Birthday
Dragon Boat Festival
5th Day of Fifth Moon
Dragon Boat Racing
Lung Mo's (Dragon Mother) Birthday
8th Day of Fifth Moon
Island Associations Provide Dragon and Lion Dances. Candles and Incense Are Burned To Honour Lung Mo.
Seven Elder Sisters Festival
7th Day of Seventh Moon
Formerly many Buddhists made offerings for this celebration, but now fewer and fewer make sacrifices.
Tin Hau Island Parade
(Unique to Peng Chau)
21st Day of Seventh Moon
Resident Associations and Tin Hau parade around the island on an inspection tour and to bestow blessings on Peng Chau's inhabitants
Lunar-Calender Online
(Link above is not affiliated with Green Peng Chau Association)
Temples and Churches in Peng Chau
Peng Chau is a small place but we have a rich heritage of diverse religious culture. The diversity of religious worship ranged from ancestral worship to Christian faith.