At Sung Wong Toi Station, we often see passengers take a break from their journey to appreciate the Song-Yuan heritage exhibition. Treasures from Sacred Hill: Song-Yuan Archaeological Discoveries at Sung Wong Toi is the first heritage exhibition at a public transport station in Hong Kong. On display are artefacts specially selected by the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) from over 700 000 pieces of archaeological finds, including ceramic sherds from the Song-Yuan period and coins from the Song period. This time, I have invited colleagues from AMO to share with you the preparation and research done behind the scenes.
Archaeological deposits at the works area of Sung Wong Toi Station
The enviros of Sung Wong Toi Station is known for its history about an imperial power. As early as the mid-Qing period, local literature already recorded the boulder inscribed with the three Chinese characters “Sung Wong Toi” (literally meaning “Terrace of the Song Emperor”). Following the development of Kowloon City and To Kwa Wan, most noticeably the various expansion projects of Kai Tak Airport years ago, Sacred Hill was levelled and became part of the north apron of Kai Tak Airport. It was where the boulder inscribed with the Sung Wong Toi characters was located. To tie in with the construction of Sung Wong Toi Station, the MTR Corporation Limited (MTR) commissioned professional archaeologists to conduct archaeological work in the project area between 2012 and 2015. A large number of archaeological deposits from the Song-Yuan period was unearthed, including stone wells from the Song dynasty and over 700 000 pieces of ceramic sherds from the Song-Yuan period.
Artefacts are mainly ceramics from the Song-Yuan period
Executive Secretary of AMO, Ms SIU Lai-kuen, Susanna, says that archaeological work at Sung Wong Toi Station has unearthed over 700 000 artefacts, which are primarily Song-Yuan ceramics. Colleagues of AMO are working hard to organise, conserve and study them using their expertise and experience. In order to show the public the results of the archaeological work, AMO liaised with MTR to showcase the artefacts at the MTR station. MTR agreed and provided two display cabinets, one 7m long and the other 15m, for AMO to display and introduce to the public the archaeological artefacts.
First heritage exhibition ever held at MTR station
Ms Susanna SIU shares with us that this is the first time AMO holds a heritage exhibition at a MTR station. The exhibition features more than 400 pieces of archaeological finds unearthed, which are mainly ceramic sherds from the Song-Yuan period, including incense burners, celadon wares produced by Longquan kilns, green glazed wares produced by Fujian kilns, coins from the Song period, and Song-Yuan architectural components. The exhibition also introduces the archaeological work conducted to facilitate the construction of Sung Wong Toi Station, major archaeological discoveries, the history of Sung Wong Toi and the features and significance of the archaeological finds unearthed.
Archaeological excavations started in 2012
To cope with the construction of Sung Wong Toi Station, archaeological work began in 2012 and ended in 2015. The handover of artefacts was conducted in 2017 and 2018 in batches. The work of AMO can be divided into three main areas: 1) vetting the work plans proposed by the archaeological team commissioned by MTR; 2) supervising the archaeological work, including providing suggestions to the archaeologists, and participating in discussions and site visits; and 3) receiving artefacts handed over from the archaeological team for further study and cataloguing.
Measuring and recording for further studies
Curator (Archaeology) of AMO, Mr MA Man-kwong, Ray, says that having received the artefacts, his colleagues would organise them and conduct research, e.g. recording the type, condition, and dimensions of the artefacts. Afterwards, they take pictures of the artefact from different angles for record. The artefact and its unearthing information are then properly kept in a clear plastic bag. Meanwhile, information of the artefact would be input in AMO’s computerised artefact management system, so that it could be studied, searched and managed with ease.
Filling missing parts in the restoration effort
Buried underground for over 700 years, most of the Song-Yuan artefacts were unearthed in pieces, which made it difficult to visualise the original appearance. Manual repairs therefore had to be done subsequently. AMO colleagues would first conduct matching for the finds, then stick together pieces of the same artefact using special adhesives, and restoring missing parts with white plaster, in an effort to restore artefacts to their original appearance. Original and restored parts are then distinguishable by the colour. Mr Ray MA points out that restoration of archaeological finds is highly professional work; it takes tremendous patience and extensive knowledge of ancient ceramics to get the job done.
Rigorous research to trace the origin
Furthermore, colleagues of AMO have to study a wide range of materials to get a more in-depth and comprehensive understanding about the significance of archaeological remains, e.g. tracing the provenance of the ceramics unearthed, analysing important information such as the kilns they originated from. They also made reference to relevant archaeological reports from various places, compare specimens from different kilns, etc. in order to follow up leads and conduct in-depth studies. In addition, photos of the artefacts are taken using digital cameras with very high resolution, so as to present details clearly, e.g. decorative patterns, features of craftsmanship, and so on.
Through the joint efforts of AMO, Highways Department, MTR and the experts engaged, the Treasures from Sacred Hill exhibition opened in late June and has received enthusiastic response from the public. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to colleagues of AMO. Their long-standing dedication and professionalism have made possible this exhibition full of artefacts at the Sung Wong Toi Station, allowing us a brand new exhibition experience, and a glimpse of what life was like back in the Song-Yuan period. I have learnt that preparations for the next artefacts exhibition at the station are underway - so stay tuned to AMO’s announcements.
29 August, 2021Back