What Was the Kowloon Walled City?

Ruins in Kowloon Walled City Park in Hong Kong.  Editorial credit: e X p o s e / Shutterstock.com
Ruins in Kowloon Walled City Park in Hong Kong. Editorial credit: e X p o s e / Shutterstock.com

The Kowloon Walled City used to be a large settlement that was located in Hong Kong’s Kowloon City. Aside from a huge size, the city was also densely populated and mostly ungoverned. Initially, the Chinese used the city as a military fort. After the British leased the New Territories from China back in 1898, the city then became an enclave. Today, the New Territories is the region that makes up one of Hong Kong’s major regions together with the Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island. In 1994, the area was converted to a park called the Kowloon Walled City Park. 

History of Kowloon Walled City

The history of the city goes all the way back to the period between 960 and 1279, which was the period of the Song Dynasty. At first, it began as an outpost for the management of salt trade. After its establishment, there were a few events that happened until a small fort was built there in 1810. Later, in 1842, during the reign of Emperor Daoguang of the Qing Dynasty, the British acquired the island of Hong Kong under the Treaty of Nanjing. In order to defend against the British and control their growing influence, the Qing leadership decide to strengthen the smaller fort that had been built. The strengthening was finished in 1847 including the wall.

In 1898, the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory was signed, which ceded more regions of Hong Kong to the British. The Walled City was not part of the agreement and the Chinese were allowed to keep it on the condition that they were to remain neutral. At the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, the Walled City came under the control of the British although the British did not use it that much. Aside from an old people’s home, a school, and an almshouse, the city was largely dormant.

Following the end of World War II, China exercised its right to the city. This action saw at least 2,000 Chinese squatters move into the city. However, in the years that followed, the city was largely ungoverned by either China or Hong Kong. Consequently, criminal organization groups called the triads took control. The criminals were weakened during police raids conducted in 1973 and 1974, which, together with some renovations, improved the living conditions. However, the correct populations were not known since most people believed that estimates were too high while the official censuses were too low. A government census in 1987, which presented the population of the city as being around 33,000 people, was one of the clearest.

Present-Day Status of Kowloon Walled City

On January 14, 1987, it was announced that the city was to be converted into a park. The demolitions were completed in April 1994 and the conversion into a park happened. Today, the area is now called the Kowloon Walled City Park and has an area of about 330,000 square feet. Finished in 1995, the city was opened officially on December 22, 1995. Designed after the Qing Dynasty’s Jiangnan gardens, the park has features like the Eight Floral Walks and the Garden of the Chinese Zodiac.


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