A Pattern of Life—Essays on Rural Hong Kong by James Hayes

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“For myself, however, it is the human element, the recollected words,
the remembered faces, which give life to the printed record.”

James Hayes’s many writings have made a major contribution to knowledge about life in rural Hong Kong. This book presents sixteen of his illuminating and original articles, each of which is rooted in his experiences as a district officer, administering and visiting villages under his care. His interest in the life and lives of the people went far beyond the formal demands of his official work, and Dr Hayes grew to admire and respect the villagers. As a result, his writings are suffused with his affection and esteem. Intended for scholars in the field of New Territories history as well as general readers interested in rural life in the region, A Pattern of Life provides a fascinating, academically important, yet highly readable picture of traditional life in rural South China and reinforces Dr Hayes’s reputation as one of the most important writers on the New Territories.

“[James was] the archetypical example of those remarkable Colonial Service officers who became fascinated by, and deeply engaged with, the territories and people which it was their task to administer.”

– Lord Wilson of Tillyorn
Governor of Hong Kong (1987–1992)
Pub. Date
Dec 1, 2020
456 pages
152 x 229 mm


 Editor’s Introduction

Learning All the Time, Sharing All the Time:
         Biography of Dr James Hayes,
by Robert Nield


  1     The Pattern of Life in the New Territories in 1898 

  2     Rural Leadership in the Hong Kong Region:
         Village Autonomy in a Traditional Setting

  3     Chinese Customary Law in the New Territories
         of Hong Kong

  4     Education and Management in Rural South China
         in the Late Qing


  5     A Chinese Village on Hong Kong Island Fifty Years
         Ago: Tai Tam Tuk, Village Under the Water

  6     Old Ways of Life in Kowloon: The Cheung
         Sha Wan Villages

  7     The Old Popular Culture of China and
         Its Contribution to Stability in Tsuen Wan


  8     Cheung Chau 1850–1898:
         Information from Commemorative Tablets

  9     Notes and Impressions of the  Cheung Chau Community

10    A Mixed Community of Cantonese and Hakka
         on Lantau Island

11    The Settlement and Development
         of a Multi-Clan Village

12    Village Credit at Shek Pik 1879–1895

13    San Po Tsai (Little Daughters-in-Law) and Child
         Betrothals in the New Territories of Hong Kong
         from the 1890s to the 1960s

14    Geomancy and the Village

15    Feng Shui and Road Works at Tong Fuk Village,
         South Lantau, in 1958

16    The New Territories Twenty Years Ago:
         From the Notebooks of a District Officer

Bibliography of Works by Dr James Hayes,
compiled by Colin Day

Hugh D.R. Baker is Emeritus Professor of Chinese at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). His research work has mainly been conducted in Hong Kong where in the early 1960s he lived in a village studying the history and organisation of a long-established clan. He has published widely on Chinese culture, history, society, and language, was Chinese language Training Adviser to the Hong Kong Government in the early 1970s, and has made considerable contributions in radio, television, and newspaper writings.