Zhengyue 6,    ‘Birthday of Horse’
The sixth day marks a time to visit temples, relatives and friends.

Visiting temples was once a frequent normal way of life for the Hong Kong Chinese. The Buddhist, Taoist and Joss temples were located in the back of alley’s, on street corners, next to parks. Especially, Buddhist altars were found in many homes with the pictures of family ancestors, fruit (especially oranges and apples) and incense next to or inside the alter setting.

Most older multi generational family’s display alters today, but as the years have passed I have noticed the younger generation has not carried this practice forward. Society has become more single family units instead of mulit family units. The young people living away from older parents. So, it appears the tradition of keeping an alter inside the home, or marking the house doorstep (another practiced tradition ) is a fading away.

Christianity in Hong Kong has grown over the years. Today, more Hong Kong Chinese families are practicing Christian faiths than in the past century. But, there is no dissention in this area of the world between the Buddhists, the Christians, or for that matter any other religious group. All faiths are accepted, yet some traditions remain. And, one of those is going to the temple during the Spring Festival. Even actively practicing Christians remain faithful to throwing the coins or joss sticks at New Years and having an I-Ching reading inside the temple.

My earliest recollection of Hong Kong, however, gave me the impression that everyone was practicing Buddhism:  Everywhere in my Arbuthnot Road flat, every neighbor vigilant at burning incense and going to temple frequently.  Thirty five years back this was common.  Incense was burnt on every street corner and in every building. The smell was a scent that exemplified the territory. It was a welcoming and wholesome scent that I remember as a part of my cultural experience of living in Hong Kong. I learned to feel very much at home with this smell. I felt the comfort of these people through this scent. And, I learned to respect the people because of the scent. As busy as the city was, as much as people pushed and shoved and stampeded their way down the streets, I knew that if you slowed the individual down and took time to learn about the person you would find that their Buddhist way was extremely spiritual and a big part of the people’s behavior and attitudes; They could be as helpful and loving people as any Christian or Jewish or Islamic person I knew. They were more similar than different. And, their expression of their faith silently visually expressed by their street side or home alters.

I have many times stepped into the temples in Hong Kong, just to catch my breath from the crowd, to find a moment of stillness amongst the madness of the fastest paced environment on earth. And, I have always been thankful for the little temples red and colorful amongst the sky rise. To me these temples show the normal existence of what has grown from a rural seaside port to a commercial jungle. What has been a constant and yet is more hidden now than in the past, has been the existence and expansion of these temples.

The one I spent the most time in during my first years in Hong Kong was located down the street from my Arbuthnot Road flat.  It took me less than five minutes to walk there. And, many times in the morning when I went jogging, I would stop here for a quiet break on the way back to my flat. It is known to the tourist and local people alike as……ManMoTemple


But my favorite tiny spot is a Joss Temple on Peel Street. It is on the corner of a street lined today with restaurants. It is maintained by the old people in the flats lining the street side. These people come out to clean and maintain the statues and the very very round incense coils that hang. And, the only way to worship in this temple is to stand on the steep hillside steps where the temple sits. Yet, even a few moments of observation is a calming experience. I know, I used to stop here every day (and for me say my prayer to Christ who I believe in) but reflection was always asking the Gods for guidance through my hectic day.


And, there are temples and Buddha’s (the most famous and the largest Buddha in the world being located on Lantau Island—–) everywhere. Some of the more visible temples are …..

I suggest to everyone who visits Hong Kong, especially expatriates on business or on break from work in other cities to visit these street side temples, joss houses, and Taoist temples. It is well worth the walk or hike or to ride the ferry to. They will give you a different opinion of Hong Kong. They will allow you to take a break from the concrete jungle, to rest your mind and your feet for a few moments and see the more gentle spirit and essence of Hong Kong. And, then on your next jaunt to another Asian city you can make a comparison of the similarity or difference in the temple styles between the different ethnic groups. Every temple is special in its own unique way.



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