Nestled in the embrace of two looping rivers, just 10 minutes away from Sha Ha beach, Sha Kok Mei is as its chinese name suggests, ‘at the edge of the sand’.
Being the closest village to Sai Kung town centre, Sha Kok Mei offers a truly accessible break from the city. You can catch public buses 94, 96R and 99 for a ride right up to the village entrance or take a turn past Fuk Man Garden and the Hive on the breezy walk to Sha Kok Mei Road. Though relatively urbanised with its own playground and basketball court, Sha Kok Mei boasts a rich history as one of Sai Kung’s oldest villages.
First settled in the 1570s by the Wai clan, Sha Kok Mei is one of Sai Kung’s first three villages. It is speculated that the Wais moved from Sha Tin to Sha Kok Mei because of the attacks of pirate Limahong who terrorised Hong Kong between 1568 and 1574.
Reluctant to pay for the expensive walled defenses being installed by other clans in Sha Tin, the Wais decided to build a new village in the valley of Sha Kok Mei. They were joined by the Tses in 1646 and the Laus in 1669. Most of the later clans arrived in the nineteenth century but are represented by only two to three households today.
Having first choice of location, the Wais, Tses and Laus developed the village in a prime spot at the centre of a powerful Fung Shui system. The unique fences of natural streams flowing around Sha Kok Mei are believed to strengthen the ‘Yin’ forces that run from north-east to south-west across the village to protect it from the dangerous effects of the sea. The trees lining the streams and the front of the village are designed to help deepen the power of these Yin forces and to further defend the area against its openness to the ocean.
On a day-trip you will find the architecture of Sha Kok Mei riddled with stories of its long history. In-between the densely-packed rows of tenements, residences, and western-style villas you will find Yuk Yin Study Hall, the former operations base of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Brigade of East river Guerilla.
Easily identifiable by the large construction date moulded into its pediment, Yuk Yin began in 1928 as a small traditional private school but was later used as an operations base for the war effort against the Japanese. The hall was paid for by emigrant villagers and built upon land donated by members of the Wai clan. It was here that new recruits were taught guerilla tactics and mobilized for the war. Records show that after the war ended British forces awarded the people of Sha Kok Mei $2,000 for their “gallant services in the Allied course, during 1941-45”. This appears to be the highest amount awarded to any Sai Kung village.
In 2017, the village is perhaps better known as a buffalo hub than a war operations base. Walking past the football courts you can spot children scootering and cycling about, some coming from neighbouring villages to play in the playground.
The town pavilion, which was built in 1980 as a resting spot for villagers, now sits a couple of feet away from three new benches painted in gleaming bright primary colours. A passing family tells me, “People are very friendly here; the children are very happy because there are so many playgrounds for them to play in”. Another villager describes Sha Kok Mei in one word: “comfy”
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