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

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 →

Travelling to the Kingdom of Happiness – A first look

Our tour guide’s name is Karma (I thought it was a girl’s name) and he’s a strong, dark-skinned man with keen round eyes. The sun must have been unkind to his skin, for at 36 he looks older than his age, especially with the wrinkles around his eyes. When he speaks he places a strong accent on every other syllable, making him sound somewhat too keen and serious. He presented me with the white silk scarf called karta, and told me that I had to put it round my neck myself ‘cos he was not a monk. Continue reading →