Sunday, February 7, 2016

"A One Day Trip to Heaven"

Voices of the past whispered through loosely chained doorways - propped open just enough to peak inside.  Household items lay scattered in the room as though the residents left in a hurry.  Portraits of the honored ancestors still hung on the wall - as if keeping eye on the old homestead that once was filled with chatter and laughter.  Now the rows of empty rooms and crumbling homes stand as silent witnesses of better, happier years.

Empty and abandoned homes with bright New Year red banners - relatives from the city often return to the empty homes to brighten them up and keep them safe from evil spirits.

Silent echos of the past

Where did everyone go?

Loosely roped off, a peak inside shows the portraits of ancestors still watching over the old home.

A recent P-day gave us the chance to sneak away from the rigors of the office to explore the semi-abandoned Hakka village of Luk Keng. In the late 1700's, 13 Chan brothers and their families settled here from China and began farming.

By the 1950's and 60's, agriculture was no longer productive for many farmers. A better future in the United Kingdom enticed villagers, and most of them promptly up and abandoned their sleepy little village.  

Newer Chinese New Year decorations indicate the home is still being visited and tended by local Hong Kong residents, probably children or grandchildren who returned from the United Kingdom and now live in the city.

Elder and Sister Edwards, Elder and Sister James, Elder and Sister Coffey,
 and Elder and Sister Macbeth by the local shrine, lovingly cared for by the few residents who still live here.

Wind-shredded curtains peer through broken window frames.

It appears the mail delivery service didn't get the memo that they've moved on....

Nature is slowly closing in on some of the older remnants, reclaiming what was once it's own. Exploring the old army barracks revealed broken dishes still waiting in abandoned cupboards and massive roots of mangrove trees holding together crumbling walls and ancient memories.

The interior of a home showing an abandoned pot lid in the kitchen cupboard,
 nearly swallowed up by nature's relentless restoration process.

The mighty mangroves slowly reclaim the land.

The clock on the table said 8:19,  having long ago stopped its measuring of time in people's lives.

Trees growing up through old cooking areas in the kitchen. Elder Coffey is holding a "salt pot".

Peering inside the crumbling home, nature almost complete on the return to Mother Earth.

A rice winnowing  machine which sorted the chaff from the rice.

Another old rice winnowing machine

But not everyone is gone.  Some have come back to live in the home of their ancestors or visit annually. Some stopped to visit with us along the way.  Mr. Chan, left, visits with Sister Edwards.  His ancestors were part of the original 13 brothers who came from China in the 1700's. His family and others helped build a new family temple next to his village home. Still a resident of England, he returns back to his native village to clean, tend and care for his home and the temple.
The new Chan Family Temple. Thousands of people from neighboring areas came to participate in the recent dedication.

This woman lives here in Luk Keng permanently. She was born high on the top of a nearby mountain, and then her family moved to the village.  She has lived here ever since. She loves to visit with the few tourists that make the trek to her village home.  Here she is enjoying a warm visit in Cantonese with Elder James, who served in Hong Kong as a missionary years ago and who still speaks Cantonese fluently.
Other residents:

A feral cow with his companion, a Chinese egret, or a Swinhoe's egret.  Wherever the cow went, the bird followed.

Indian Forest Skink

Red-whiskered Bulbul

A sign nearby bears the inscription, in Chinese, "A one day trip to heaven." Indeed, a visit to Luk Keng echoes the memories of the past and the peacefulness of this quiet piece of solitude in the midst of the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong.

Banana, papaya, star fruit and tangerine trees abound.  

After touring Luk Keng, we stopped at one of the two local cafes for the tourists and enjoyed a delicious late lunch before beginning the journey home. A relaxing day with friends, history, culture and peace. Truly, it seemed "a one day trip to heaven."

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