21 November 2012
Multi-coloured temple in the middle of a jungle of faceless skyscrapers
I had imagined Hong Kong to merely be an island of endless modern skyscrapers. But Hong Kong reveals multiple facets, from the posh buildings and Western life on the island to the more traditional territories further north, hiding some interesting temples – literally hiding, since the Wong Tai Sin temple, one of the richest temples in Hong Kong, is stuck between a myriad of awful residential skyscrapers hanging immediately over the Taoist temple complex – something you can notice in last picture of this set which I took on purpose to illustrate this contrast and how, by looking at close-ups, one could easily be fooled into thinking that this is a traditional temple lost in a charming village or in faraway mountains. To be fair, the temple is less than a century old as well.
The multitude of colourful pillars and roofs reminded me of the ancient temples of Shanghai or Beijing, while I had been a bit disappointed by the relative austerity and grayness of the other temples in Hong Kong. And just as in continental China, the temple was bustling with life, with Hong Kongers from all walks of life coming to pray or have their good fortune told – a mix of religious devotion and superstition as illustrated by the numbered bamboo fortune sticks shaken out of a box and then read by a fortune-teller, or by the methodical ritual of bowing with burning incense sticks in hand: a curious and always fascinating sight for the Westerner that I am.
Funnily enough, the number on the bamboo stick is often taken to multiple booths for verification purposes. Never too sure if one can trust a soothsayer, eh?!