18 Koon Fu salt yards, place name Kwun Tong

Hugh Farmer: Various sources mention the origin of the name of the once heavily industrialised Hong Kong area Kwun Tong. In particular it is suggested that the area was named after the Koon Fu salt yards (官富場), set up by the government to secure central administration of the salt trade and prevent unauthorised salt preparation and trading. And that there were many salt yards around Kwun Tong, which had a long coastline. There is also mention that Kwun Tong was formerly called Koon Tong which appears to mean either Mandarin Pond or Lake.

Can anyone provide further details about a) where the place name Kwun Tong originated, b) the Koon Fu salt yards – when were they, where were they located, c) other salt production locations in this general area.

Additonal information has been added in the article:
Koon Fu salt yards – place name Kwun Tong,


  • knoxploration

    I can’t read Chinese, unfortunately, only fiddle my way around with machine translation. This government-produced booklet seems to confirm the salt yards story, though, and agrees that the Kwun Tong name appeared in the 1950s.

    It seems to list two earlier names predating Kwun Tong (觀塘), either 官富 or 官塘, and says the name was changed to the current one in 1953.

    (See in particular the first page of http://www.kwuntong.org.hk/images/ktbook/12-21.pdf )

    The whole book looks to be a goldmine of old Kwun Tong photos and info, if anybody can translate it properly.

    — Mike T.

  • C

    The book mentioned by Mike T. above is one of the local history books published by the various district councils in the past two decades or so. It is a shame that no English version is available.

    Yes, “Kwun” was originally the character for “Mandarin”, or more accurately, “government official”. The Chinese character was changed to one that means “look” or “observe” around the 1970s. Another meaning of “Tong” is bay.

    • Hugh Farmer

      Thanks C.

      As a non-Chinese reader I hesitate to get involved!

      Wikipedia suggests “In the 1950s, when Koon Tong was being developed as a New town, the local residents disliked the word Koon (官), which literally means official or government, and they persuaded the Hong Kong government to change the place name to Kwun Tong (觀塘), which literally means viewing a pond.”

      By coincidence I have just noticed:

      Talk Series on Local History (I) – Kwun Tong: Anecdotes, Names and Legend
      Date: 2014/5/18 (Sunday)
      Time: 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
      Venue: Ngau Tau Kok Public Library (Extension Activities Room)
      Speaker: Dr. Leung Ping-wa.
      Organizer: Jointly organized by the Hong Kong Public Libraries and the Kwun Tong District Council
      Remarks: Conducted in Cantonese. Admission Free by Registration.

      It seems likely that Dr Leung would be able provide a definitive answer to the suggested name changes, dates and possibly even information about the Koon Fu saltyards.

  • AC

    官 and 觀 have the same pronunciation in Hong Kong Cantonese, so for whatever reason Koon Tong became Kwun Tong, it was not because of the change from 官塘 to 觀塘. In fact, 官塘 is still widely used today with many people assuming that it’s a simplification of 觀塘.

    I think the most generalised meaning of 塘 would be an enclosed body of water – hence “shui tong” (水塘) for reservoirs (except for the ‘big 2’) and “chi tong” (池塘) for a pond; enclosed areas of sea may also be known as 塘, e.g. Yan Chau Tong / Double Haven (印洲塘). Shek Tong Tsui (石塘咀) is a special case in that it refers to the pit left by quarrying – perhaps the pit looks like a dried 塘 or it becomes a 塘 after heavy rain.

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