Kowloon Walled City: An extract from 'Fallen Glory', by James Crawford

Photo credit:  ‘Inside the Walled City’, 1998 , © Patrick Zachmann / Magnum Photos

Photo credit:  ‘Inside the Walled City’, 1998 , © Patrick Zachmann / Magnum Photos

We are extremely pleased and proud to publish on the Elsewhere blog an extract from the fascinating new book Fallen Glory by James Crawford. In it, he uncovers the biographies of some of the world’s most fascinating lost and ruined buildings in a unique guide to a world of vanished architecture. In this extract, James takes us to the Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong – Born 1843, died 1994:

In the aftermath of the Second World War, refugees flooded south to the Kowloon Peninsula. The only trace of the old city was the derelict shell of the Mandarin’s house. Yet people gravitated almost instinctively to this rough rectangle of ground. Perhaps it was the feng shui. The Walled City had originally been laid out according to the ancient principles of Chinese philosophy: facing south and overlooking water, with hills and mountains to the north. This ideal alignment, it was said, brought harmony to a ll citizens. In their desperate plight some refugees may have believed that Kowloon would be a much-needed source of luck and prosperity. Others, however, recalled that this had once been a Chinese exclave in British colonial territory. The stone walls of the ‘Walled City’ had gone, but the refugees were convinced the diplomatic ones remained. 

By 1947 there were over 2,000 squatters camped in Kowloon, their ramshackle huts arranged in almost the exact footprint of the original city. No one wanted to find themselves outside the borders – those on the wrong side of the line risked losing the protection of the Chinese government. The people kept coming, and the camp grew ever more squalid and overcrowded.