Historic Setting

The history of Tung Chung Valley is closely linked with agriculture. As the river brings endless rich sediments to the valley, people have been working the fertile land since the Ming Dynasty. However, in the Ching Dynasty, an evacuation order saw many farmers removed from their coastal lands. Many Hakka farmers moved back and newly arrived to cultivate the valley when the order was removed subsequently. Bountiful paddy rice and onions were harvested at that time. In the 1950s, the upper courses were included in the catchment area of Shek Pik Reservoir, considerably reducing the amount of water available for irrigation. This greatly impacted the cultivation of paddy rice and consequently, agricultural land in the valley was significantly reduced. With the structural change of the Hong Kong economy in the 1960s, the agriculture industry diminished and farmers gradually gave up farming, further reducing the area of agricultural lands in the valley. There were only a small number of paddy fields left in the Tung Chung Valley by the 1990s. Today, the remaining farmland is almost abandoned, leaving only a small number of orchards and vegetable patches.

Even if the rural scenery is not the same as before, most of the upper valley is still undeveloped. The tranquil and uncrowded environment has attracted many religious organizations to build monasteries and conduct retreats here. Lo Hon Monastery is one of the better-known ones. The monastery was originally located in a natural cavern in Shek Mun Kap. An old monk used to practice in the cave and it was thought to be a spiritual place. Thus a monastery was built next to it so that people could worship there. There are many other monasteries in the valley, most of them at Tei Tong Tsai on the mountainside.