CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Hong Kong’s historic saltpans receive heritage award

BANGKOK (SE): The historic saltpans on Yim Tin Tsai Island off the coast of Sai Kung have been listed in the 2015 Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards by UNESCO (United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture).

The conservation work carried out on the saltpans to restore them to functioning condition was coordinated by members of the Chan family, who are descendants of early residents of the island.

Their work earned an award of distinction from the UNESCO judges.

This is a special moment for the vicar general of the diocese of Hong Kong, Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, who is a member of the Chan family and counts Yim Tin Tsai as his roots and ancestral home.

He told the Sunday Examiner that he believes this is an important award for the island, as the ingenuity the local people used in bygone times to create the pans is something that should be remembered and understood today.

He added that since the area is now used as an educational hub for students and an eco-tourist destination, recognition of its uniqueness by UNESCO should help to promote what is an important part of Hong Kong history.

Father Chan believes that by restoring the saltpans to functioning condition using the same innovative technology that his forebears used in creating them in the first place, will help to rekindle an interest in the history of the early development of the special administrative region.

He added that it sets an innovative approach to industrial and heritage conservation.

In the citation released by the UNESCO office in Bangkok, Thailand, says, “The revitalisation of the saltpans of Yim Tin Tsai Island in a rural area of Hong Kong celebrates an overlooked form of industrial heritage and contributes to pushing the envelope of conservation practice.”

It adds that although there was little historical documentation to support the claim to great ingenuity, this was overcome by using a field-based methodology to inform the conservation process.

The citation says, “The conservation work employed simple local building materials and techniques to return the saltpans to functioning condition.”

Tim Curtis, the chairperson and head of UNESCO’s Bangkok Culture Unit, said that he was impressed with the quality of entries received this year, as well as the geographical expanse they covered.

He said he believes that they reflect the importance of the message that the awards carry about cultural preservation, which he thinks is gaining momentum in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Apart from the saltpans, Hong Kong also received an honorary mention for the YHA Mei Ho House Youth Hostel.

China received an honorary mention for the Sanfang Qixiang, in Fujian, as well as an award of merit for the Cangdong Heritage Education Centre in Guangdong and the Ping Yao Courtyard House in Shanxi.

The awards recognise cultural heritage conservation efforts of private individuals and organisations that have successfully restored and conserved structures and buildings of heritage value.

Awards are given on the basis of how well projects reflect the spirit of the place, technical advancement and contribution to the surrounding environment.

Father Chan said that Yim Tin Tsai also boasts a natural stations of the cross, which uses the beauty of nature and the environment to inspire meditation and reflection on the place of human beings in the reality of God’s creation.


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