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Uniquely HK

Feature Story

Hong Kong's Maritime Folklore

Hong Kong has a long-standing tradition of worshipping sea deities - immerse yourself in the historic temples and festivities to get acquainted with the sea gods and goddesses of this coastal city.

Now a buzzing international financial hub, Hong Kong began as a humble fishing village centuries ago.  With over 260 islands and a 730 km coastline, Hong Kong has always been intimately tied to the sea, and worshipping its deities to protect the fishermen and villagers from dangers and calamities became a way of life. Luckily, over the years, many temples were conserved and renovated, and the various festivals (the internationally acclaimed Cheung Chau Bun Festival, for example) acknowledging the deeds of these watchful protectors continued to be celebrated.

These cultural events and buildings are a treat for visitors and locals alike, and are a way to appreciate Hong Kong's traditional past. We have cherry-picked a few for your visits here:

 

Pak Tai Temple @ Cheung Chau

Pak Tai, also known as the Supreme Emperor of the Northern Heaven, is believed to have fought off a monstrous plague on Cheung Chau in the 18th century. Its iconic and highly revered temple on the island, built two centuries ago and now listed as a Grade I historic building, features an iron sword from the Song Dynasty and gold-plated woodcraft from the Qing Dynasty.  

The temple is the focal point of the much-anticipated Bun Festival every year (22-26 May) this year, see p.6 of our Happenings section, with the thrilling Bun Scrambling Competition, where courageous contestants race up 20-metre mammoth towers studded with buns, taking place opposite the temple itself. A less nerve-wracking but equally remarkable event of the festival is the vibrant and cheerful Floating Parade (Piu Sik), where children dressed up as ancient deities and modern celebrities are hoisted mid-air and paraded around the island flanked by vigrous dragon and lion dances.

How to get there:  Take the ferry from Central Pier 5 in Central to Cheung Chau, then just follow the crowd or signs.

 

Tin Hau Temple @ Joss House Bay

Situated at the beautiful south end of Clear Water Bay in the Sai Kung district of the New Territories and built in the 13th century, the Tin Hau temple in Joss House Bay is the oldest and largest among those dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea.  This sea-facing establishment is also the home to invaluable historical artefacts from the Qing Dynasty such as the auspicious ceremonial pot, copper bell and iron incense burner, attracting not only religious pilgrims worshipping with incense but also hikers from the High Junk Peak Hiking Trail who fancy a taste of the breathtaking sea view.

How to get there:  MTR-Po Lam Station Exit A. Take the green minibus route 16 (Po Lam to Po Toi O), get off at the Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club, walk for about 10 minutes down the steps nearby.

 

Tin Hau Temple @ Repulse Bay

Another Tin Hau Temple not to be missed is the one at Repulse Bay.  This gorgeous temple houses two 10-meter statues of Tin Hau as well as Kwun Yam, the Goddess of Mercy, who overlook the Repulse Bay Beach, a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing during summer time. Don't forget to visit the famous Longevity Bridge nearby - accordingly to believers, it will prolong your life by three days after you cross it!

How to get there:  Take the Hong Kong Station MTR Exit D to get to Exchange Square Bus Terminal. Hop on Bus 6, 6A, 6X or 260.  Hop off at the Repulse Bay stop, cross the road and go down the stairs to the promenade. 

 

Hung Shing Temple @ Wan Chai

Ever thought about how much Hong Kong’s shoreline has changed? The Hung Shing Temple can give you a clue – it was built on the original waterfront in 1847 in honor of the God of Southern Sea; thanks to years of land reclamations, however, the shoreline of the Wan Chai district has shifted far away from its original location. Consequently the temple is now surrounded by clusters of modern high-rises, becoming a unique heritage spot in the humming commercial district. Having witnessed the modernization of the area, the temple has aged gracefully and is listed as a Grade I historic building and part of the Wan Chai Heritage Trail.

How to get there:  MTR Wan Chai Station Exit A3. Go down Johnston Road and take a left to Tai Wong Street East, continue until you see the temple.

 

Tam Kung Temple @ Shau Kei Wan

This century-old temple was the sacred establishment for worshippers of Tam Kung, a sea deity said to have possessed the magical power to command the weather at the age of 12. There you can find precious artefacts from the Qing Dynasty such as the altar, iron bell and stone tablet, alongside other eye-catchers including a small wooden junk and a dragon boat. The boulder in front of the temple is believed to be the seal of Tam Kung himself.

On 25 May, Tam Kung Festival will be held in the Shau Kei Wan district where the temple is located - expect a spectacular celebration of parades and martial arts performance there. 

How to get there:   MTR Shau Kei Wan Exit D1. Follow Tung Hei Road and walk for about five minutes.

 

 

 

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