Ding uk in Hong Kong 香港丁屋的故事
Ding uk or New Territories Small House Policy is a type of house in Hong Kong where only the indigenous residents of Hong Kong are allowed to build houses on private land. These houses are 700 square feet large and 3 storeys tall, that’s 2100 square feet in total which is a large house in local terms. Here’s an example of a ding uk. In fact this house used to belong to my father, now it belongs to my two brothers.
丁屋是香港男性原居民(男丁)可在私人土地建屋的特權 (原居民的定義是在港英政府1898年接管香港前，居住於深圳河以南界限街以北的村民 ) 。每家丁屋地面面積700平方英呎，3層樓高， 總面積有2100平方呎。在香港來說算是一家很大的房子。這家丁屋以前是我爸爸的，現在屬於我哥哥和弟弟。
The history of ding uk goes back to the 1972 when the Hong Kong government issued the New Territories Small House Policy and gave local male indigenous residents each a right to build one house in their lifetime. The definition of indigenous residents are those who resided in a particular area, the New Territories, prior to 1898 when the British government first took over Hong Kong. Land is extremely scarce in Hong Kong so this was a massive privilege granted to private citizens. In those days, the indigenous residents had quite a lot of power and in a developing society they had an impact on some policies, particularly those concerned them. In the late 60’s Hong Kong moved from an agricultural to industrial society and by the early 70’s the government wanted to develop the New Territories. There was a lot of resistance from the residents, so the government offered a sweetener, and gave them a right to build a house. Ding means male, and uk means house.
丁屋的歷史要追索到60年代末70年代初。 當年香港正從農業步向工業。港英政府想發展新界，有助推動工業，但當時居住在新界的原居民極力反對這些發展。於是港英政府在 1972就推行新界小型屋宇政策。 私人擁有土地在香港極之罕見， 大部分都是原居民才會擁有 ，而這項政策就准許原居民的男丁每人可建造一座房子在私人土地上。
My old man was doing rather well in UK so when the policy was released, he was one of the earlier ones to return to Hong Kong to exercise his right. I think his house was built somewhere around the mid 70’s. You can see its style is a bit dated compared to the one on the left which was built about 20 years later. The smaller house in the middle belongs to an extended family member who opted to build a smaller two storey one. Each house has its own front yard, but that depends on how much land you have. Many of the newer ones built in recent years don’t have such luxury as the land is become more and more scarce. Even if you have the right to build a house, you still have to find a piece of land to build it on and that is becoming increasingly more difficult nowadays.
我老爸在英國環境蠻不錯，政策一開始時是第一批回香港行使他的權利。 他的丁屋應該是大概在70年代中期落成，相比左邊那一家遲了20年才建造的，很明顯是比較古式的建築。 中間較細小只有兩層高的丁屋也是屬於同村的叔伯。 這幾家丁屋都有前院，前院大小沒有規定，視乎你擁有的土地有多大。近年新建的丁屋多數沒有這麼大的前院，因為私人土地已經地越來越少。其實有丁權也不一定能夠建丁屋，因為你還需要自備越來越罕有的私人土地。
When I was a kid I went back to Hong Kong to learn Chinese and live with my grand mother. We lived in this house. The house is located in a village (us indigenous people don’t live in the city) so I had many happy memories of roaming around in the rural area. Unfortunately I don’t have many photos of the inside of the house. Here’s one I found from my younger days. This was taken some time around Chinese New Year as we still have the flowers and the kum kat plant. On the bottom right is the small altar for the gods. The painting behind me was a house warming gift, common in those days. You can see a lot of family photos scattered around including my brother’s wedding photo on the right and my grandfather on the left. My grandfather died when my dad was very young, probably due to smoking too much opium. That’s another story to be told.
年幼時我回香港學中文，跟嬤嬤住在這家丁屋。 可惜我沒有太多屋裏面的照片，只找到這一張少年時拍的，當時應該是農曆新年。右下角可以見到拜土地公公的神位。背後的畫是當年新居入伙時，朋友送給爸爸的，是當年很流行的入伙禮物。 右面有哥哥和嫂嫂結婚時的照片，而左面有我爺爺唯一一張照片。爺爺在爸爸很年幼時已不在，可能是當年吸了太多鴉片煙。有機會跟大家說說他的故事。
After I graduated, I returned to work in Hong Kong and continued to live in this house until I got married. My other photos of the inside of the house are when I got married and I wrote about my Chinese wedding gown. This is one of my best post. Here’s me coming down the stairs, my mum handing me over to my husband to be (the Chinese don’t have a similar father walking the daughter down the aisle tradition) and me leaving the front door.
Today the house is in a bit of a state as nobody lives in it anymore. It’s used for storage more than anything else. The staircase in this photo is the same one as I walked down on my wedding day. 今天，丁屋已沒有人住，開始有些日久失修。現在用來放雜物。照片中後面的樓梯就是我當日結婚走下來那一幢。
A few years ago, urban development finally came to our village. What remained of the scarce land was sold by the villagers to the developers and they started to build high rise buildings. It broke my heart when my brother showed me this photo.
Our house isn’t old by normal standards, but it’s old as it’s the start of a quite controversial policy in Hong Kong . I haven’t been back for many years, next time I’m in Hong Kong I must go back to the village before it disappears all together.
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