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2006 Honourable Mention

Liu Ying Lung Study Hall

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Project TitleLiu Ying Lung Study Hall

LocationHong Kong SAR, China

Size320 square metres

CostApproximately US$ 700,000

Responsible PartyLiu Tung Hoi and Liu Fu Sau

Heritage ArchitectAntiquities and Monuments Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department & KCL FiSEC Limited

ContractorLAEC Construction Limited

Date of CompletionJanuary 2006


Project Synopsis

Built in 1838 by the Liu clan, the Liu Ying Lung Study Hall served as a place for ancestor worship and as a communal hall for clan functions. As the name suggests, it was also used as a place of study for local children in Chinese classics.

Typologically, it is in the form of a traditional two-hall complex, with the halls opening out to a central courtyard. The rear hall, known as the Main Hall, accommodates the altars and ancestral tablets of the Liu clan. The Study Hall incorporates a unique feature of ancestral halls of the region, the chiu pik, or feng shui wall. According to local villagers, the chiu pik walls were built to protect ancestral halls from evil spirits. The main construction materials are Chinese grey brick, granite and traditional double-layer Chinese red pan and roll roof tiles.

The Study Hall underwent major alterations during the twentieth century as its function changed from village school to meeting place and venue for ritual celebrations, before returning in the mid-1960s to an educational use as a kindergarten. Both the interior and exterior were extensively altered during the adaption to a kindergarten, with window openings made in the façade and side walls, and the enlargement and enclosure of two side chambers in the courtyard to form classrooms. 

Its recent restoration, privately funded and carried out by the Liu clan with technical assistance from the Antiquities and Monuments Office, was timed to coincide with the Dajiao festival in 2006, a once-in-60-years Liu clan event. The project aimed to reverse all the recent alternations and restore the hall to its original appearance. It was intended that the Study Hall would form a focal point for Dajiao festivities, as well as serve as a symbol for the unity and identity of the Liu clan.

Highlights of the Conservation Approach

It was recognized that members of the Liu clan could have differing expectations of the outcome of the restoration, and that these expectations could be different to those of potential visitors and conservation professionals. A priority in the early stages of the project, therefore, was to explore how to navigate between these different expectations.  Ultimately, it was decided to follow the conservation philosophy, “do as little as possible and as much as necessary” and to employ traditional techniques. Documentation of the conservation process was also a priority, so that the project could be used as a model for the restoration of other ancestral and study halls. 

From a technical perspective, the lack of information about the Study Hall prior to the 1960s alteration became a constraint in defining the scope of the restoration work. It was known that the roof had been raised, the timber trusses had been replaced by steel trusses and that the brickwork had been painted. Other elements were known to be original and of significance, such as the wooden brackets in the front hall, elegantly carved with auspicious Chinese motifs, and the well-preserved traditional Chinese mural paintings. To retrieve evidence of the hall’s earlier condition, in order to plan the conservation project in an informed manner, a preliminary investigation, cleaning and condition assessment were carried out.   

For the brickwork, this involved careful removal of the paint and cleaning on both the exterior and interior walls with the low pressure JOS cleaning system, followed by a detailed condition survey. It was revealed that the brickwork was in very poor condition and needed urgent repair. Varying techniques were used depending on the precise nature of the issue. Defects in the brick columns were patched with brick dust while isolated deteriorated bricks were individually replaced. In areas with structural problems, total reconstruction was required. Rising damp was identified as an underlying problem and, accordingly, a trench was dug around the perimeter of the hall, with subsoil drain pipes installed, to address the issue.

Breaking up the floor finishes in a side chamber to the central courtyard revealed original granite curb stones, which were cleaned and incorporated in the restored building.  

Granite column bases salvaged from a nearby location were confirmed by elders to be originally from the building and were positioned in their original locations. 

The original configuration was restored by reversing the 1960s interventions. The side chambers were returned to their former sizes. Timber trusses replaced the metal roof structure and the new windows were bricked in as before. Door gods and decorations on the roof ridges were repainted while door frames were re-lacquered. Ancestral tablets, plaques and wall murals were cleaned by conservation specialists. An exception to restoring the fabric to its original form was the preservation of a 1950s grocery shop advertisement. After discussion, it was decided that this should be kept as evidence of the living standards of the villagers at the time. 

Conservation and the Community

In bringing the Study Hall back into the life of the Liu clanon the occasion of the most recent Dajiao festival, the conservation project had a direct impact on the Liu community, both within Hong Kong and overseas. This tangible cultural heritage project facilitated the preservation and continuation of important aspects of the intangible cultural heritage of the community. These include the observance of traditional rituals and celebrations which centred on the Study Hall, as well as the intangible heritage associated with the building techniques and rituals employed in the restoration process, including a work commencement ceremony, a ridge purlin lifting ceremony and a rehabilitation ceremony. Furthermore, from its inception the conservation project was intended to be documented and shared as a model of conservation of a traditional study house, which increased the importance of the project to the broader community of the region.

Quote from the Project Team

“Through holding the Dajiao festival and restoring the Study Hall, the Lius were aware of the importance of both tangible and intangible cultural heritage as part of their social and ethnic identity.”