Exploring – Hong Kong temples

7 Jun

Before I went to Hong Kong I looked to see if I could find any walking tours, similar to the ones that I took in Shanghai.  I found lots of options, but finally settled on a set that was on the Hong Kong Tourism website (www.discoverhongkong.com).  Over my free days I was able to do several of them – either on my own or with friends.   Instead of detailing the routes that I took I thought that I would combine walks from different days and focus on certain topics.  Today is the first of this series where I look at two temples that I explored – one in the Central area of Hong Kong Island – Man Mo Temple and the second on the Kowloon side the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple (Wong Tai Sin for short).

Both temples struck me as functioning, working temples – with people streaming in and out, incense sticks in hand, making offerings and talking.  While there were some tourists there I felt in the minority which is different from the Chinese temples I’ve visited where it seems like over 90% of the folks are touting cameras and day packs.  I wonder if prior to the 1950s China would have been the same way.

Man Mo temple is dedicated to the Taoist gods of literature (man) and war (mo), but in my mind, the most striking feature of the temple were the incense coils overhead that were difficult to capture in photos.  I have two here that attempt to capture them.  I’ve never seen so many in such a small space – they were different sizes and I am sure different price tags – the red intentions of the purchasers can be seen through the middle of the coils.  The smell of incense inside was overpowering and the temple was on the small side and dark, right in the center of the busy central business district.

Rising smoke in Man Mo temple

Man Mo Temple

Wong Tai Sin was in Kowloon, right next to a busy subway stop and shopping mall, but still in an area where there was space to see the sky and the sky scrapers were at more of a distance.  It was more of a temple complex with gardens and multiple pagodas and pavilions.  My tourist literature said it is one of the busiest and most loved temples in Hong Kong.  One thing that I saw there that I hadn’t seen in other temples was a set of statues with an elder “tying the knot” for a married couple.  I saw a progression of couples pose for their picture in front of it and assume that making an offering there ensures marital bliss.  Another image that has remained in my head are the red and yellow lanterns strung over the temple entrance.  The contrast with the blue sky was something I won’t soon forget.

Bobbing lanterns on a beautiful day (Kowloon)

A tribute to marriage and “tying the knot” (Kowloon Temple)

Cranes in the fountain

Guardian Lion at Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple

I like visiting monuments that have a second purpose – a part of daily life combined with grandeur and both of these made me feel as I were glimpsing another way of life.  Have you ever experienced that during your travels?  Any favorite temples, mosques, churches or monuments?

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