The Hong Kong Cemetery, established in 1845, is the oldest and best surviving example of a Western cemetery garden in Hong Kong. It captures the essence of the 19th century cemetery garden movement in Europe when cemeteries were designed to be both places of dignified memorial and quiet recreation. Comprising 10 hectares of rich woodland habitat with over 10,000 exquisitely carved granite and marble memorials set in terraces of lawn and a charming funeral chapel – Hong Kong’s oldest surviving colonial building, the Hong Kong Cemetery is perhaps one of Hong Kong’s most forgotten and undervalued natural and built heritage sites.
Guided by Dr. Ken Nicholson, the tour will explore the cultural landscape of the cemetery as it was originally intended, inspired by the words of John Loudon, the famous Scottish 19th century cemetery designer: "Churchyards and cemeteries are scenes not only calculated to improve the morals and the taste, and by their botanical riches to cultivate the intellect, but they also serve as historical records." The route will include visits to memorials of influential business people, military heroes, political activists, and the victim of a tiger attack, to name a few. Along the way, the symbolism of the plant species and funerary iconography will be explained and the conservation challenges facing this wonderful heritage site will be discussed.
A landscape architect and architecture conservationist, Dr. Ken Nicholson has lived and worked in Hong Kong since 1984. He is also Adjunct Assistant Professor to the Architecture Conservation Programme in the Department of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong. His doctorate, obtained in 2005, was HKU’s first Ph.D in heritage conservation and introduced a new approach to understanding and conserving heritage sites as cultural landscapes and not simply as isolated buildings divorced from their landscape context. The Hong Kong Cemetery was the case study that proved this approach to be effective and has become the subject of his book, "The Happy Valley: A History and Tour of the Hong Kong Cemetery", published in June 2010.