Where: Looking north across the harbour at Cheung Chau.
What: Let's start with the few buildings we can see on the far shore:
I guess they're shipyards, building and repairing the local junks & sampans. There looks to be a boat pulled up on a slip in front of each shed.
How about this one?
No boats nearby, but I can't see any easy path to this building over the land, again suggesting its business lay with the sea.
A bit further to the right and the steep hillside runs down to the flat stretch of land that forms the centre of the island:
The hillside looks to be terraced. Was it a garden / farming area?
The terraces are edged by a neat sea-wall, a taste of what would follow. Most of the shore is still a sloping beach in this photo, but today a sea-wall runs the length of the shore.
Further round is another stretch of sea wall, with open land behind it:
Would that be the open space that's in front of the Pak Tai Temple  today? Also interesting to see the trees. There'd have been a strong demand for firewood from the village and fishermen, so I wonder what kept these trees safe?
Further round again there's a building standing proudly above its neighbours, and with what looks like a decorated balcony along the front of the roof:
Can any Cheung Chau residents recognise it? There are still some old buildings around the village, so there's a chance it's still standing.
Before we leave the land, look at the bottom-right corner:
There look to have been three piers in use. The top one looks rather flimsy, but the next one down is a much more solid structure. Probably the government pier. In the foreground is the third.
Looking at old maps, I think these met the shore around Tung Wan Road - the same area where the two (much more recent) piers stand today.
Swinging back to the left, we head out to sea and this fleet of sampans:
Today we think of sampans as transport, but at this time they were still homes for the many families who lived on the sea. When this photo was taken, do you think there were more people living on land at Cheung Chau, or more on boats? I'd be interested to know.
Further across is the one and only boat in the harbour that wasn't powered by wind or muscle-power:
Was it a ferry? Its shape certainly looks similar to the older inter-island ferries around Hong Kong.
And finally, what paid the bills:
Junks from the island's fishing fleet, hanging out their nets to dry.
When: Here's the back of the card:
Not much to go on. I don't know a firm date range for the "Oriental Bromide Paper" stamp box. There are a few mentions on the internet of other postcards that use this paper, showing views from the 1920s and 30s. I'll guess 1930 - corrections welcome!
Who: Postcards sell to tourists, so they show places that tourists would visit and then want to remember or write home about. We don't see many postcards of the islands or New Territories in the 1920s / 30s, so what made Cheung Chau different?
In 1919, the south-east section of the island was set aside as a European-only residential area . It was intended to provide accomodation for the various missionary groups who'd been priced out from buying land on Hong Kong island, and a side effect was a steady supply of visitors needing postcards!
I know very little about Cheung Chau's history, so if you can tell us any more about what we're looking at in this photo, I'll be very interested to hear from you.
- Pak Tai Temple, Cheung Chau
- For some notes about the European reservation area on Cheung Chau, see the notes and comments to this photo. Several of the old stones that marked out the boundary of the European area still exist, and are described in these notes & photos.