Village Life in Hong Kong constitutes a unique ethnographic record of a cultural system teetering on the brink of transition. Living and working in the New Territories during the 1960s-1970s, the Watsons explored the cultural traditions of the Cantonese villagers who first settled in South China's Pearl River Delta primarily during the Tang and Song dynasties.
Two villages are featured prominently: San Tin and Ha Tsuen, homes of the Man and Teng lineages, single-surname communities that once dominated rural politics in South China. In the '60s and '70s, village life revolved around the performance of expensive and time-consuming rituals associated with birth, marriage, and ancestor worship. Geomancy (fengshui) was a universally accepted system of belief linking the living to the dead, while men and women lived in separate social worlds that were closed to members of the opposite sex. Working as a team, the authors were able to document both sides of this gender divide.
Many of the rituals and social activities described in this book are no longer performed in the New Territories, or in adjacent regions of Guangdong province, and the physical landscape has also changed dramatically in the wake of the "New Town" development of the 1980s-1990s. Nonetheless, indigenous villagers of the New Territories still constitute a vibrant, recognizable minority in Hong Kong's rapidly expanding population.