iPlay Blake Garden

Under the shade of the big banyan tree

HK’s first public garden

The plague caused enormous damage to Hong Kong’s image as an international port. A month after the plague broke out, two thirds of the population had already fled the city and it was time for drastic measures. An area of about 10 acres containing crowded tenement houses, filthy streams and animal shelters was cordoned off and evacuated. When the first outbreak seemed under control, the government passed an Ordinance to acquire all buildings in the area and subsequently tore everything down to lay out a new street pattern.

The second Governor, Henry Blake, insisted that part of the area should be reserved for a public open space and gardens to relieve overcrowding and in 1905, Blake Garden opened its gates to the public.

Nourishment from the spirits

The single most striking feature of Blake Garden is the enormous banyan tree. Banyan trees have a surprising ability to survive in Hong Kong’s concrete surroundings. The secret is in the aerial roots, reaching all the way to the ground, that allows the tree to branch out further.

The sad history of Tai Ping Shan was then buried under the flowers and birdsong of Blake Garden. Giant banyan trees locked in the souls of the dead, their benign roots driving out putrid vapors so that everything implied by the name “Peace Mountain” [Tai Ping Shan] came true.’
— Dung Kai-Cheung, The Archaeology of an Imaginary City (2011):

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