Peng Chau moves slowly today with tiny streets and a no-car policy. You can tour the island in half a day, see the myriad temples and beaches — and even find time for a glass of wine at Le Captains d’Abord in the main square.
But it wasn’t always quite so leisurely. From shrimp sauce factories to matches, porcelain to rattan furniture, little Peng Chau flourished during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. It started with the Shing Lee Limekiln factory, now a protected heritage site, in the 19th century and soon there were more than 100 factories representing 30 industries.
One of the most famous was the Great China Match factory, which was the largest in Southeast Asia and employed over 2,000 people in its heyday. You can still see the factory’s boundary stones, which were used to mark the property and keep residents away from the hazardous environment.
But when the quick and convenient cigarette lighter came around, the Kowloon Match brand took a turn and shuttered in 1976. There were also gloves, light bulbs, ceramics and calfskin factories on the little island, but one after the next became obsolete.