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History of Tsim sha tsui


Tsim Sha Tsui appears in Ming Dynasty documents from ancient times but only as an area of small villages and sea front piers. During the 1850s it was mostly known as the area in which incense grown in what is now the New Territories was exported via sea. Hence the area was constantly full of fragrance from the shipments and became known as the Fragrant Harbour, a term still used today to describe Victoria Harbour or indeed the whole of Hong Kong.  In 1819 it is mentioned as being part of Tsim Sha Tsui with Tsim Sha Tau, the later place name no longer being used.  At this time the name Chien-sha-tsui was also used for the district.

By the early 19th century the region had become a major trade route and in 1839 the TST peninsular was a major provision point for sailing boats from around the world that came to trade in China, mostly going up the Pearl River to Canton.  On the 7th of July in that year a riot occurred started over an argument over alcohol and some British and American sailors desecrated a Taoist Temple in Tsim Sha Tsui.  A man named Lin Weixi was killed and the 6 sailors responsible were arrested.

The ensuing arguments between British and Chinese Imperial authorities over the jurisdiction for trying them was part of the start of the First Opium War ending in 1842.

On the 18th of October 1860, at the culmination of the Second Opium War, the region was ceded to Britain as part of the Kowloon under the terms of the Convention of Peking.  The area had been leased earlier in the year, but after the war it was outright ceded and did not return to Chinese hands until 1997 after 137 years.


Under British rule Tsim Shau Tsui developed rapidly as a trading centre, and with the establishment in 1888 of the Star Ferry crossing became well integrated with the rest of Hong Kong.  At this time the area was mostly used as a residential area for European settlers, with so-called Garden Housing replicating the styles of house and garden seen by the residents in their native European countries.


By the turn of the 19th century however overcrowding on Hong Kong island expanded into Tsim Sha Tsui and more densely built housing and light industry started to develop with warehouses and piers being developed.


The next big turning point for Tsim Shau Tsui was the establishment of the Kowloon to Canton Railway, which started operation on the 1st October 1910.  A terminus was built right on the waterfront in Tsim Shau Tsui on reclaimed land, not completed until 1915 this was to be a major transport point until the 1970s.  Being possible to take a train from Kowloon all the way into China made trade and tourism possible in ways that had never been possible before.  Via connections with the trans-Siberian it was possible to travel by train from Tsim Sha Tsui to London in a matter of weeks.


And with tourists arriving now into Tsim Sha Tsui more and more tourist facilities were developed, most importantly and famously being The Peninsular, opened in 1928 and known as the Finest Hotel East of Suez.  This was just the start of Tsim Sha Tsui's development into a major tourist location with the southern part of Nathan Road becoming the Golden Mile.

In 1975 the Railway Station was relocated to Hong Hum and the area became the Cultural Centre and the Space Museum, two much ridiculed buildings at the time which have since become well loved and iconic of Tsim Sha Tsui.


Today the area continues to be developed, most recently with the major iSquare and The One developments, the conversion of the old Marine Police Headquarters into the Historic 1888 shopping site, and the establishment of even more high end hotels.


Tsim Sha Tsui Tsimshatsui?

In Chinese the district is called 尖沙嘴, which literally means Tip Sand Mouth, and is a reference to the sandy river which once flowed here, long since covered by land reclamation.  The pronunciation is impossible to describe using Roman letters alone, some attempts include Jim Shar Joy and Chim Sa Choi but none are of course accurate, and it is very hard for a non Chinese native to pronounce the words correctly.  Hence the common abriviation into TST - sounded out as "tee-ess-tee".  Everybody in Hong Kong will understand if you say TST.

When it comes to writing you will see Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsimshatsui used equally, both are acceptable.  But not Tsimsha Tsui or Tsim Shatsui, that would be incorrect.  However you say or write it, TST is a fascinating place to be.


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