Village in the River Basin

Set by the Pearl River mouth, Tuen Mun was one of the first places in Hong Kong to feature in historical records. The Tang government garrisoned at Tuen Mun for better coast defence and trade management. For military reasons, there were no large villages in Tuen Mun. The main residents were fishermen, who were called Tanka.

At the beginning of Qing dynasty, the coastal evacuation policy was implemented; coastal residents were forced to move inland. However, there was less arable land in Tuen Mun, so the population and number of villages were low, hampering development after the policy was withdrawn. Tuen Mun was under the authority of Yuen Long during the colonial rule by the British-Hong Kong government until 1974, until development of Tuen Mun new town began.

Old Tao's Ancestral Hall


Tuen Mun formerly lacked extensive flat land, so few of the villages relied on farming. The major crop was rice, and there were a few orchards. According to historical records such as Xin An County Annals, Castle Peak had produced famous, high-quality mountain tea comparable to Meng Shan Tea of Sichuan, but production was limited, and there were no records of tea growing here in modern times. Since the river water was not enough for irrigation, in the 1970s the Agriculture and Fisheries Department (now the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department) built about 20 agricultural weirs by villages like Tsing Chuen Wai. These provided irrigation water for the villagers. Other than growing crops, many villages located in upstream areas also engaged in the livestock and poultry industry. In the 1980s, there were over 1,000 livestock or poultry farms keeping pigs, chickens, pigeons, quail, ducks and other livestock in Tuen Mun.

Farmland in Tuen Mun was vastly reduced by urban development. In 1990, farmland, livestock and poultry industries gradually disappeared. At present, there are only few scattered self-subsistence farms in rural Tuen Mun, and three farms certified by the Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre, producing some organic agricultural products.

Agricultural weir stop-logs

Farmland in Tuen Mun


Fisheries were developed at Tuen Mun before agriculture, as evidenced by Neolithic fishing gear found during archaeological excavations such as net weights and harpoon tips, however information about earlier fisheries in Tuen Mun is sparse. In 1953, Castle Peak Bay area was the fourth largest fishing port in Hong Kong, stilt-houses could be found near Sam Shing Tsuen. However with the development of new towns, these huts were demolished. Although the number of fishermen in Tuen Mun decreased, it is still an important shelter for fishermen.

Fish ponds were formerly developed at the Tuen Mun River estuary, but at small scale. With the development of Tuen Mun New Town, fish farming eventually vanished.

Fish vessels in Vastle Peak Bay


Because the population in Tuen Mun was relatively low, so the area lacked large markets. Yuen Long Hui was the main place for trading between residents, though three small markets had appeared in Tuen Mun district. The three markets included Kau Hui (Old Market) located in the west coast of Castle Peak Bay, its date of origin cannot be traced; In San Hui (New Market) at the east coast of Castle Peak from the late Qing Dynasty to the 1960s. Another market was formed at Sam Shing Tsuen, seafood and fishing materials were the main goods. However, in the 1970s the government carried out large-scale reclamation and all these markets was demolished.

Tuen Mun San Hui


Castle Peak Bay was originally a sheltered inlet and the location was close to the Pearl River mouth, it was a vital waterway to Guangzhou. Coupled with its currents and prevailing winds suiting voyages, Tuen Mun was a port for business travel supplies and military bases.

In the Qing Dynasty, there was Kaito ferry services connected Tuen Mun and Pak Mong, Lantau Island. Until the 1920s, Tuen Mun was the halfway point of ferry services from Central to Tai O. In 1980s the ferry company added additional routes between Tuen Mun and Central, and between Tuen Mun and Wai Chai. In 1997, the Western Harbour Tunnel was completed, leading to a substantial reduction in ferry commuter passengers, and the route between Hong Kong Island and Tuen Mun formally closed in 2000. Later, the routes to Shekou in mainland China, and Macau, departing from Tuen Mun pier were opened.

Lighthouse used for navigation

Leisure and Tourism

Since the late Eastern Jin Dynasty, Tuen Mun has been well-known for the deeds of Monk Pui To. These tales, together with ancient temples and natural scenery, attracted many worshippers. In addition, the Tin Hau Temple at Hau Kok is one of the oldest Tin Hau Temples in Hong Kong; many fishermen formerly worshipped here.

Before the development of Tuen Mun New Town, every year during the Dragon Boat Festival, the villagers around Tuen Mun River paddled dragon boats from upper course to the estuary at Hau Kok Tin Hau Temple. After completion of the reclamation work, the race was held in Tuen Mun Typhoon Shelter, attracting many spectators every year. In the 1950s, Sam Shing Hui had a Tai Pak Floating Restaurant – a restaurant on the sea to attract tourists. It disappeared due to the reclamation, but Sam Shing is still a hotspot for visitors to enjoy seafood.

In Tuen Mun District, there are many beaches that people enjoy in summer. Yet in 1981, Castle Peak Beach at Tuen Mun River estuary on the east coast of Castle Peak Bay was closed due to serious pollution of the Tuen Mun River. Later, the water quality was greatly improved, and the beach re-opened in 2005.

To the east of Tuen Mun River basin is Tai Lam Country Park, where the path along the catchwater is part of the MacLehose Trail and Tuen Mun fitness trail, which is a good place for public hiking and morning walkers. The upper slopes of Castle Peak, west of the river basin, are home to rare plants such as Balloon Flower and Chinese Lily, and designated as a Site of Special Science Interest. However, residents can only visit during holidays because this area is included within a firing range.

Dragon boat race in Tuen Mun

Castle Peak Beach



Tuen Mun Fitness Trail

New Town Development

Compared to nearby districts like Yuen Long and Kam Tin, the Tuen Mun population was formerly relatively low. There were only 250 residents in San Hui when the British-Hong Kong Government took over the New Territories in 1899. Not until Tuen Mun developed into a New Town there was more substantial population growth. The first public housing estate was established in 1971, the Tuen Mun Highway opened to traffic in 1983, population growth accelerated and the population had a tenfold increase within two decades; in 2010 the population was about 490,000.

Tuen Mun was one of the first new towns developed in Hong Kong. As early as 1959 research report had recommended a substantial reclamation in Castle Peak Bay, to supply land for the development of a new town. Castle Peak Bay coastline had to be re-shaped by the development; the residents were greatly affected and the former fishing village became a modern new town.

Tuen Mun New Town

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