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40th Anniversary, CUHK
Flower talks
Victoria Peak - Literary Works

Anonymous (1982) Hong Kong Then & Now.
Hong Kong, South China Morning Post Publication Division 11, pp. 155-166.

In fact in the beginning, people could not even be persuaded to live on the Peak for dwelling up on the heights was considered even less healthy than down below. "It needed doughty pioneers among the British residents," as some old notes on Hong Kong put it, "to change this outlook." Perhaps the failure of the first military sanatorium on the Peak had something to do with continuing this prejudice for a few years longer, the writer mused. According to his version, the idea of "obtaining health" in the Peak atmosphere was mooted soon after the founding of the Colony. The Colonial Surgeon in 1848, Dr. William T. Morrison, had suggested the erection of a Government sanatorium on Victoria Peak at about 1,700 feet above sea level.

There was considerable divergence of opinion among the doctors at the time, both civilian and military, and nothing came of the idea for a while. In fact, it was not until 1862 that the military sanatorium came into being. This was built at the recommendation of the principal medical officer of the station, and was opened in the spring of that year. It was a substantial building, erected on a small plateau just below the flagstaff on Victoria Peak. It had unfortunately, however, a bad reputation from the start. Cases were sent up unsuited to the occasion: something of an epidemic of diarrhea had broken out among the troops-probably what we now know as "Hong Kong Dog"—and the sufferers were sent up to the sanatorium where, probably as an effect of the colder atmosphere, they grew worse instead of improving. On that bare trial the military authorities were prepared to condemn the whole scheme, and the place was subsequently abandoned.

The prejudice so born lived long afterwards and only when the far-seeing Mr. Granville Sharp, long an advocate of Peak residence, leased the deserted sanatorium and managed to interest others in building houses on the upper levels, did the idea again catch on. Perhaps a more practical objection was simply that of living in the clouds. The mists "which hang heavy, thick and penetratingly damp, over the higher levels almost constantly throughout the spring months and at unpredictable times the rest of the year, hardly make up for the few degrees of cooler weather found at the top. And besides, for a long time people believed that the prevailing dampness, the "noxious vapours" rising out of the damp soil at night, were a primary cause of "Hong Kong fever" (which was of course malaria) which was exacerbated by the even more "unhealthy" atmosphere of the Peak. Small wonder then, that no one could be persuaded to set up residence in the higher levels.

Sir Hercules Robinson was the first Governor to support the development of the Peak for building sites. He ordered the cutting of a pathway to the top of Victoria Peak in 1859 and later established the original Governor's upper-level residence there.

Then came the Peak Tram in 1888, the main plan being to "enable residents to move freely up and down the hillside instead of depending as they did entirely on chairs carried by coolies."


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