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December
Liu Ying Lung Study Hall restoration project wins UNESCO Heritage Award
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A restoration project of the Liu Ying Lung Study Hall co-ordinated by the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and the Restoration Committee of Hin Shing Tong has won an Honourable Mention in the 2006 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.

The awards presentation ceremony was held today (December 5) at the Liu Ying Lung Study Hall in Sheung Shui in the presence of representatives of UNESCO.

Officiating guests of the ceremony were Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho Chi-ping, Regional Adviser for Culture in Asia and the Pacific of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Dr Richard Engelhardt, Chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, Mr Edward Ho Sing-tin, and Director of LCSD, Mr Thomas Chow. The Head of the Liu Clan, Mr Liu Ching Lin, Chairman of the Restoration Committee of Hin Shing Tong, Mr Liu Tung Hoi, and Manager of Ying Lung Sz Sai Tso, Mr Liu To Hing, were present as representatives to receive the award.

The UNESCO programme this year drew 36 projects from 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. One Award of Excellence, two Awards of Distinction, three Awards of Merit and three projects given an Honourable Mention were awarded by a panel of international expert conservationists in architecture, urban planning, heritage conservation and landscape design.

The programme drew three entries from Hong Kong, among which the Liu Ying Lung Study Hall project was recognised with an Honourable Mention. St Andrew's Church won an Award of Merit.

The UNESCO experts said that the Liu Ying Lung Study Hall was dramatically restored to its original Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911) condition in preparation for the 60-year "Dajiao" Festival. The removal of intrusive modern alterations added in the past century has revealed the building's historic layout and structure. The study hall, complete with conserved murals and vernacular architectural details, now served as a fitting backdrop for reviving communal social functions and rituals, which recognised the project's merits.

Situated at Po Sheung Tsuen, Sheung Shui, the Liu Ying Lung Study Hall is one of the three major ancestral halls built by the Liu clan since their settlement in Sheung Shui Wai. The study hall was built in 1838 to commemorate Liu Ying Lung, the fourth generation ancestor of the Liu clan in Sheung Shui Wai. It is a traditional two-hall study hall with an open courtyard in between which gives its symmetrical and orderly layout. The study hall stands as one of the finest ancestral halls in Sheung Shui Wai.

In 1910, the hall was used as "Bok Bok Chai", an educational institution to teach Chinese classics to local children. It was once used as a meeting place and a venue for celebrating traditional festivals and feasts. Due to a continuous growth of the village population, the demand for education grew over the decades. The Fung Kai Kindergarten was established in the Liu Ying Lung Study Hall in 1965, providing educational opportunities for children.

The Liu Ying Lung Study Hall also has a special social value to the Lius in the New Territories. The study hall with three altars inside the Red Hall was used for worship of ancestors. It also served as a venue for ceremonies and rituals such as wedding and traditional Chinese festivals. The study hall was not only a meeting place, it also enhanced the bonding force among the members of lineage. It is indeed a symbol of the common identity among the members of the Ying Lung Sz Sai Tso lineage.

The Study Hall is a Grade II historical building. Funded by the Ying Lung Sz Sai Tso, the restoration project of about five million dollars, was commenced in September 2004 and completed in March 2006. The AMO was invited by the Restoration Committee in 2003 as the Consultant of the project.

This restoration project was aimed at removing modern alterations added to the study hall in the 1960s for accommodating the kindergarten and restore the building to its Qing dynasty architectural style. Prior to the preparation of detailed specifications, full cartographic survey and investigation works to the study hall were undertaken to appreciate the construction methods and defects of the building, and to formulate appropriate conservation approaches.

In line with international conservation principles, conserving and enhancing the cultural significance of the study hall were major concerns. During investigation, remnants of the original roof structure and the granite foundations of the two side chambers were revealed, which gave invaluable help in restoring the extensively altered side chambers and open courtyard.

Additionally, the later-added impermeable paint on the brick walls was completely removed by advanced technique, reviving the original green brick surfaces. Deteriorated bricks were replaced by old bricks one by one, while disintegrated truss systems, purlins and camel humps eroded by termites were replaced by new timber components with compatible forms and materials.

The murals on the facade and interior of the study hall were cleaned by conservation experts of the Conservation Section of LCSD with extra care. Subsequently, sophisticated artists painted the faded and omitted parts to keep the murals of quaint style. All 240 ancestral tables in the altars, as well as the honourable plaques and couplets in the study hall, were conserved.

Ends/Tuesday, December 5, 2006
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