My Beautiful Hong Kong – The Blue House and the Hong Kong House of Stories
On an uncharacteristically cool summer day, I ventured down Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai to have lunch with a friend at Maureen’s, an unique local noodle shop that flirts with molecular gastronomy. It was a very interesting find, and I will definitely write about it in an upcoming review.
This entry, however, is not about what I ate for lunch, but about what I found on my walk after lunch. Upon walking out towards bustling Queen’s Road East, I couldn’t help but notice a striking blue building. Upon further inspection, I found out that this building is, in fact, the historical “Blue House” (how literal!) and was constructed in 1922. The building has been named a Grade 1 Historical Building, and the government-owned portion was painted blue – hence, the name.
A quirky little shopfront called The Hong Kong House of Stories caught my eye. Walking into the shop was like being transported back 80 years. The entire space was filled floor to ceiling with nostalgic memorabilias. A classic bike shared wall space with retro posters and folkart, vinyl records competed for space with old toys. I knew I’d hit a treasure trove of classic Hong Kong moments. A friendly lady inside rushed over to share with us the idea behind the House of Stories.
The venue was established early last year through funding by the HSBC Foundation, and aims to promote cultural conservation through community tours and education programs. In the past decade, the Wanchai area went through massive upheaval, with many old tong laus (tenement buildings) having fallen victim to new skyscrapers. Many facets of the old Wanchai local community were uprooted and, sadly, disappeared. In 2007, a group of enthusiastic residents, through the help of the Community Development Services of St. James’ Settlement, founded the Wanchai Livelihood Place and began collecting antiques and recording old stories from the locals. Today, they hope to keep the old Wanchai spirit alive through community action, exhibitions, and workshops. Anyone is welcomed at the Hong Kong House of Stories to sit down and listen or share their unique tales.
Just when we lament the lose of historical remnants to urban restructuring, the House of Stories gives us a shining example of local communities fighting back to preserve their heritage. The Blue House, at least, is saved from the wrecking balls, and I hope the Hong Kong planning agencies can appreciate that where we come from, is just as important as where we are going.
(Below) A beautiful, blue painted Chinese door in the Blue House (I like the crazy eyebrowed wooden bunny motif on the side of the door)
I absolutely adore the sketch below of a classic Hong Kong “tong lau”.