In the central and western parts of the Hong Kong Island, there are a number of “City of Victoria boundary stones”, which were erected over a hundred years ago. At the mountain peaks in our city, there are triangulation stations — concrete cylindrical pillars painted black and white. Moreover, there are quite a number of survey markings on the streets, around building corners or along hiking trails used for land boundary delineation or survey positioning across Hong Kong. For this post, I have invited a colleague from the Survey and Mapping Office (SMO) of the Lands Department (LandsD) to take us on a tour to trace these markings scattered around our city, including boundary stones from the early days of Hong Kong and survey control points currently used for mapping and land boundary survey. He will also brief us on their history and uses.
Six remaining boundary stones of the “City of Victoria“
There are three types of historically significant boundary stones in Hong Kong. Firstly, there are the “City of Victoria boundary stones”. Mr YU Sau- Chung, Edmond, Chief Land Surveyor of the LandsD, says that during the early days of Hong Kong, the British divided the “City of Victoria” into “four wans”, namely Ha Wan (now Wanchai), Central, Sheung Wan and Sai Wan for effective governance. The four “wans” were further divided into nine “yeuks”, with buildings in each “yeuk” built to meet specific requirements. In 1903, the Hong Kong Government erected boundary stones in different locations to demarcate the land area.
Only six of these boundary stones have remained up till now. Measuring about 1 metre in height with a tapered top and the inscription “City Boundary 1903” on the shaft, they are standing on Hatton Road, Wong Nai Chung Road, Bowen Road, Old Peak Road, Pok Fu Lam Road and Victoria Road. As a matter of fact, the City of Victoria’s boundary was clearly defined in the law back then, and these stones only bored symbolic meanings. Now, they are historical relics.
The Milestones of Kwan Tai Lo and the Lantau Obelisks
Come second on the list are the Milestones of Kwan Tai Lo, which were erected between 1850 and 1859 along the way from Stanley to the City of Victoria to mark the distance. One of these stones is now in the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of History, with the inscriptions “Victoria” in English and three Chinese characters “羣帶路” (“Kwan leads the way”) vaguely visible. The third type of boundary stone is the Lantau South Obelisk and the Lantau North Obelisk, respectively located in Fan Lau and Tai O in Lantau, which were erected by the British Navy in 1902. On the bases of the obelisks, it is clearly marked that the “Convention Respecting an Extension of the Hong Kong Territory” was signed between the British Government and the Qing Government in 1898, under which the New Territories including Lantau would be leased to the Great Britain.
Boundary stones before the 1970’s just around the corner
If you are mindful enough, it’s not difficult to find the land boundary stones used for demarcation of land lots before the 1970’s, as they are just around the corners of footpaths or buildings. These stones feature the inscription of the letters “IL” and a serial number. Mr YU says that “IL” stand for “Inland lot” and the serial number denotes the land lot number. A simple search with the Land Registry on the ‘secret code’ will reveal the information of the subject property. However, land boundary stones have ceased to be used as a tool to demarcate the land after the 1970’s, when coordinates became widely used to indicate locations.
Black and white “Triangulation Pillars” at the Peaks
Currently, the survey markings commonly used in Hong Kong are mainly for site and engineering survey, and to provide position reference for mapping, building construction, infrastructure development and more. You probably have noticed that there are small metal disks inscribed with the words “Survey and Mapping Office”, or the abbreviation “SMO”, set in the pavements. These are horizontal control points set up by the LandsD. Same as the triangulation stations at mountain peaks, the horizontal control points provide horizontal position reference for survey, in other words, the XY Coordinates.
Mr YU says that the white cylindical triangulation stations, commonly known as triangulation pillars, are about chest height, with their tops painted black to facilitate observation from a distance. Many hikers take them for selfie spots, but Mr YU says that it may cause disturbance to surveyors who are conducting observation. He reminds hikers to refrain from climbing up the triangulation stations or gathering near them.
Next time when you are walking on the streets or in the countryside, do look around. You may find a historically significant boundary stone, or a dainty horizontal control point right next to you. With these discoveries, you will know more about Hong Kong, and above all, find our city very interesting.
22 March, 2020Back