Urban Walk at Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong
Updated: Apr 10
Yau Ma Tei located at Kowloon side of Hong Kong, is a phonetic transliteration of the name 油麻地 (originally written as 油蔴地) in Cantonese. It can also be spelt as Yaumatei, Yau Ma Ti, Yaumati or Yau-ma-Tee.
Yau (油) literally means "oil", Ma (麻 or 蔴) can either refer to "sesame" or "jute", and Tei (地) means "field" or "open ground". Hence, Yau Ma Tei can be interpreted to mean either "oil-sesame field" or "oil and jute ground". This dual-interpretation is perhaps the reason for there being two explanations for the origin of the place name.
Yau Ma Tei was a village in Kowloon. It was mentioned that a Chinese burial ground was assigned at a mile northeast of a village of Yau-ma-Tee at 2 December 1871.
The name Yau Ma Tei is not thought to pre-date British rule. However, Kwun Chung is mentioned in many historic documents. Kwun Chung was a river valley with village and cultivation. On the hill south near the coast was Kwun Chung Fort built by Chinese (Qing) official Lin Tse-hsu to defend against the British. During the Battle of Kwun Chung in 1839, the fort — together with Tsim Sha Tsui Fort — successfully kept the British from Kowloon. The fort with the hill was demolished for development during early British rule of Kowloon.
Before the ceding of Kowloon to the British in 1860, Yau Ma Tei was a beach and a bay gathering many Tanka fishermen. Its water remains a harbour for fishermen after several times of reclamation by the Hong Kong Government. The Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter became an exotic water area where restaurants on boats offered dishes of indigenous seafood. These 'typhoon shelter dishes' remain famous to this day and are even offered on land. The typhoon shelter not only hosted fishermen, but was also a port in Hong Kong. Numerous piers were built along its shore.
Ferry Point in the southern part of Yau Ma Tei was a transportation hub where many commuters took ferries to and from Hong Kong Island. The service was offered by Hong Kong and Yaumati Ferry.
The Hong Kong International Hobby and Toy Museum, located at No. 330 Shanghai Street, showcases models, toys and pop culture memorabilia from around the world. Exhibits include toy vehicles, dolls, action figures, cartoon characters, science fiction collectibles, model rockets, Japanese anime, classic toys.
Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Museum in Kwong Wah Hospital details the history of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals and its relation with Hong Kong people, is also located in Yau Ma Tei.
Inland, the reclamation became the residential area for the ever-increasing Chinese population, with retail shops on the street level. Shanghai Street was the main street before being replaced by Nathan Road.
Along Waterloo Road is the century-old Fruit Market; its adjacent Yaumati Theatre was once the largest in Kowloon. The Kwong Wah Hospital was the first hospital on the Kowloon peninsula, established in 1911. YMCA headquarters and its hostel in Hong Kong are located on the road.
On 26 January 2021, 12 buildings in Yau Ma Tei were placed under lockdown due to COVID-19.
The district is mainly an area of mixed residential and retail. During day time, the Yau Ma Tei wet market and fruit market are the markets to visit, buying souvenirs like dried noodles and some fruits. Every night there is a market selling many different kinds of products including clothes, decorations, VCD and toys in Temple Street, a street in the area where the famous Tin Hau Temple was built in 1876. The Temple is at Public Square Street. The square, known as Yung Shue Tau, was a night market. Jade Market and Jade Street, China's most revered green stone is in abundance here, with around 400 registered stall owners ready to pitch jade amulets, ornaments, necklaces and trinkets.