In some ways, the island is no different from a small town in rural areas of the United States, where it has become difficult and difficult to make a living out of agriculture and leave the youth in crowds.
The original settlers were a family called Chan from China’s Guangdong Province who planted salt – the island’s name means “small salt farm” in English.
Many of Chan’s descendants moved to more urban areas in Hong Kong in search of work or a different kind of life. Others left the entire area.
These days, Yim Tin Tsai is no longer officially abandoned. It is home to one part-time resident, and is a volunteer who works as a shepherd. This volunteer and community representative, Colleen Chan, lives in the nearby town of Sai Kung – and as I expected by his nickname, he is from the Chan clan lineage.
There is a small museum and gift shop on the other side of the ferry dock, as well as – perhaps most importantly – public toilets.
An abandoned house near the ferry dock.
Lillett Marcus / CNN
To get to the island, pick up Kaito – a small motorized wooden boat often used for ferry between smaller islands – from the pier in the Sai Kung community on the beach.
These boats only work on weekends and holidays, although if you try to get there during the week, you may be able to rent a boat from the companies that line the waterfront.
After a short trip to Yim Tin Tsai (about 15 minutes, depending on the weather), you will exit the sidewalk and immediately start walking through a series of abandoned houses and other buildings.
Some people left furniture and other personal belongings behind when they moved away from them, and years of exposure to the hot and rainy Hong Kong weather in various situations have left them bad.
When you walk along the corridor, you will pass through the houses with their knitted roofs, and Buddha statues stare at you from empty windows and other scary sights.
But not everything on the island has been abandoned to the elements.
Yim Tin Tsai was largely Catholic at its height.
The best preserved site on the island is St. Joseph’s Cathedral, which has a dramatic red and white altar inside.
The construction and consecration was completed in 1890, and there is a statue of pastor pastor Joseph Freinademetz, an Austrian priest and missionary who came to Hong Kong in 1879, in the gardens behind him.
Freinademetz founded the Catholic Church in Yim Tin Tsai and after his reverence as a saint by Pope John Paul II.
Hong Kong Catholics celebrate Frenaditz Saint’s Day every year on January 29.
Lillett Marcus / CNN
Another innovation is emerging in Yim Tin Tsai these days: an art project that uses stained glass to depict scenes from typical village life.
There are hopes for a second annual festival in 2020, although a coronavirus pandemic may suspend these plans.
Either way, Yim Tin Tsai has clearly spent a second life after the days of salt harvest.