A Different Temple for a Different Class

Two days ago I had the chance to visit the temple that gives the name to one of the most famous streets in Hong Kong – Temple Street. Until now it never crossed my mind that behind the fake ancient bricks there stands one of the oldest temples in the territory.

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Being someone who’s always lived on the ‘proper’ side of HK – i.e. the island side – I couldn’t help but compare the temple of my ‘parish’ to this one. On the outside they don’t seem to differ a lot. This one even looked grander, with steps leading up to the main hall and higher walls.

But upon entering I immediately sensed the difference. This one is more folkish, more working class. I can’t exactly say why – maybe it’s because of the presence of those soothe-sayers(喃無佬 or 喃巫). They were leading their client from alter to alter, mumbling spells or reading out prayers from a paper while the client offer fragrant sticks to the gods. I never saw this happen in the temple I frequent (Man Mo Temple). There worshippers are usually more middle-class, they take even religious matters to their own hands, and worshipping for them seems to be another task on the schedule that needs to be ticked off.

Isn’t it interesting to see how local temples can reflect the social strata of even a tiny place as Hong Kong?

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A soothe-sayer helps his client get her message across to the gods

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Travelling to the Kingdom of Happiness – a golden day

Woke up to a dry heat in the room and went down to breakfast, which was simple and not exactly hotel standard. But we would gradually learn to readjust in the days to come. By the time we finished eating Karma was already waiting for us at the door. Continue reading →

(44) Military Doorgods

More about Chinese Old Prints

Something more on the last post on a new style of folklore prints in China. In the example I gave, the scene depicts characters in the fashion of the Republic period, with men wearing Western-style hats, and the woman in fringed shagged hairstyle. The inscriptions on the top right-hand corner tells of a story reminiscent of one of Aesop’s fables, ‘The Boy who Cried Wolves': Continue reading →

A University Anthem that Speaks my Heart

I suddenly had this idea of listening to the the school song of my alma mater again 10 years after I graduated. I’ve gone to many schools but this one is dearest to my heart. Not only because I spent the best years of my life there, its campus is also one of the most beautiful places in the country.

水木清華眾秀鍾 The Garden of Tsinghua

水木清華眾秀鍾 The Garden of Tsinghua

I’ve always loved the melody of the song, even in my school days. But we were never really required to memorise the lyrics, and whenever it’s sung during ceremonies, we seldom go beyond the first stanza. Now that I studied the lyrics closely, I fell in love with it. So well it captures the spirit of the school, so elegantly it tells us the essence of learning that I found myself moved to tears, over and over again. Here’s the original in Chinese, written by 汪鵉翔 in Classical Chinese. In the brackets are my translation attempts, though the beauty of the language is inevitably lost.

西山蒼蒼 東海茫茫 (Lush hills on the west / vast seas on the east)
吾校莊嚴 巍然中央 (Our magisterial school / towering in the middle of the land)
東西文化 薈萃一堂 (Cultures from the East and the West / gather and fill the hall)
大同爰躋 祖國以光 (We’ve come to achieve a great society / to make our Motherland proud)
莘莘學子來遠方 (Hither come students from afar)
莘莘學子來遠方 (Hither come students from afar)
春風化雨樂未央 (Bathing in the joy of learning that knows no bound)
行健不息須自強 (Like the heavens that incessantly strives to prosper)
自強 自強 (Prosper! / Prosper!)
行健不息須自強 (Like the heavens that incessantly strives to prosper)
自強 自強 (Prosper! / Prosper!)
行健不息須自強 (Like the heavens that incessantly strives to prosper)

左圖右史 鄴架巍巍 (Rooms lined with books / towers of volume after volume)
致知窮理 學古探微 (Exhaust we knowledge / and perfect our study)
新舊合冶 殊途同歸 (Welding the new with the old / of diverse origins the same place they go)
殽核仁義 聞道日肥 (Feeding on kindness and righteousness / we walk on the right path and stronger by day grow)
服膺守善心無違 (Keep our heart virtuous and never against our conscience)
服膺守善心無違 (Keep our heart virtuous and never against our conscience)
海能就下眾水歸 (The sea receives many waters because it lays low)
學問篤實生光輝 (Thorough and honest study brings glory)
光輝 光輝 (Glory! / Glory!)
學問篤實生光輝 (Thorough and honest study brings glory)
光輝 光輝 (Glory! / Glory!)
學問篤實生光輝 (Thorough and honest study brings glory)

器識為先 文藝其從 (First, to form our character / followed by our crafts)
立德立言 無問西東 (Excel as man and scholar / whether in the East or the West)
孰介紹是 吾校之功 (Who gives us such wisdom? / ‘Tis the doing of our school)
同仁一視 泱泱大風 (All treated with equality / Such grace and nobility!)
水木清華眾秀鍾 (The Garden of Tsinghua, confluence of all beauties)
水木清華眾秀鍾 (The Garden of Tsinghua, confluence of all beauties)
萬悃如一矢以忠 (A thousand hearts of lasting loyalty)
赫赫吾校名無窮 (Illustrious our school’s name rings forever)
無窮 無窮 (Forever! / Forever!)
赫赫吾校名無窮 (Illustrious our school’s name rings forever)
無窮 無窮 (Forever! / Forever!)
赫赫吾校名無窮 (Illustrious our school’s name rings forever)