Kowloon Walled City 2 – manufacturing

I would like to thank David Bellis for reminding me about the book:
City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City” Girard G. and Lambot I. Watermark ,1993

The following article draws heavily on this book which may still be available in bookshops and is certainly to be found in HK Public Libraries (915.25 GIR).  The book contains an undated map of KWC ground floor which shows most of the street names given below.

29/3/14 http://gwulo.com/node/19487 Ian Lambot co-wrote the well-known book about Kowloon Walled City, “City of Darkness”. Here David Bellis of Gwulo asks Ian about the new and expanded edition, “City of Darkness Revisited”. 

For a general description  of KWC try:
and: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Kowloon-Walled-City

Newsletter 3 mentioned the numerous small factories located in the Kowloon Walled City. Further research provides more information on these.  As the KWC had been demolished by April 1994 the addresses included no longer exist.

First, two rather surprising products, one now almost forgotten, the other I presumed was  manufactured during this period only in large, automated factories, but no….

 Wooden Ruler maker

Cheng San operated this 600 sq.ft unit in Tai Chang Street from 1968 to 1990. He initially employed seven or eight people but when demand dropped he worked alone. He produced ten different kinds of rulers from 12” up to 36”. He lived on the premises and rarely left KWC except to eat breakfast. (No longer made in HK wooden rulers are still manufactured in China, India and elsewhere.)

 Golf ball maker

At its peak the remarkable Tai Kong Plastic Factory was producing 10,000 balls a day…a day!. It was run by Chan Kwong in Shing Ngam Road from 1972 until possibly when the KWC was demolished. Initially five or six men were employed, and a further thirty of more women who worked at home. After a few years automatic machines were used. During its peak production period the factory operated twenty four hours a day.

 Fish dumpling maker

At one time up to 80% of fish balls consumed in HK were made in KWC. As an aside HK currently produces about 13 billion fish balls a year which is about 200 per resident per year!   Lam Leung Pom of G/F 58 Lung Chun Road, however does not appear to have been one their manufacturers. His specialities were minced fish, fish dumplings and squid balls (annual consumption rates of the latter unknown). He operated in KWC from 1983 in a unit of 480  sq.ft. employing  five full-time workers, making about 300 catties of minced fish and dumplings per day. He sold the minced fish to about two hundred shops, the fish dumplings to several dozen places and the squid balls to around one hundred shops.

 Noodle factory

One of these was operated by Chan Wai Shui on Lo Yan Street from 1979 to the early 90s. About 500 catties of noodles and 50 catties of won tun pastry were produce each day. (A catty is around 1 1/3  pounds or 600 grammes.)  Mr Chan had about fifty regular customers.

 Muslin maker

Yu Hing Wan ran this on Mung Chun Road. He was still operating in 1993 when the KWC started to be demolished. He was then in his mid 80s and thought to have been the last of HK’s producers of muslin which apparently at one time was a major industry before the emergence of synthetic materials. [I can find very little information about muslin in HK – if anyone finds out something of its manufacture here please let me know.]

Candy/Sweet Factory

Located on 12 Sai Shing Road from the early 70s it produced a wide range of sweets which were sold locally to HK wholesalers and also sent to Macau. The sweets were also delivered to toy factories where they were put inside some of the toys.  The factory was operated by Lee Yo Chan. At its peak he employed ten full-time workers and twenty temporary sweet wrappers. Many of the latter were children who worked after school for as little as half an hour.

Cooked meat factory

From 1981 to around 1993/94 Yim Kwok Yuen roasted pork, selling about three pigs a day rising to twenty to thirty during festivals during which Mr Yim and his staff didn’t sleep. Geese and chicken were also roasted at his premises in Lo Yan Street.

Rubber factory

This was operated for around twenty five years on Lung Chun Back Road by Gui Bon. Specific dates are unavailable. The production process involved several steps depending on the finished product. Toilet plungers appear to have been the main item along with badminton shuttlecocks and sink plugs.

In addition to the above there were units involved in manufacturing plastic flowers, weaving, clothes, several metal-working shops, toys, those fish balls and several “secret factories”. Information on the latter would be welcomed!

This article was first published in the Indhhk email Newsletter 4 sent out on 7th February 2013.


  • Alejandra Contreras

    Can final destination for this goods produced in the KWC be traced, like who bought them and where were they distributed; and in the case of non-edible goods, do any exist to this day —like in museums?

  • Sharon McAuley

    I visited KWC several times in 1970 with my expat aunt. She (a nurse) and other expats would visit KWC regularly in co ordination with the chinese primary school teacher who taught inside KWC. The expats ran a small clinic within KWC where some mothers with newborns would bring them to be weighed and bathed in small baby baths. (Water was sourced and boiled on site). Donations of baby clothes were given to the mothers, along with rosehip drops for baby.
    I visited the classroom where children sang for me and showed me their writing books. There was a small room near the classroom with a pile of plastic toy components – I was informed by the teacher that the children worked there after school.

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