Why is the Ping Yuen river in Hong Kong called River Ganges?

From the wikipedia:

Ping Yuen River (also known as River Ganges) (平原河) is a river in northern New Territories, Hong Kong. Its source lies near Cheung Shan in Ping Che. It flows along Ping Che Road and into the River Ganges Pumping Station near Chau Tin Village before emptying into Sham Chun River.

That is actually the whole article and there is not much information on why it is called Ganges. And although I cannot prove a negative, Frank Welsh doesn't write about it in A History of Hong Kong either.

My theory is that the river was named Ganges by early British/Indian settlers who either relocated from the Bengal province or compared it to the river in the Bengal province (perhaps to equalise themselves with that then more profitable province/trade route) that goes by the same name (River Ganga).

Edit: I should probably mention this. I have been to see this river and it is a natural waterway. In the colonial times it was used as a trade route with posts set up on its banks. No one (who showed me around) seems to know why it is called Ganges. Also, River Ganges was used as the longest trade route in India since late antiquity. Of course, I mention this fact to support my theory but I want to confirm my theory with the experts on this site (who may have alternate theories/more [interesting] information) --hence the question.

  • The answer is in the Chinese version of the wikipedia article. But basically you're right - although the true role of these Indian staff is not completely clear to me ("測量師" Exploring the potential of the New Territories for culture ? Opium ?). Somebody take it from here ;-) Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 20:57
  • Note that the British didn't create the trade route between India and China. The prevailing winds made it a natural route. The Brits just took it over from the Dutch, who took it over from the Portugese, who took it over from the Muslims (many of whom were native to India). As long as its a theory, any one of them could be a candidate for protagonist.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 13:52
  • @T.E.D. That is true. But HK and NT were pretty much unoccupied by foreigners before the British stumbled upon it. Most of the trading was concentrated around the Pearl River Delta. There were some local fishing villages here but that was it --so it is quite likely that the Indians/Portuguese/Dutch didn't come here or came, ignored, and went. Most place names in HK are either Chinese in origin or have some connection to the British period.
    – Apoorv
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 1:33
  • I was unable to find British sources, so I'm going to delete my answer. Sorry I couldn't help.
    – Russell
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 16:51
  • @Russell No apologies needed. Thanks very much for trying though.
    – Apoorv
    Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 19:23

3 Answers 3


The wikipedia article you cite has a Chinese equivalent which explains the origin of the surname.

平原河昔日的英文名稱(River Ganges)與印度的恆河相同,這是英國在租借新界後派遣印度籍的測量師所命名的。

Which translates roughly as

The former English name of the Ping Yuen River (River Ganges) came from the river Ganges in India, because Indian surveyors were sent there after the British lease of the New territories.

The New Territories (新界) were leased to the British in 1898 as a huge extension to the original 1841 (Hong Kong) and following 1860 (Kowloon) leases.
The British authorities immediately set out to plot the land and drew up the so called Block Crown Lease (and its associated Block Crown Lease Schedule representing how much annual rent was payable for each lot).

To complete this survey of the new Territories, the British authorities used Indian surveyors. They produced cadastral plans (1899-1904) - first at the scale of 16 inches to the mile then at a larger scale of 32 inches to the mile.
It is a well documented fact that Indian surveyors, engineers, medical practitioners and civil servants were dispatched all around the British Colonies not only in South Asia but also in Africa (Kenya, RSA...) to assist in the administration of Queen Victoria's Empire.

So settlers, probably not. But surveyors surely. As to whether they were originally from Bengal and compared the Ping Yuan River to the Ganges is not said.
Yet surveyors are also map makers and it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that they could have used a name they knew to shorten the local name "平原河".

  • Very good answer, and very good translation. +1
    – Russell
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 16:54

I was told by my father, who worked as a civil engineer in Hong Kong in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, that the New Territories were surveyed by a unit from the British Indian Army. Hence they chose to name some rivers after the more famous ones at home, eg Indus, Ganges, etc.


In my point of view, the name might be given by south indian kings who were invaded south east asia like Rajendra Chola - 1. We could find many hindu temples and other landmarks allover south east asia (i.e Khmer Empire, Anghor wat hindu temple very near to hongkong,Ayuthya in thailand named after indian historical city ayodhya , Many Hindu temples in Indonesia, and etc).

So probably the holy name of river goddess Ganges might be given to Ping Yuen by South indian.

  • 3
    Any sources to substantiate that claim?
    – Apoorv
    Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 22:31
  • @Monster Truck>> I have added few hyper links in my answer. Pls refer them.
    – Veera Raj
    Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 9:42
  • 2
    Yup. I did. And they are quite informative. But those links only prove that the Indian kings once reigned over parts of South east Asia. The extrapolation that South Indians settled in South China is not substantiated by any historical source that I know of. That is why I was looking for some concrete evidence.
    – Apoorv
    Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 12:28

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