HKG/ Legacy of Plague II: “No.2 Caine Lane, Mid-Levels, Hong Kong”

A Laboratory for Public Health and Medical Work: The Pathological Institute

The plague continued to recur annually in Hong Kong for over 30 years since its first break out in 1984. The Government was frustrated by the lack of progress in eradication of the disease, and its devastating effect on the economy of Hong Kong since it was a major trading port. Therefore, the Governor Henry Blake appealed to the British Government to send a Bacteriologist to Hong Kong to help in plague control.

In 1902, The first Bacteriologist for Hong Kong, Dr William Hunter arrived. He was promised a Bacteriological Institute to do his scientific laboratory work. The laboratory was built in the Tai Ping Shan resumed area. It was built in fine Edwardian Style and opened in 1906. It was Hong Kong’s first purpose built laboratory for public health and medical work. It contained state of art facilities for scientific work in surveillance and control of infectious disease in pathological testing and in the production of vaccines. In another word, it functioned as a Centre for Health Protection for Hong Kong. It also has a name of Pathological Institute.

This architecture did not only witness how Hong Kong marched to the international stage in today’s modernized world, it also witness the transformation of Tai Ping Shan ever since the break out of plague back in 1894. The request from the British Governor Henry Blake back then, has become the turning point in Hong Kong’s history, as Hong Kong first ever has a Bacteriologist to study vaccine for diseases. It also marks the revolutionary step in Hong Kong’s medical history in the past century. (Photograph of The Pathological Institute viewed from Kui In Fong, 2015, Judy Chu.)



Former Old Pathological Institute, Today’s Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences (HKMMS)

It is because of the out break of Plague, the Bacteriological Institute established. In 1990, it was declared as a protected monument. A conservation project of transforming it into a museum was being pushed by a steering committee group from the Hong Kong College of Pathologists. Therefore, in 1996, the same building was reopened as the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences (HKMMS).

It is rare that there is a museum dedicated to medical heritage, including traditional Chinese as well as western medicine, yet open to the public. Hence, the museum is housed in a exceptionally attractive, as well as well-preserved heritage building. This building did not only play a role in the testimony of what our fore-fathers had gone through, but also to lay the foundation of how modernized Hong Kong today is. The architecture itself, also its function, does not only link to the past of Hong Kong, but also its unique medical history.

HKMMS is presented to the community of Hong Kong by the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences Society. It runs purely by private sponsorship and donations as there were no subsidies from the HKSAR Government at all. HKMMS not only runs the museum, but also designed “The Tai Ping Shan Medical Heritage Trial” that links up the interesting relics of attempts to provide medical services to the community, including Traditional Chinese and Western medicine, as well as attempts at improving sanitation and public health.

While some people come for its exhibition, there are also visitors coming just to appreciate this well-preserved architecture. The museum also accept booking request for private event such as talks, forums, seminar, or even personal event such as wedding photo taking. This is a very strong evidence to show how the break out of Plague in Tai Ping Shan district has a great impact to the development of Hong Kong as a city. Although not much people might know about plague in comparison to SARS, the legacy of of plague marks the evolutionary start of medical research. This is also a very significant event in the colonial history of Hong Kong as it proved that there is a strong relationship between the level of sanitary and architecture. Thus, health and hygiene is an extremely valid reason to amend housing regulations in order to improve the quality living. (Photograph of Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences viewed from Po Hing Fong, 2015, Judy Chu.)


For more photos and information about HKMMS, please proceed to some more photograph documentation we made during our visit:

Or directly visit HKMMS home page:

1 Comment on “HKG/ Legacy of Plague II: “No.2 Caine Lane, Mid-Levels, Hong Kong”

  1. Conservation projects are often heard from the government around the city, but to not only have it restored to the purpose related to its original field, it also provides an additional way for the public to know about the history and stories of the past medical science situation, is an opportunity that’s really rare and worth-visiting. I love how u described that this architecture not only serves its own function, but to also link to the past of Hong Kong and the medical history, which also shows that an architecture could be have many different identities when being presented in different perspectives.

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