Last month, the Government announced the declaration of Lui Seng Chun as a monument. Lui Seng Chun is one of the projects under the Development Bureau’s Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme. In 2012, Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) transformed Lui Seng Chun into a Chinese medicine and healthcare centre, preserving its heritage and architectural features while providing a wide range of Chinese medical services to the community. This time, I have invited colleagues from the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) and representatives from HKBU to introduce the historical significance and architectural features of Lui Seng Chun, as well as how the building continues to serve the community after revitalisation.
Once a Chinese medicine shop and residence
Lui Seng Chun is located on a triangular site at the junction of Lai Chi Kok Road and Tong Mi Road. In 1929, Mr LUI Leung purchased the site and commissioned architect W. H. Bourne to design and build Lui Seng Chun. The building was completed in 1931, with its ground floor used as Mr LUI’s Chinese medicine shop, named Lui Seng Chun, and the upper floors as the Lui family’s residence.
Witnessing the history of the Lui family
Mr LUI Leung passed away in 1944 and the shop closed a few years later. In the 1960s, as the Lui family grew in numbers, the residence became inadequate and family members gradually moved out. In 2000, the Lui family proposed to donate the building to the Government for conservation, and the transfer of ownership was completed in 2003. In 2009, the Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB) accorded Lui Seng Chun a Grade 1 historic building status in recognition of its heritage value. In May 2022, Lui Seng Chun was officially declared a monument.
Producing bone-setting medicated wine for the community
Lui Seng Chun is not only a testimony to the early history of the LUI Leung family in Hong Kong, but also a record of the life and economic activities of the people of Sham Shui Po in the past, as well as Hong Kong’s architectural style back then. Ms SIU Lai-kuen, Susanna, Executive Secretary of the AMO, remarks that Lui Seng Chun is full of human touch, rich in history and of great artistic value, making it a sight to behold. Mr LUI Leung ran a number of businesses; and in those days the Lui family produced and sold a bone-setting medicated wine on the ground floor of Lui Seng Chun, not for profit but for the benefit of the community.
A blend of Chinese and Western architectural design
Lui Seng Chun is one of the few distinctive tong lau to have survived since 1930s. Its design is a blend of Chinese and Western architecture, with a curved front façade, rectangular frame and a row of decorative balustrades, a symbol of neo-classical style. Eight granite columns on the ground floor extend the verandahs onto the pavement, forming an arcade. Features such as the deep verandahs above the arcade, the ‘shop below and dwelling above’, and the plastered mouldings with the shop name Lui Seng Chun at the top of the building, are all typical of the local pre-war tong lau design. The deep verandahs provide sufficient natural light and ventilation for the interior whilst sheltering pedestrians, giving a human touch to the design.
The building also has delicate design elements, such as urn-shaped balustrades, simple lines decorating the top of the columns, and moulded cement tiles on the floor.
Preserving the original features as far as possible
In 2008, the Government included Lui Seng Chun in Batch I of the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme, and HKBU was successfully selected. The revitalisation project was completed in early 2012, and the Hong Kong Baptist University School of Chinese Medicine – Lui Seng Chun, commenced operation in April of the same year. Ms Carolin FONG, HKBU’s Director of Estates, remarks that the university is honoured and pleased to have taken part in the revitalisation project. In revitalising Lui Seng Chun, the project team followed the principle of minimum intervention, preserving as much of the original architectural features as possible, with only modest alterations and additions to meet operational needs and the requirements of the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance.
A challenging process
Ms Carolin FONG adds that the project team has put a lot of effort into the restoration and reinforcement works. In particular, a special type of clear glass with minimal reflection have been selected to enclose the varandahs, so as to preserve the original appearance of the building as far as possible, while keeping out the wind and rain, allowing the interior to be air-conditioned and enabling pedestrians to appreciate the interior of the building. It was a huge challenge indeed.
Other revitalisation works included adding a steel staircase as a fire escape next to the verandah at the rear facade of the building, a lift to facilitate access for the elderly and wheelchair users, toilets for people with disabilities; as well as concealing the solar water heater, fire service water tank and air-conditioning system on the rooftop.
Retaining the original appearance and components of the building
During the revitalisation process, Lui Seng Chun’s original features and components have been retained, such as the wooden plaque inscribed with the shope name Lui Seng Chun on the ground floor, the shop windows with window shutters, the glass panel decorated with Lui Seng Chun’s logo embedded in the main door, terrazzo exterior walls, and the large plastered mouldings at the top of the building. Ms Carolin FONG says that these features and components are crucial elements of Lui Seng Chun, giving the building a unique flavour.
Transformation into a Chinese medicine and healthcare centre
In 2012, HKBU revitalised Lui Seng Chun and turned it into a Chinese medicine and healthcare centre, which has been operating ever since. Professor BIAN Zhaoxiang, Associate Vice-President (Chinese Medicine Development) of HKBU, says that the revitalisation project has enabled this landmark to serve more people. A herbal tea counter is located on the ground floor, echoing Lui Seng Chun’s heritage. On the upper floors, Chinese medicine out-patient services are provided, allowing students to practise with their teachers, in addition to an exhibition on Lui Seng Chun. Besides, the fifth wave of the epidemic has raised public awareness of Chinese medicine. HKBU hopes to continue to use this historic landmark, in order to promote Chinese medicine and provide better healthcare services to the public.
I have learnt that so far, Lui Seng Chun has registered more than 210 000 consultations and over 520 000 visits, reflecting the popularity of this revitalisation project. As land resources are precious in Hong Kong, it is not easy to strike a balance between conservation and development, and there are a wide range of views in society. However, we will continue our endeavour to pool our wisdom and explore how to properly select, protect, preserve and revitalise Hong Kong’s valuable historic and cultural heritage. We hope that after the epidemic, more members of the public will visit Lui Seng Chun to savour and experience its unique charm.
12 June, 2022Back