Street names: Tai Kok Tsui's Tree names

Street names: Tai Kok Tsui's Tree names

I moved to Hong Kong four years ago and one thing that has always been a struggle for me is remembering street names. I am in general bad at remembering names, so remembering Cantonese street names has posed challenges. Some street names are only in Cantonese and just spelled like how it sounds in Cantonese. However, a few streets are translated into English or have their own name in English.  

I love walking around Hong Kong and exploring the different neighbourhoods and areas. When walking around I try to find out what is the name of the street, just to remember where I have been and to see if there is any history related to the street. Hong Kong was a British colony and it has influenced the street names. Some examples are Queen Victoria Street in Central or Princess Margaret Road in Ho Man Tin. So there is great influence on the street names from the British. 

However, there is one area that has very interesting street names. Tai Kok Tsui is a smaller area west of Mong Kok and has fairly interesting street names. The names in this area are mostly related to the names of different types of trees. The names include:

  • Maple Street
  • Lime Street
  • Oak Street 
  • Cherry Street
  • Walnut Street
  • Elm Street
  • Beech Street
  • Ivy Street
  • Larch Street
  • Pine Street
  • Ash Street
  • Palm Street
  • Sycamore Street
  • Willow Street
  • Fir street

I was interested in finding out why this area of Tai Kok Tsui had these interesting names, but there seems to be no specific reason for the choices of names. Several people have tried to figure out why the street is named after trees but there seems to be no explanation. One professor from The University Hong Kong said that if a street is named after a person, it should not be close to another person's street. As this would cause comparison. Another reason could also be that the street name should not upset anyone. The last mentioned might be a good explanation for the chosen names. As trees are natural and will not make anyone upset. The names are also easy to remember and have special characteristics. One funny thing to mention is that only one street actually has planted the trees that are in its name, in fact in palm street, there are actually palms. 

Some other interesting points to make is that the translation of Pine Street to Chinese is Fir Street and the translation of Fir Street to Chinese is Pine Street. This can be confusing, as their names are mixed up, but the streets are located close to each other, so you will not get lost as easily. Sycamore is also a street with an interesting Chinese translation. The street name is translated into poetry, song and dance street. Some say that this translation might come from the fact that sycamore trees are different depending on the region it is growing. The name for the sycamore tree in Chinese is fruitless tree. The chinese name can be related to being unlucky or having bad omens. 

No matter the reason (which there might not be) for the chosen names it is an interesting and fun solution. The names are also easy to remember, which can make life easier. 

 

 

Reference

https://zolimacitymag.com/solving-the-mystery-of-hong-kongs-foreign-tree-streets/

https://www.localiiz.com/post/culture-history-kowloon-hong-kong-street-names-stories

https://www.timeout.com/hong-kong/things-to-do/5-street-names-in-hong-kong-that-will-have-you-totally-confused

Pictures:

Heather - All from unsplash

Google Maps

https://walkin.hk/lost-in-translation/

https://www.localiiz.com/post/culture-history-kowloon-hong-kong-street-names-stories