20 December 2006

Wong Tai Sin

Every Wednesday and Friday I walk by this temple on my way to school. Other than what it was called, I didn't know what Wong Tai Sin Temple was or even how big it was. Today I decided after 3 months to finally take a peak. It is actually a pretty cool place. Usually I find stuff like this to be typical 'touristy stuff', but the temple was anything but. There was no question I was the only white guy in the place, and probably the only one who spoke English. For the middle of the week it was quite crowded, more than I usually noticed. The temple consists of a few buildings and some nice gardens. Today there were hundreds of people burning incense with many people holding bundles of up to 20 sticks at a time. They would place the bundles in various spots (little hut-like structures) and many of them were focusing on the main alters of the temple. I don't know yet if this was a special day/week, if it has anything to do with Christmas(likely not) or most likely something to do with New Year's or the season changing. Usually there will be a few people burning incense, when you get off the MTR there are street vendors selling them, but today seemed unique with the large crowds. The oddest thing I saw was a man carrying a full sized pig on a wooden board, wrapped in red celophane. He was taking it towards the main temple. I must find out why...

More pictures >>> here.

Update: 10 Seconds on Google Reveals.....

Haha! I feel somewhat silly. According to most sites, this is one of the biggest temples in all of Hong Kong. And I walk by it every week and didn't know it's significance. Wow, funny stuff. I guess a lot of mainland Chinese people hold the temple in really high-regard, and the incense burning has to do with connecting to the spirits (I sorta knew that) Here's some proper info:

"Wong Tai Sin Temple, a Taoist temple established in 1921, is one of the most famous temples in Hong Kong. It is also renowned among overseas Chinese in Southern Asia, Europe, and America.

Wong Tai Sin Temple is named after Wong Chuping. When Wong Chuping was 15, he began to follow Taoism. Forty years later, he achieved enlightenment and became immortal. People called him Wong Tai Sin from then on. It is said that he punishes evils, heals the wounded, and rescues the dying. The influence of Wong Tai Sin spread from Guangdong Province to Hong Kong in the early 20th century. With his mercy and his power, he is said to grant whatever is requested."

That would explain all the kneeling and begging.

"Wong Tai Sin Temple is known for its fortune-telling. The fortune sticks (or lots) in Wong Tai Sin Temple are very accurate. Many people who visit the temple come to have their fortunes told. Generally, worshippers entreat the fate of the same year. They light worship sticks, kneel before the main altar, make a wish, and shake a bamboo cylinder containing fortune sticks until one falls out."

Cool. I saw so many people doing this, and had no idea what they were doing. It looked like a game of sorts.

"The stick is exchanged for a piece of paper bearing the same number, and the soothsayer then interprets the fortune on the paper for the worshipper. Wong Tai Sin has many worshippers in Hong Kong, so the joss sticks and candles burn exuberantly all year round, especially during the Chinese Lunar New Year and Wong Tai Sin's birthday - the 23rd day of the eighth lunar month."

Hmmm, this doesn't explain why so busy today, but I guess it is a tourist spot, so maybe it is because of Christmas and the New Year. (Not Chinese New Year Yet)

"Wong Tai Sin Temple is also called Sik Sik Yuen. The architecture of Wong Tai Sin Temple is in the traditional Chinese temple style: grand red pillars, a magnificent golden roof adorned with blue friezes, yellow latticework, and resplendent multi-colored carvings. Aside from the Daxiong-baodian or Grand Hall, Sansheng Hall and the Good Wish Garden are also worth seeing. Also at the temple are the Nine Dragon Wall--a replica of the renowned Nine Dragon Wall in Beijing, and the Good Wish Garden - a miniature copy of Beijing's Summer Palace."

Hmmm, I didn't see this, I'll have to go back.

"Additionally, Wong Tai Sin Temple is the only temple that offers facilities for wedding ceremonies in Hong Kong."

Hahahaha. Of course! It's Hong Kong. Well that was a cool history lesson. Maybe I should find things out a little sooner so I know what's around me. That's the problem with Hong Kong. The goverment is so dead set on distroying it's history, that any that remains is usually hidden quite well behind some large skyscrape or a shopping mall. This temple, by the way, is right on top of an MTR station (that means they either moved the temple, or the MTR was built under it) and a mall is across the road... sigh...

Source:Travel China Guide

No comments: