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On Walkabout At: Hong Kong’s Tin Hau Temple

Prior Posting: Happy Valley

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In Hong Kong there are literally hundreds if not thousands of temples dedicated to various Chinese Gods.  For example there are approximately 60 temples in Hong Kong dedicated to just one of these ancient Chinese God, Tin Hau.  Of all the Tin Hau temples there are none more well known then the Tin Hau Temple Garden located Tin Hau Temple Road on Hong Kong Island:

Picture from Hong Kong's Tin Hau Temple

The present temple buildings date from 1868 while construction of the original temple dates back to 1747 which was when the current temple bell was constructed.  Legend has it that this temple was built after an incense burner was found floating miraculously on the sea.  This incident gave rise one of the pre-colonial names for Hong Kong Island, Hung Heung Le (Red Incense Burner Island).   Above the entry door there are two fiery dragons that guard the temple to ward off evil spirits:

Picture from Hong Kong's Tin Hau Temple

The temple is famous for the fine Shek Wan figurines on its and eaves and for the quality of its stone carvings around the entrance inside the temple , the main altar is dedicated to Tin Hau, Goddess of the Sea and patron saint of seafarers, with side altars dedicated to Tsoi San, the God of Wealth.  Tin Hau is by far the most popular Chinese God in Hong Kong due to the island’s history of fishing and seafaring.

Picture from Hong Kong's Tin Hau Temple

Picture from Hong Kong's Tin Hau Temple

Something of interest about temples in Hong Kong is that they are not just dedicated to one particular religion.  This temple is primarily Taoist, but is also used for Buddhism, Confucianism, and ancestral worship rituals:

Picture from Hong Kong's Tin Hau Temple

Other altars in the side halls are dedicated to Tin Hau and to the Goddess of childbirth:

Picture from Hong Kong's Tin Hau Temple

Taoist temples are particularly colorful especially with the color red.  The Taoist associate red with good luck which is why this temple decorated extensively with this color:

Picture from Hong Kong's Tin Hau Temple

Within the temple there are several shrines to the black face Pau Kung, the Lenient Judge of the Underworld.  He is worshiped in the hope that he will be merciful to the souls in his care:

Picture from Hong Kong's Tin Hau Temple

It is popular with Taoist as well as with ancestor worship to make offerings to the Gods.  The simplest offering is to burn some incense, but often Chinese can be seen making fruit offerings to the Gods:

Picture from Hong Kong's Tin Hau Temple

Something I read that is unique to the Hong Kong Chinese is that they will actually leave take out food as offerings at the local temples. Besides being a popular location for the Hong Kong Chinese, Tin Hau Temple has become a growing tourist attraction.  The increasing fame of this temple has in recent years caused the nearby MTR subway station to be named after the temple.  This has only further helped tourists to find and experience this unique temple that provides further insight into the intriguing Chinese culture.

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