Heritage showroom on High Island's submerged villages opens in town

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The showroom on the sunken villages of High Island has opened in the town centre hosted for now by a charming character. Terry Lee Tin-chi can’t stop smiling as he tells visitors about his family’s farming life in Man Yee Wan, the biggest of the villages now underwater.

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Terry Lee Tin-chi pointing to a photo of his family home, now underwater.

The new exhibition inaugurated last weekend is mainly a Sai Kung District Office project with the help of Lingnan University’s heritage department. It is in the yellow-walled former school buildings in Man Yee playground. Terry, a former airport guest service officer, has volunteered to help run the showroom while he is between jobs. An affable chap who spent 29 years in the UK he says he will be there usually on Fridays and weekends.

Man Yee Wan village was home to 200 to 300 people before it was flooded, Terry said. Some like his family moved out in 1977 when reservoir construction was advanced, almost with water lapping around their feet. His family, the Lees lived there, along with the Chows, Mans and Chans. They were given housing as compensation in the main buildings of Sai Kung town. The Man Yee Wan school moved to the site in which the exhibition is now housed. The next biggest village now under the High Island waters was Sha Tsui, home to the Chows and more Lees. There were about eight other hamlets.

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Terry shows a photo of High Island reservoir construction progress

The two-room exhibit showcases furniture, household goods, dragon dancing costumes, cymbals, gongs and farming equipment such as buffalo harnesses and ploughs. The walls are lined with photos, maps and art depicting the Hakka religion, language, culture, history and reservoir construction. A video shows divers searching for artifacts in the reservoir as well as a certain lady’s jewellery.

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Maureen Siu, District Officer, and George Ng, Council Chairman, officiated at the opening last weekend.

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