Peak - Literary Works
The Peak Environment
Gillingham, Paul (1983) At the Peak.
Hong Kong, Macmillan Publishers Ltd, pp. 17-28.
| It was claimed at the time that reserving the Peak
for Europeans had nothing to do with racial discrimination.
The purpose of the reservation was "to provide a
congestion-free area which would preserve the health of
foreigners living in a hot and trying climate and which,
in times of strike or internal disorder, would afford
some protection". Michael Wright believes that the
racial exclusiveness of the Peak arose out of a genuine
fear of disease and the belief that, if Chinese were allowed
to live there, they would start building Chinese-style
tenement houses which, on the lower levels, were notoriously
The Peak's uncongested environment protected its denizens
from the diseases which ravaged the coolie masses below.
The Peak even became sufficiently mosquito-free by the
late thirties to allow residents to dispense with that
domestic article so essential to foreigners living in
the Orient, the mosquito curtain. A great advantage of
the Peak was that, in the days before air-conditioning,
it was five or six degrees cooler than the lower levels
at night. As people dressed more formally then, even on
casual occasions, the cooler air in summer was welcome.
The benefit of losing a few degrees in the summer, however,
was offset by the uncomfortable chilliness of the winter,
when the barometer could plunge dramatically. Peak sites
fortified themselves against the cold with roaring fires
and stiffer drinks. The Hong Kong Telegraph reported in
1932, "A local taipan swears he's seen ice on the
Peak. We've often heard this about cocktail time."
Coping with mildew was always a problem for Peak sites.
Fur coats could be stored during the hot season in a refrigerated
room on the top of the Dairy Farm building in Wyndham
Street and in every Peak residence there was a large drying
room with a coke stove in it, which kept the Peak fire
station busy. Before flush toilets, all Peak residences
had dry latrines or "thunderboxes", as the locals
called them. Coolies came round every day to collect the
night soil, which was loaded on to barges and dumped into
the sea off Lantau, or sold off to a contractor who in
turn sold it to farmers as fertilizer.