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Chik Kwai Study Hall at Sheung Tsuen, Pat Heung, Yuen Long, gazetted as historical building

A notice was gazetted on May 4 2007 announcing that the Chik Kwai Study Hall at Sheung Tsuen, Pat Heung, Yuen Long, would be declared a historical building under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance with effect from June 29.

Chik Kwai Study Hall, a typical traditional Chinese study hall in Hong Kong, was built before 1899 by Lai Kam Tai, of the Lai clan in Pat Heung, which had settled in the Pat Heung area for hundreds of years. According to the genealogy of the clan, the second generation ancestor, Lai Chung Heung migrated from Jianxi to Xinhui, Guangdong, in the Song dynasty. Clansmen later settled in the Dongguan and Kam Tin areas. During the Ming dynasty, the 13th generation ancestor, Lai Yui Wun, led his clansmen to settle in the present Sheung Tsuen.

Chik Kwai Study Hall was originally built for educating young clansmen in traditional classics and was also used for ancestor worship starting from the 1930s. Operation of the school ceased during World War II, but resumed afterwards as Wing Hing School for providing modern education. It was later used as a kindergarten, which was closed decades ago. The Study Hall also served as a venue for clan meetings and traditional rituals, such as wedding ceremonies and ancestor worship at spring and autumn equinoxes.

Chik Kwai Study Hall is a typical example of a traditional two-hall-one-courtyard building of the Qing dynasty. The impressive facade of the green-brick study hall is distinguished by the solemn granite-block wall base and the overhanging roof supported by ornamental brackets, camel humps and granite columns. The roof ridge of the entrance hall is decorated with polychrome mouldings depicting the theme of "carp jumps over the dragon gate". Internally, all the exquisitely carved camel humps and eaves boards are devoted to the themes of traditional Chinese folk stories and auspicious motifs. A beautifully crafted wooden altar is placed at the main hall of the Study Hall for accommodating the soul tablets of the ancestors of the Lais.

The Chik Kwai Study Hall is exceptional due to the well-preserved architectural components of the building. Examples include the ornate woodcarvings, the lively decorative plaster mouldings on the roof ridges and gable walls, and the vivid traditional Chinese murals, which are all said not to have been repainted or refurbished since the construction of the Study Hall. Such features make it one of the finest examples of traditional Chinese study halls that still survive in Yuen Long. In view of the heritage value of the Chik Kwai Study Hall, the Antiquities Advisory Board has recommended declaration of the Study Hall as an historical building under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.

Chik Kwai Study Hall is currently in a state of disrepair. To preserve this valuable historic building, the Antiquities and Monuments Office will carry out a full restoration to the Study Hall. A comprehensive conservation study and cartographic survey for the Study Hall are being conducted. After restoration, the building will be opened to the public to enhance public awareness of the local history and cultural heritage of the area.

4 May 2007
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