History of Hong Kong/Imperial years/Song and Yuan

The Song Dynasty saw an unstable north. As a result, the people from the north moved south, like in the Qin Dynasty. This meant yet another sharp turn in the development of Hong Kong. Puntis started moving to Hong Kong during the Song Dynasty, and guess what? This means economic benefits. We will talk about both the Puntis and the economy. The last two Princes of Song even escaped to Hong Kong. This will be one of the focuses of this chapter.

Historical events


Tuen Mun was a port of extreme importance by the Song Dynasty. Joss House Bay was the only way for people to go to Guangdong from Fujian and Zhejiang. The Lams, who later settled in Hong Kong, entered the city through Joss House Bay. Two Lams went to Guangdong to trade, but were threw overboard and floated on a log, ending up on an island. Their descendents went to Po Kong, Kowloon and settled there. In 1254,[1] Li Angying, the 1st Baron of Panyu, was given 300 households to rule, which included Lantau Island.

The salt-making industry belonged to the government during the Song Dynasty (see the socioeconomic development section below). However, salt was a daily necessity. As the Yaos could not get any salt, some people colluded with them and made salt illegally. Around 1131–1149,[2] Zhu You seized Lantau Island, but later surrenderred to Song. Consequently, officials were sent to suppress the illegal private salt-making industry, but in vain. By 1183,[3] the industry was flourishing.

In 1197,[4] a group of Yao bandits, led by Wan Deng and Xu Shaokui, attacked Guangzhou. The Zhifu of Guangdong, Qian Zhiwang, prayed to the God of the Sea, then sought help from the central government to defeat the Yaos. The Yaos' ships were burnt and Xu was taken alive. Qian ordered all the residents of Lantau to be massacred, but some of the thieves under Wan and Xu escaped to the Wanshan Archipelago.[5] Lantau was repopulated during the Yuan Dynasty.

A inspection and patrol office was also set up during the Song Dynasty to pirates at bay.

In the late Southern Song Dynasty, the Mongols were expanding to the south, so the royals had to move to the South, to Fujian and Guangdong. They included Zhao Shi, the Prince of Yi, and Zhao Bing, the Prince of Guang. In the fifth month of 1276[6] that year, little Shi was crowned Emperor Duanzong, and made the Bing the Prince of Wei as well. The Mongols were still headed south, so Shi had to escape further south of Guangdong. He passed Chaozhou, Huizhou, Dapeng[7] and to Guangzhou.

In the following year, the Mongols invaded Guangzhou. Most of the lords surrenderred, but Shi moved to Meiyu[8] and resided at Tuen Mun. The reason why Shi chose Lantau could be because the island was rather populated and was strong in fishing and salt-making. However, the lack of a means of communication between the island and the mainland led to his defeat. He once went east to see some ancient pagodas, but went back to Tuen Mun. He then moved Qianwan,[9] but then moved to Xiushan[10] when Qianwan was attacked by the Mongols. He moved to Jingao, a place in Macau. After being defeated in Macau, he went back to Gangzhou, Lantau. The exact location of Gangzhou is unknown, although historians believe it was around Tung Chung and Tai O. The emperor died there in the fourth month of 1278.[11] Six days later, Bing was crowned emperor. He moved to Yashan and was defeated in the Battle of Yamen the following year. Bing committed suicide, ending the Song Dynasty.

When Shi and Bing went to Hong Kong, the little emperors went to Sacred Hill to see the panoramic view Kownloon Bay. The spot they went to is now known as Sung Wong Toi. During the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty, people carved a stone tablet that reads 'Sung Wong Toi' there to commemorate their visit, hence the name.

During the late Yuan Dynasty, when many people rose to power and seized a bit of China, Hong Kong was no exception. Over twenty people took a bit of Hong Kong in 1355.[12] One of those people, He Zhen, was the most important. He gave up his official position in 1341 and went to his homeland, where he raised an army and fought thieves. He then returned many places to Yuan rule. The Mongols let him rule them. Despite his success, he knew that the Mongolians were losing, and surrendered to Liao Yongzhong. He went on the become the Earl of Dongguan.

Socioeconomic developments


During the Northern Song Dynasty, the salt-making industry was great, but the people did not benefit from it because the industry was owned by the government. A major salt-making site was built in Tai O during the Northern Song Dynasty. In the Early Song Dynasty, the famous salt-making site, Guanfu, was set up. It was ruled by a government official and was protected by a small navy. It ensured that nobody sold or smuggled salt without permission.

Otherwise, fishing, farming, and lime-making were the main ways of making a living in the Song Dynasty. Puntis farmed in the inland areas of Hong Kong, mostly the New Territories, although some farm in the islands as well. Rice, vegetables and fruits were planted. There were tea leaves produced as well, although those were not for sale. Of the 29 lime kilns found across Hong Kong, some are believed to be built in the Song Dynasty, although there are no records so one cannot tell for sure.

The Central Plain was a mess at the end of the Northern Song Dynasty, so people went south to the New Territories. The Tangs started moving into the city in 973, but went back, and did not come back until the late Northern Song Dynasty.

Guanfu was abolished during the Yuan Dynasty. It was replaced with the Tuen Mun Inspection and Patrol Office,[13] which ruled Hong Kong from Tuen Mun Cai – walled city.[14] It was also ruled by a government official and 150 soldiers were stationed there. The head of the office was a low-ranking official who was responsible for interrogating criminals, catching people selling salt, and so on.

The number of salt-making sites in Hong Kong decreased from 17 to 14 in the Yuan Dynasty. Guanfu was abolished because its geographical location was not beneficial, so it was not efficient, and that it was harmful to the people. Records instead went to Huangtian, another salt-making site in Shenzhen.

There was an edict to restart the official pearl-hunting at Tolo Harbour during the reign of Kublai Khan in 1280,[15] and Temür Khan allowed the Tankas one hunt every three years in 1299.[16] In 1319,[17] Buyantu Khan set up a sinecure to control the pearl-hunting industry, and banned it the following year under the rationale that it was socially detrimental, and dismissed the sinecure. Ukhaantu Khan undid this ban and restarted the sinecure in 1337.[18]

Puntis, Hakkas and clans


In the late Southern Song Dynasty, many Hakkas participated in Man Tin Cheung's anti-Mongolian battles. After Man's fall, many Hakkas escaped to the New Territories, and built villages there. The Mans, who are now considered Puntis (this will be discussed in the next chapter), were one of them. The Man clan are descended from Man Tin Sui, a cousin of Man Tin Cheung's. The Ngs also moved to Hong Kong then.


  1. The second year of Baoyou.
  2. During the period of Shaoxing.
  3. The tenth year of Chunxi.
  4. The third year of Qingyuan.
  5. The Wanshan Archipelago is a group of islands in the Zhu Jiang Delta. The Portuguese called them the Thieves Islands because thieves liked to hide there.
  6. The first year of Jingyan.
  7. Present-day Mirs Bay.
  8. Present-day Silvermine Bay, Lantau Island.
  9. Present-day Tsuen Wan.
  10. Present-day Humen Town, Dongguan.
  11. The first year of Xiangxing.
  12. The fifth year of Zhizheng.
  13. The 'Inspection and Patrol Office' was invented during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period and was widely used during the Song Dynasty.
  14. The Cai replaced the Tseng.
  15. The twenty-seventh year of Zhiyuan.
  16. The third year of Dade.
  17. The third year of Yuanyou
  18. The third year of Zhiyuan.