Sandalwood Mills in Tsuen Wan – 1976 RASHKB article

James Hayes wrote a short article about Sandal Wood Mills in Tsun [sic] Wan, which was published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch, Volume 16, 1976.

Incense mill unknown location image RASHKB Vol 16 1976

The article, to be found in the Notes and Queries section begins: The following extracts from various publications relate to this now almost forgotten but long established local industry, located at Tsun Wan in the New Territories of Hong Kong. Formerly a small market centre serving the surrounding villages, Tsun Wan is now a large industrial town. From J.H. Stewart Lockhart’s Report on the New Territory, The Hongkong Government Gazette, 8th April, 1899, p. 544. “A large establishment exists near Tsun Wan for the manufacture of joss-powder, out of which joss-sticks, used in the worship of idols, are made. The powder is made from fragrant wood, which is pounded into dust by means of water-wheels, six of which were seen at work. Although there is a large force of water throughout the territory available for water-power, this is the only instance in which we saw water utilised for manufacturing purposes.”

From Eastern No. 88, Correspondence relating to the KowloonCanton Railway (London, Colonial Office, 1907), Enclosure D in No. 59, Governor Sir M. Nathan to Mr. Lyttelton, 11 January, 1905. “Tsun Wan — Two passage boats ply daily between Hong Kong and Tsun Wan; the number of passengers carried each way averages about 60. The principal goods carried are rice, pineapples when in season, grass and wood in connection with the 24 sandal-wood mills, worked by water power, and situated in the various valleys of the Tsun Wan district.”

From G.S.P. Heywood, Rambles in Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Kelly & Walsh, Ltd., 2nd Edition 1951, p. 19. “Tsun Wan has several local industries; silk-weaving is carried on in an up-to-date mill next door to the primitive and unhygienic sheds where noodles are made from powdered beans. In the valley running up into the hills to the south-west of Tai Mo Shan there is a village consisting entirely of watermills, where wood is ground up for the manufacture of joss sticks. This picturesque place is easily reached from the road; the path starts at the bridge about half a mile beyond Tsun Wan, near the 9th milestone, and follows the stream upwards, first on one bank and then on the other. The first watermill is reached in 5 minutes’ walk from the road, and beyond are a dozen more little houses perched on the sides of the valley, each with its waterwheel busily turning. For a small tip the owner of one of these mills will show you inside; the atmosphere is thick with fragrant dust, and through it you can dimly see great stoneheaded hammers pounding away at the aromatic wood.” Hong Kong, 1974. James Hayes

The image shown on the Home page and in this post is of an incense mill in Hong Kong at an unknown location. It does not come from the RASHKB article.

Source: Sandal Wood Mills at Tsun [Tsuen] Wan p 282 RASKHB Vol 16 1976

RASHKB says “Anyone with an interest in the history, art, literature and culture of China and Asia, with special reference to Hong Kong, will enjoy membership of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, which is generally regarded as the premier Society for the study of Hong Kong and South China. Dating back over 150 years, the Society is today a very active body, organizing varied visits, talks, seminars and more.”

See: The Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch website

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. A Joss-stick Mill in Tsuen Wan
  2. A water powered tilt-hammer incense mill
  3. The origins of the name Hong Kong – the export of incense
  4. Export of ‘kuan-hsiang’ 莞香 incense from Hong Kong Ts’un, Aberdeen Harbour – Ming Dynasty
  5. The Incense Tree in Hong Kong – a vanishing species
  6. Incense tree plantation in Hong Kong

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