【明報專訊】LARGE QUANTITIES of ancient relics have been unearthed at the site of To Kwa Wan Station of Shatin to Central Link (SCL). Considering them to be important finds, the Antiquities and Monuments Office has asked that the MTR Corporation Ltd (MTRCL) extend the area of the archaeological project. The MTRCL has agreed to do so. The project is expected to be completed in the third quarter of this year. Scheduled to end in the third quarter of last year, it has been extended for one year. Some are worried that the MTRCL may pick a conservation plan "convenient to itself" lest the SCL project should be impeded. Nevertheless, the company has agreed to have the completion date put back. Such an attitude is to be favoured.
More than one square-shaped well dating from the Yuan or Song Dynasty and many cultural relics have been found at the site of To Kwa Wan Station. This being the case, citizens talk about some questions of Hong Kong's history with genuine interest. When did Hong Kong's history begin? What did the Kowloon City vicinity (where the Sung Wong Toi stone carving stands) look like? When was the place called Hong Kong now first inhabited? From the perspective of history or archaeology, these are extremely important questions to probe into in reshaping Hong Kong's history or finding its roots. One may say the MTRCL, which has extended the area of the archaeological site near To Kwa Wan Station at the instance of the Antiquities and Monuments Office, has at the present stage followed good advice.
It has been a focus of attention over the past decade how the SAR government can strike a clever balance between development and conservation. The To Kwa Wan archaeological finds should be regarded as important constituents of Hong Kong's history. Whether a new history of Hong Kong that is different from the UK version written in the colonial era can be completed without a hitch depends very much on how the SAR government looks at the conservation of antiquities.
As square-shaped wells and large numbers of relics have been discovered, in our opinion, Hong Kong's archaeological abilities may not be such that everything will be satisfactorily attended to. If it is determined that the archaeological project should be carried through, help may be sought through government agencies and tertiary institutions from the mainland and other parts of the world. One important aspect of archaeology is comparison. The mainland is way ahead of Hong Kong in experience and expertise. If mainland experts' help is relied upon in carrying out the project, half the effort will yield twice the result. Mainland archaeological efforts have yielded noticeable results in recent years. For example, the Xicheng Yi site in Zhangye, Gansu, is one that draws world attention. It is only natural for Hong Kong to seek help from the mainland. Conceivably, such a request will not be denied.
Archaeology is nothing inferior in the West, and one of its strengths is technology. In this respect Hong Kong has an advantage by virtue of its geographical position. Though mainland archaeologists are having more and more exchanges with their counterparts in the rest of the world, Hong Kong tertiary institutions, having long played the role of a bridge between the East and the West, can do what will go a long way towards further excavating the To Kwa Wan site.