Seeing in the dark : Hong Kong Harbour and Lighthouses

夜航明燈 : 香港港口與燈塔

Research output: Scholarly Books, Monographs, Reports and Case StudiesRGC 14 - Edited book (Editor)

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  • Steve Ching (Editor)
  • Ivan Yeung (Editor)
  • Cora Lee (Editor)


Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHong Kong
PublisherHong Kong Maritime Museum
Number of pages174
ISBN (print)9789881465290
Publication statusPublished - 2021


Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city that has grown from centuries long maritime trade. Much of its historical heritage is inextricably tied to the oceans on which it has thrived. Reflecting and symbolising such heritage are the lighthouses along the Maritime Silk Road that stretches from Hong Kong all the way to Europe. When a vessel sails choppy and rough seas in the dark, a lighthouse is the most important navigational aid guiding vessels forward safely. It symbolises the seamen’s courage steering through the oceans, the progress of civilisation and the evolution of technology. Although lighthouses have been so significant and were erected all along the coast of Hong Kong, people may overlook them.

To study the harbours and lighthouses with archival collections from a multidisciplinary perspective, City University of Hong Kong (CityU) launched the Lighthouse Heritage Research Connections project six years ago. Funded by the Maritime and Aviation Training Fund (MATF), Hong Kong Maritime Museum (HKMM) and CityU co-organised exhibitions “Seeing in the dark: Hong Kong Harbour and Lighthouses” on two occasions. The highlights of the exhibitions are archival documents that were never exhibited in Hong Kong before which include drawings of “Plan of Station – Waglan Island Lighthouse” and “Cast Iron Lighthouse Tower for the Island Nearest to the Gap Rock” which were hand-drawn by the Engineer-in-Chief of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service, David Marr Henderson, on 3 March 1894 and 13 May 1887 respectively; and The Chinese Serial (hand-copy version in Japan) which is owned by KOUEKIZAIDANHOUJIN NABESHIMA HOUKOUKAI and deposited at Saga Prefectural Library. The exhibitions also recollected the Hong Kong lighthouse humanities stories through oral history. LHRC would like to thank David Marr Henderson’s great-granddaughter, Felicity Somers Eve; former Waglan Island Lighthouse Principal Lighthouse Keeper Charles Thirlwell’s family members, his widow Mary Leung, children James Thirlwell, Catherine Thirlwell and Christine Thirlwell, granddaughter Olivia Thirlwell and niece Stella Leung; former Waglan Island Lighthouse Lighthouse Keeper Lai Kam Dai’s son, Lai Tim; former Green Island Lighthouse Lighthouse Keeper Lai Wing Hung; former Legislative Council member Chan Ying-lun Peter; and a collector of printed materials in the late Qing Dynasty and Republican period Roy Delbyck for sharing valuable historical documents and photos.

The exhibitions served as a bridge connecting students and faculty members from disciplines such as architecture, civil engineering, translation, linguistics, history, creative media, communication, and media studies, who have fruitfully shared their specialised knowledge, skills and expertise. Participants have organised and carried out rewarding research on different aspects of lighthouse heritage, transcribed and translated archival documents, created digital renderings and artworks, produced documentary films, and worked as curators and general organisers of events and exhibitions.

For an overview of the lighthouse heritage and port development in Hong Kong, the history of four particular lighthouses and the stories of a Hong Kong-born Western Waglan Island Lighthouse keeper will be discussed and presented in new media formats. The purpose of this booklet is to recall the forgotten relationships between lighthouses and the people of Hong Kong through encouraging interdisciplinary students to conduct research on lighthouses and present their findings using various digital tools.

The students were able to study primary sources and present their findings, with the collaborative support of the specialists from the LHRC and the HKMM, all of whom fervently wish that by participating in the preparation of the exhibition, the students develop both their information and digital literacy skills with cultural heritage as a platform, reviving the forgotten memories and stories of Hong Kong lighthouses together for the whole community.

It is hoped that this book will improve the understanding of Hong Kong harbour and lighthouses, and engage a larger audience in appreciation of our Hong Kong maritime heritage.

Research Area(s)

  • LHRC, Lighthouse heritage research connections, Cape D'Aguilar Lighthouse, Green Island Lighthouse, Waglan Island Lighthouse

Bibliographic Note

Information for this record is supplemented by the author(s) concerned.

Citation Format(s)

Seeing in the dark: Hong Kong Harbour and Lighthouses. / Ching, Steve (Editor); Yeung, Ivan (Editor); Lee, Cora (Editor).
Hong Kong: Hong Kong Maritime Museum, 2021. 174 p.

Research output: Scholarly Books, Monographs, Reports and Case StudiesRGC 14 - Edited book (Editor)