Final Project:Yau Ma Tei

Date: 27 April, 1 May and 4 May 2016
Recording Tools: iRig Recorder (iPhone Application)

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Area of Yau Ma Tei (Red Circuit)

According to Town Planning Board, Yau Ma Tei is located in the West Kowloon District. It is just in the middle of Mongkok and Tsim Sha Tsui, the two busiest areas in Kowloon. Comparing with the two places, Yau Ma Tei does not have as much famous shopping malls or nice views. However, there are still some well-known spots and some hidden gems around. From the perspective of land-use and culture, Yau Ma Tei is actually the “diamond” of the city.

Yau Ma Tei in the Past

Yau Ma Tei was a pier in the past, and was named “Ma Tei” at 1870. Five years later, it was renamed as “Yau Ma Tei” because this place sold oil for the fishing boats, and “Yau” is the Cantonese of “oil”. Other than selling oil, there were also shops for ropes, oars and boat maintenance (for wood and metal). Other than the fishery industry, there were other shops for daily needs like market and salons.

Tin Hau Temple Complex

IMG_1631The most famous area of Yau Ma Tei should be Temple Street. The reason of why it is called so is that there is a Tin Hau Temple Complex just at the junction of Temple Street and Public Square Street. The complex was built in the 1860s, located beside the seashore before reclamation. There are five parts in the complex: Tin Hau Temple(天后廟), Shing Wong Temple(城隍廟), She Tan(觀音樓社壇), Fook Tak Che(福德祠), and The School (書院). Hiding in the deepest part of Public Square Street Rest Garden(榕樹頭), the complex is now a Grade I historic building in Hong Kong. Shing Wong Temple and The School was closed due to renovation work at the recording time, and the other three compartments are quite similar. Not much people are there for worshiping, and they do not really murmur. There are some machinery sounds and some cleansing work at the background. Moreover, there are someone buying incense from the counter and the workers helped. (Track 1)

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Temple Street

The Stone Arch

Temple Street is also very quiet until the evening descends. There are three parts, from north to south, of Temple Street: the first part from Man Ming Lane to Public Square Street, the second part from Public Square Street to Kansu Street, and the last part from Kansu Street to Jordan Road. In the morning, the first part of Temple Street is just like some ordinary road for cars. Around 6 p.m., people start to put their carts or metal sticks to set up their shops. Originally, the stalls sold food such as noodles, Hong Kong snacks and seafood just like Taiwan night markets.

Traditional Grinder

Now, these caters are moved to shops at the roadside as open-aired food stalls, and some waiters will invite pedestrians to the shop. The stalls on the road now sell souvenirs, clothes, bags and lots of other products. There is even a stall with a traditional grinder and people can take their watches or accessories to polish. The soundmark is the machinery sounds from the grinder. Temple Street is also an old district where residents know each other well and might sit on the roadside and chatter sometimes. The second part mainly consists of physiognomy or palmistry shops and is beside Shanghai Street, so there are buses and minibuses all the time. The third part is the most well-known part of Temple Street, with stone arch on Kansu Street and Jordan Road. Stalls here are fixed in metal cupboards. There are more South Asians in this part due to the dense population in Man Wah Sun Cheun at the junction of Jordan Road and Ferry Street. Some will sell handbags or invite foreigners to tailor shops. Of course, there are also local customers and bargaining is very common. Overall, the keynote is the traffic. Sound signals are the music from the radio or speakers in the shops, as well as the bargaining of the people. (Track 2-9)

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Yau Ma Tei Wholesale Fruit MarketWhatsApp-Image-20160501 (5)

The other special part of Yau Ma Tei is the Wholesale Fruit Market. In the midnight, trucks carrying boxes of fruits park at Reclamation Street or Waterloo Road to put the goods into the old-styled buildings. In the recording, the keynote is the traffic. Sound signals are sellers selling the fruit, some people commenting on it, and also the sound from the carts. Soundmarks are the sound of people carrying boxes of fruits into their shop and the cart sound. Wholesale is from midnight to early morning, and in the afternoon stalls are set up in Shek Lung Street for retail. The keynote is the traffic, the sound signals and soundmarks are the shouting from the sellers and the sound of the coins. (Track 10-12)

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Jade Market

IMG_1681Jade Market is also a famous tourist spot. The building is covered with plastic plates on top with electronic fans, and therefore there are a lot of wind sounds at the background. Since it is daytime when the recording was made, not a lot of people are there to check out the products. (Track 13-14)

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Nathan Road and Prosperous Garden

The busiest part of Yau Ma Tei is along Nathan Road, where most of the commercial buildings are set up. The keynote and soundmark is the traffic especially the engine from the buses. Sound signal is the traffic light. Except private housings, the newest public housings settled in the 1990s. It has a comfortable surroundings and a big resting area. In the recording, some birds chirping can be heard in the background. The quality of the sound changes in the middle because the recording area changes from an open space to a covered space. There are also clapping sounds and a bit of the chatting sounds from the elderlies. There are also modern facilities like Kubrick, both a bookshop and coffee shop, Cinematheque under the Broadway cinema circuit, CD shop, clinic and restaurants. Kubrick, Cinematheque and the CD shop are at the same area. At the beginning of the recording, tinkling sounds from the ceramic can be heard. Some time later it changes to a quieter area which indicates the bookstore. When some TV sounds appear, it indicates the area outside the cinema when people can buy tickets from. At last there are music indicating the CD shop. (Track 15-17)

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There are six secondary schools and six primary schools in Yau Ma Tei. Three primary schools located in Tung Kun Street, CCC Wanchai Church Kei To Primary School, Tung Koon District Society Fong Shu Cheun School, and Yau Ma Tei Catholic Primary School, were chosen for recording. IMG_1601.JPGSince students are still young, many of their parents or guardians bring them to school. So the children’s family members may know each other and will chat among themselves. The recordings also show different people discussing in different languages. Also, it is the busy hour for school and work, therefore the busy traffic at Ferry Street can be heard at the background. Track 23 is recorded outside Yau Ma Tei Catholic Primary School. The bell is the sound signal and soundmark. There are some metal gate sounds in the middle and there is a woman shouting and it was actually a parent worrying that her child will be late. (Track 18-23)


Extended from Mongkok, Canton Road and Reclamation Street from Dundas Road to Waterloo Road are for hardware shops. Most of them open up early in the morning and there are a lot of drillings and sounds of hitting metals. (Track 24)

Public Welfare Services

There are important welfare services in Yau Ma Tei. The Kowloon Central Post Office is located at Nathan Road, letters and parcels are all gathered in there for distribution. There are also different service counters. There are two hospitals, Kwong Wah Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, both the busiest hospitals in Kowloon. Kwong Wah Hospital was the first hospital in Kowloon built in 1911. There is a fire station opposite to the hospital. At the same time, there is the Yau Ma Tei Police Station built in 1922 with English Edwardian architectural design. Track 26 was recorded when there was an accident in Nathan Road and the cars are getting through the traffic by driving into Portland Street. (Track 25-26)

Yau Ma Tei Market

Yau Ma Tei is an old district that most of the public housings are kept in the state of Tong Lau, where the first two floors are for shops and the remaining floors are for housings. Many people who live in such housings are now elderlies. Therefore, there are facilities especially kept or made for old residents in Yau Ma Tei. Most of them enjoy buying fresh food in the wet market instead of supermarkets. There is a wet market in Kansu Street and an open-aired market next to it in Reclamation Street. The wet market is mostly for buying seafood, occasionally with some vegetables and tofu shops. The open-aired market sells pork, fruits, vegetables, Chinese medicines and also clothings. Sound signals and soundmarks include bargaining, coin sounds, radio and plastic bags. In track 30, the soundmark is the sound of chopping the pork. (Track 27-30)

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Yau Ma Tei Theatre and Red Brick Building

The Yau Ma Tei Theatre was built in 1930 and is the only theatre existing in the area which is built before WWII. It was originally a cinema for movies and had stopped service in 1998, listed as a Grade II historic building. Later on, the government renovated it and now it becomes a place for Cantonese operas that were famous in the past. The elderlies are more familiar with such performing arts and they will line up early for tickets. Traffic can be heard at the background since the theatre is located in Waterloo Road. At the junction of Waterloo Road and Shanghai Street, there stands the Red Brick Building built in 1895. It was formerly the Engineer’s Office for the old Water Pumping Station. The station ceased operation in 1911 and the Red Brick Building is listed as Grade I historic building. Renovation was done but the bricks and pipes are kept. It is now an office of the Yau Ma Tei Theatre. Recordings cannot be done since it was closed at that time. (Track 31)

Rest Gardens and Sitting-out Areas

There are more than ten rest gardens or sitting-out areas in Yau Ma Tei. Recordings were done in six of them. I have found that there are indeed a number of people in each of them. However, because of the limited area in Yau Ma Tei, most of the rest gardens or sitting-out areas are right next to the street, even though some of them are busy streets with heavy traffic. (Track 32-37)

Behind the Dazzling Nathan Road…

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As said before, Nathan Road is the busiest road in Yau Ma Tei. If we walk along the road, we would see mesmerising malls and shops, as well as fast-paced people, busy traffic and flashing neon lights. You might think that Temple Street is jolly enough to enjoy night lives in Hong Kong, you might think that Yau Ma Tei is a good place to illustrate multiple cultures. If you are wise enough to look into small details, Yau Ma Tei is still an “unpolished diamond” – nice edges and corners might shine through, but there are still impurities disguising a large part. The best example is that the quality of rest gardens or sitting-out area do not meet up the quantity. A lot of them are next to busy roads and are way too noisy to enjoy ourselves by sitting there. Also, there are too little facilities for the elderlies to do exercise. The quality of life of most of the residents there are not up to standards. Track 38 illustrate an old man and old woman was pushing two carts full of cardboxes to a recycling station, then pushing the empty cart out again for getting more so as to earn more from the shop. Moreover, the most of the public housings are too old and might cause danger if there are no renovation. Urban renewal takes time for sure, but the government should not put people’s entertainment needs (the Theatre, for example) before their basic needs.


1. Statutory Plan Index by Town Planning Board

2. Information of Yau Ma Tei (1)

3. Information of Yau Ma Tei (2)

4. Information of Tin Hau Temple Complex (1)

5. Information of Tin Hau Temple Complex (2)

6. Information of Kwong Wah Hospital

7. Information of Queen Elizabeth Hospital

8. Information of Yau Ma Tei Police Station

9. Information of Yau Ma Tei Theatre and Red Brick Building


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