The rebirth of Lung Tsai Ng Yuen, Lantau’s hidden gem

After decades of neglect, one of Lantau’s forgotten gems has been returned to its former quiet glory.

Lung Tsai Ng Yuen – the name means Garden of Enlightenment at Lung Tsai – has been restored as a retreat in the hills of southwest Lantau.

Founded in 1962 by textiles baron Wu Kunsheng as a secluded garden and religious haven, it fell into disrepair after his death.

It is well-remembered locally. Older Lantau residents recall visiting as children, where they played in the gardens and witnessed its exotic wildlife collection.

Upper cottage and garden

In the last five years Wu’s grandchildren have raised and spent a hefty sum on restoring Ng Yuen’s buildings and gardens.

A writer from Economic Times described a visit 18 months ago:

“Once upon a time, Ng Yuen was hailed as a ‘Hidden Paradise’ on Lantau Island. The valley was full of green bamboo plants and the zigzag bridge crossed the lotus ponds. In the glory days of the 1960s, the garden also raised peacock and deer. Recently, the desolate garden retreat has returned to life.”

The refurbished main building, with its green curved roof, now hosts occasional visitors.

Lotus pond and bridge

The top floor offers a view of the revitalised garden. Once badly overgrown, it has been trimmed back to reveal its rich natural treasures. It is now carefully maintained.

Local botanic artist Sally Bunker, who helped restore the garden, says it is home to a number of rare and protected native plants such as rhodoleia and champaka.

The water pine that stands at the edge of the pond is one of only a few hundred in the world.

Founder Wu Kunsheng, born in Shanghai, was a devout Buddhist who used to go to the nearby Mancheung Po Temple to perform merits.

He was inspired by the quiet hills of western Lantau, which have long been a base for religious activity, and decided to build his own retreat.

Zigzag bridge and pavilion 

According to EJ Insight:

Construction work started in 1962, and Wu’s garden took four years and HK$2 million [about HK$200 million in today’s money] to complete. He called it Ng Yuen and opened it to the public.

Lung Tsai Ng Yuen follows the classical architectural style of Jiangnan gardens. The two-storey main building lies in the south of the garden and houses various Buddhist articles.

As well as its beauty and serenity, the lovingly restored site is a link to Hong Kong history.

One of many Shanghai exiles to flee to Hong Kong after the communist takeover, Wu co-founded Wyler Textiles in the late 1940s.

 

More zigzag

Starting with a single spinning plant at To Kwa Wan, it became one of Hong Kong’s biggest textile firms in the ‘50s and ‘60s when textiles was the city’s largest industry.

One thing that has not changed about Lung Tsai Ng Yuen is its inaccessibility.

There is no road, though it can be be reached on foot by a number of ways (see below).

If you do travel there, remember it remains not only a quiet retreat but also a private property. Please respect the wishes of the occupants not to be disturbed.

Pond pavilion

GETTING TO LUNG TSAI NG YUEN

Up Lantau Trail Section 6 from Tai O (about 45 minutes-one hour);

Via Lantau Trail Section 5 from Keung Shan Road (Sham Wat turnoff) (one and a half to two hours)

Via Keung Shan Path (about 40 minutes)

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