The Kowloon Walled City Park in Hong Kong is the best example of how an unsightly neighborhood can be transformed into a place of breathtaking beauty. The park was originally the site of a historic walled fort at the north-eastern corner of the Kowloon peninsula, adjacent to Kowloon Bay. It became an important defense fort of the Chinese following the British occupation of Hong Kong Island in 1841 upon which the area was turned into a walled garrison-city with massive stone walls, six watchtowers and four gates. The entire walled city was about 6.5 acres.
The walled city became home to important military offices and buildings including soldiers' quarters, gunpowder and ordnance magazines until British troops took over and the deterioration of the area into a semi-lawless enclave and slums began in 1899.
The wall was torn down during the Japanese occupation of 1941-45 and after the war, tenements were built in the area without proper authorization using substandard materials. Soon, the site became the hangout of notorious drug lords, criminals, and even unlicensed dentists.
In 1987, the area was cleaned up by authorities and transformed it into a park. Demolition was completed in April 1994 and some important relics that were unearthed were incorporated in the park's design or preserved as exhibits. The park was officially opened to the public on December 22, 1995, by then Governor, the Rt. Hon. Christopher Patten.
The design of the park was inspired by the Jiangnan garden style of the early Qing Dynasty. Skilled artisans from the Mainland were employed to ensure accurate reproduction of the classical concept. Covering an area of 31,000 square metres, the park is divided into eight scenic zones with individual characteristics but blending into the overall design. Some of the opular attractions in the park are:
- The Eight Floral Walks, each named after a different plant or flower
- The Chess Garden, featuring four 3 by 5 m (9.8 by 16 ft) Chinese chessboards
- The Garden of Chinese Zodiac, containing stone statues of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals
- The Garden of Four Seasons (named Guangyin Square after the small open area in the Walled City), a 300 m2 (3,200 sq ft) garden with plants that symbolize the four seasons
- The Six Arts Terrace, a 600 m2 (6,500 sq ft) wedding area containing a garden and the Bamboo Pavilion
- The Kuixing Pavilion, including a moon gate framed by two stone tablets and the towering Guibi Rock, which represents Hong Kong's return to China
- The Mountain View Pavilion, a two-story structure resembling a docked boat that provides a good view of the entire park
- The Lung Tsun, Yuk Tong, and Lung Nam Pavilions
- The Yamen and the remains of the South Gate