City Of Darkness: A Photographic Journey Into The Heart Of Kowloon Walled City
Kowloon Walled City was a densely populated, largely ungoverned settlement in Hong Kong that existed from the late 19th century until 1993. It was home to an estimated 33,000 people who lived in a maze of interconnected buildings, alleyways, and rooftops. The city was notorious for its poor living conditions, high crime rate, and illicit activities such as gambling, prostitution, and drug trafficking.
City Of Darkness - Life In Kowloon Walled City (1993).pdf
In 1993, the city was demolished by the Hong Kong government as part of an urban renewal project. However, before its final clearance, two photographers, Greg Girard and Ian Lambot, spent four years documenting the city's unique culture and history. Their book, City Of Darkness: Life In Kowloon Walled City, is a remarkable collection of over 320 photographs, 32 extended interviews, and essays on the city's history and character. The book is not only an informative glimpse of a now vanished landmark but a sensitive and penetrating portrait of a community that defied all odds.
In this article, we will explore some of the most striking images and stories from the book, and learn more about the fascinating history and legacy of Kowloon Walled City.
The Origins Of Kowloon Walled City
Kowloon Walled City's origins can be traced back to the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), when China ceded Hong Kong Island to Britain after the First Opium War (1839-1842). The Qing government built a fort on a small hill in Kowloon to assert its sovereignty over the area. The fort was surrounded by a wall that measured about 2.6 hectares (6.4 acres) in size. The wall had six watchtowers, four gates, and several cannons.
The fort was originally intended to house a garrison of soldiers, but it soon became a refuge for civilians fleeing from wars and political turmoil in mainland China. By the late 19th century, the fort had become a thriving village with temples, shops, schools, and houses. The British respected the Qing's authority over the walled city and did not interfere with its affairs.
However, things changed after the Second World War (1939-1945), when Japan occupied Hong Kong and demolished most of the wall to expand the nearby Kai Tak Airport. After Japan's surrender in 1945, China reclaimed sovereignty over the walled city, but did not send any officials to administer it. The British also did not assert their control over the area, as they were busy dealing with post-war reconstruction and social unrest. As a result, the walled city became a lawless enclave that attracted refugees, squatters, criminals, and triads (Chinese organized crime groups).
The Growth And Decline Of Kowloon Walled City
In the 1950s and 1960s, Kowloon Walled City experienced a population boom as more people moved in to escape poverty and political instability in mainland China. The residents built makeshift structures on top of each other to accommodate the growing demand for space. The buildings were often constructed without any planning or regulation, resulting in poor ventilation, sanitation, fire safety, and structural integrity. The city also lacked basic amenities such as water supply, electricity, sewage system, and garbage disposal.
Despite these challenges, the residents of Kowloon Walled City developed a strong sense of community and self-reliance. They established their own businesses, 0efd9a6b88