Yim Tin Tsai island – resurrected salt pans

HF: From the SCMP -“A 20-minute boat ride from Sai Kung pier, the tiny island of Yim Tin Tsai now teems with activity on weekends. Most are day-trippers exploring the old Hakka settlement, but others are workers harvesting salt from resurrected salt pans.

The scene is a far cry from six years ago, when its many deserted fields and dilapidated village houses gave the island an air of abandonment. Descendants of the original villagers hope that reviving the salt pans that once helped to sustain Yim Tin Tsai (Cantonese for Little Salt Pan) will give the historical settlement’s ecotourism business some added buzz…

…The village school, which was built in 1920 and closed in 1997, has been turned into a heritage centre for visitors, and the old salt pans – comprising four pools for evaporation of seawater and one for crystallisation – were put back into production at the end of last year…

Yim Tin Tsai salt a SCMP 1.2.16

Salt harvested from the salt pans of Yim Tin Tsai. Photo: May Tse Courtesy: SCMP

…Documentary maker Wong Tin-shing was commissioned by the church to make a film about the Yim Tin Tsai revival. Before long, he wound up co-ordinating efforts to resuscitate salt-making, too.

The initiative began four years ago. “There were many trials and errors as none of the people involved had worked in salt production before. After being abandoned for decades, the salt pans were filled with water. No one knew what salt pans looked like,” Wong recalls.

“The first workers hired [for salt production] soon left as they didn’t know how to do their jobs. As I became more involved while making the film, I took up the salt project myself.

Yim Tin Tsai salt pans SCMP 1.2.16

Yim Tin Tsai’s salt pans. Photo: May Tse Courtesy: SCMP

We tried many times, but the salt just didn’t crystallise. Later, we went to Shanwei on the mainland and Taiwan to see how salt pans are run. It turned out that the salinity of seawater is lower in summer than that in winter. Rain will also dilute the salt concentration so we had to install a cover over the reservoir. We finally succeeded and had our first harvest in December last year.

“In the past, inhabitants on the island used the salt they produced to preserve fish. The surplus was sold to villagers in other parts of Sai Kung. Due to the decline of the fishing industry and the imports of cheap mainland salt, the salt pans in Yim Tin Tsai stopped production in the early 20th century.”

Source: SCMP article Abandoned HK island gets new life as heritage site… 1st February 2016

This article was first posted on 10th February 2016.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Yim Tin Tsai – project to restore the island’s 200 year old salt fields
  2. Tai O Salt Production
  3. Salt production, oldest industry in Hong Kong, Tai O
  4. Koon Fu salt yards – place name Kwun Tong
  5. Salt production at San Hui, Tuen Mun
  6. Salt Manufacture in Hong Kong 1940s – 1967 RASHKB article
  7. Lok On Pai “desalting” plant, 1975-1981 – plus several other articles about this plant

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