Kowloon Walled City – a book, an RAS article, an SCMP article, films and Kawasaki…

HF: The extraordinary Kowloon Walled City had been completely demolished by April 1994.

Here are a selection of sources from which to gather an insight into the settlement, its residents and what went on inside what was reputed to have been the most densely populated place on Earth.

a) http://cityofdarkness.co.uk/category/the_book/  This well known book by Ian Lambot and Greg Girard is about to be refurbished. Something that most certainly did not happen to KWC though the fact that its site became a rather delightful park rather that luxury apartment blocks is something to be grateful for.

The website explains, First published in April 1993, City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City remained in print for almost 20 years, an extraordinary record for a book of this kind…In 2013 with interest in the Walled City continuing to grow, another reprint seemed inappropriate. It was time, we decided, to produce an all-new edition and bring the story up to date. Now in final production, City of Darkness Revisited will be published over the summer of 2014.

The website above provides a great deal of information both about the updated book and KWC itself.

If you look through you’ll find information and photos about making noodles, fishballs, rubber goods, a weaver, a sweet factory and a baker of cakes and a good deal more manufacturing… not just the usual image of drugs, dentists, trollops and triads.

http://gwulo.com/node/19487 David Bellis interviews Ian Lambot about the new edition of his book.

b) Kowloon Walled City: Its Origins and Early History This article by Elizabeth Sinn is from the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch Vol 27 (1987).

It provides a very full account of KWC’s history beginning “The City’s site at the northeastern corner of Kowloon Peninisula was first fortified in 1668 when a signal station was established.”

c)  Kowloon Walled City: Life in the City of Darkness   A SCMP article updated on 4th September 2013.

“This month marks 20 years since work started to wipe away one of the most striking features of the Hong Kong landscape for good. A 2.7 hectare enclave of opium parlours, whorehouses and gambling dens run by triads, it was a place where police, health inspectors and even tax collectors feared to tread. In Cantonese it was known as the City of Darkness.”

Ye Gods “even tax collectors”!

When the death knell sounded for Kowloon Walled City – Hong Kong’s ‘dirty old wart’ SCMP 12th January 2018

‘The rats were something else’: 25 years on, Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City still evokes awe and revulsion SCMP 23rd March 2018

Inside Kowloon Walled City: an artist offers a different perspective on life in the infamous enclave SCMP 25th March 2021

d) There are several documentaries about the place on youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmqlxjTSc8w  This one shot by Rob Frost in 1990 is a quick introduction if you don’t know what KWC looked like just before it was demolished. (5 minutes)

e) The 1982 Shaw Brothers film Brothers from the Walled City is set in KWC. 

The 1984 gangster film Long Arm of the Law  features the Walled City as a refuge for gang members before they are gunned down by the police.

Not forgetting  the 1988 Bloodsport starring Jean-Claude Van Damme no less, where  the Walled City is the setting for a martial arts tournament.

The 1992 non-narrative film Baraka features several highly detailed shots of the place shortly before its demolition.

And the 1993 film Crime Story starring  Jackie Chan was partly filmed there, and includes “real scenes of building explosions”.

f) randomwire.com This personal website  reports on a games company in Japan which decided Kowloon Walled City would make the perfect backdrop to a new arcade they were building in  Kawasaki located between Tokyo and Yokohama. See what you make of it.

This article was first posted on 27th August 2014.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Kowloon Walled City
  2. Kowloon Walled City 2
  3. Kowloon Walled City 3 – images from 1910
  4. Kowloon Walled City: Lung Tsun Stone Bridge



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