Kowloon Customs Boundary Stone (1887)

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What was the Kowloon Customs?

The Kowloon Customs was commonly known as Xinguan or Yangguan, which can be translated as “New Customs” and ‘”Foreigner Customs” respectively. As its names suggest, this was a customs station managed by the foreigners.


Reason for establishment

So why was the customs station managed by foreigners? The reason for this goes back to 1853. At that time, people supporting the cause of overthrowing the Qing Government and restoring the Ming dynasty together with the Taiping Rebellion followers rebelled in Shanghai and smashed up the Qing Government customs station. The foreigners refused to pay tariffs to the rebels, and demanded the Qing government to set up a customs station to be managed by foreigners. The ‘New Customs’, therefore, was first established in Shanghai’s Jianghaiguan. Because the foreigners introduced modern management methods and were comparatively less corrupt that the returns were positive. As a result, the new customs stations were widely set up in treaty ports and gradually replaced the previous custom stations.



The Kowloon Customs in Hong Kong was built in 1887, near the end of the Qing dynasty. Its primary function was to impose tariffs on opium, collect business tax on inland goods and combat Hong Kong-based opium smuggling.


Why was a branch of the Kowloon Customs located in Lai Chi Kok?

So why would they locate a branch in Lai Chi Kok? As we have discussed, the Kowloon Customs was actually a customs station. Customs stations are usually set up near the sea. Before reclamation, Lai Chi Kok perched on a hill overlooking the sea. That was probably why a branch of the Kowloon Customs was built in this area.


Why did it close?

After the signing of the “Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory” in 1898, Britain occupied the area of land north of the Kowloon Peninsula, and the border of the colony was extended northward to Shenzhen River. Consequently, the Lai Chi Kok branch of the Kowloon Customs – designed to manage Hong Kong’s borders – lost its convenience and purpose. It was shut down shortly after 1898.
The real Kowloon Customs Boundary Stone is situated on a slope in the Middle Zone facing the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre. This slope is not open to public, so we made a replica to be displayed in the Heritage Hall.

Hong Kong once had numerous “Kowloon Customs Stations”, but after one hundred years, there are only historical remains of the following stations:
● The stone on Ma Wan, inscribed “Kowloon Customs” and “Kowloon Customs within 7ft”,
● The stone on Tai Tsan Island, inscribed “New Kowloon Customs Tai Tsan Branch Boundary”,
● The stone on Inner Lingding Island, inscribed “New Kowloon Customs Boundary”, and
● The stone in Sham Shui Po (Lai Chi Kok site), inscribed “Kowloon Customs Boundary”.
Except for the stone in Lai Chi Kok, all the stones have been moved from their original locations. For this reason, the stone of “Kowloon Customs Boundary” in Lai Chi Kok is of special significance in archeology and heritage conservation.

The stone on Kowloon Customs in Ma Wan
(Reference: Kowloon Customs Boundary Stone)
The stone on New Kowllon Customs Dachan Branch Boundary
(Reference: Kowloon Customs Boundary Stone)