Wong Tai Sin Temple

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The Main Altar
Entrance of the Wong Tai Sin Temple.
a view of inside the Wong Tai Sin Temple

Wong Tai Sin Temple (Chinese: 黃大仙祠; Jyutping: wong4 daai6 sin1 ci4) is a well known shrine and major tourist attraction in Hong Kong.[1] It is dedicated to Wong Tai Sin, or the Great Immortal Wong.[2] The 18,000-m² Taoist temple is famed for the many prayers answered: "What you request is what you get" (有求必應) via a practice called kau cim. The temple is located on the southern side of Lion Rock in the north of Kowloon.

History[edit]

Lamp holding statues in Wong Tai Sin Temple

In the early 20th century, Leung Renyan (梁仁菴) spread the influence of Wong Tai Sin from Xiqiao Mountain (西樵山) in Nanhai (南海縣), Guangdong Province (廣東省) of China to Wan Chai (灣仔) in Hong Kong.

Leung arrived in Hong Kong in 1915.[4] He rented an apartment in Wan Chai, and set up an altar in his apartment. Later he opened an herbal medicine shop nearby and moved the altar to the back of the shop. Customers coming to his shop could pray at Wong Tai Sin's altar and seek advice for their ailments. Leung would then fill their prescriptions. We can assume that healing did take place, as the popularity of Wong Tai Sin began to grow.

However in 1918, Leung's shop was destroyed by fire. In 1921, Leung said that he received a message from Wong Tai Sin instructing him to construct a new shrine. Leung Renyan and his Taoist fellow were advised to start walking from Kowloon City Pier towards the north with 3,000 steps. When they arrived at Chuk Yuen Village (竹園村), they put a piece of bamboo into the ground as a mark. Then they consulted Wong Tai Sin via the process of " Fu Ji " (扶乩). They were told that it was a good site. Wong Tai Sin also taught them to determine the would-be centre of the Temple by 3 Chinese feet (approximately 1 metre) on the right and 3 Chinese feet (approximately 1 metre) backwards of the mark and the would-be temple was named as "Chik Chung Sin Shrine" (赤松仙館) (literally : the Red Pine Fairy Shrine). The Taoist priests were also asked to start the construction of the shrine on 24th of the sixth lunar month by one of the Taoist Gods, Wen Chang Di (文昌帝) via the process of "Fu Ji". Eventually the shrine was completed and was officiated on the 20th of the seventh lunar month. In the same year, on the 23rd of the eighth lunar month, during the celebration of the birthday of Wong Tai Sin, the altar was named as "Pu Yi Tan" (普宜壇)by the most superior Taoist God, Yu Di (玉帝) via the process of "Fu Ji". Later on, the other Taoist God, Wen Chang Di gave the name of the premises as "Sik Sik Yuen" (嗇色園) via the process of "Fu Ji". Meanwhile, the managing body, Sik Sik Yuen was established. In 1925, the shrine was renamed as "Chik Chung Wong Sin Hall" (赤松黃仙祠) (literally : the Red Pine Wong Fairy Hall) by Taoist Fairy, Lu Ju (呂祖) through the process of "Fu Ji". Since then, the name "Chik Chung Wong Sin Hall" has replaced the original name. According to the then regulations, Sik Sik Yuen (嗇色園) used to be a private shrine and only Taoists or their family members were allowed. It was not until 1934, Sik Sik Yuen formally applied to the government for opening the Temple to the public during the 1st lunar month of every Chinese New Year. However, in 1956 Sik Sik Yuen was allowed to open completely to the public.

In 1956, the government proposed to reclaim the temple for public housing development. Chairman Wong Wan Tin's pushed for the temple to remain open.[3] Charging a 10-cent admission fee at the main entrance, fees were donated to the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals. To facilitate administration and management, the temple was registered as a limited company of charitable nature in 1965, and was granted the immunity of not having to add the word "Limited" to the organization's name.[3]

Because of its historic significance, the Temple is graded as a Grade II historic building.[4]

Facilities[edit]

The Nine Dragon Wall

There is a Nine-Dragon Wall modeled after one in Beijing. The Three-Saint Hall (三聖堂) is dedicated to Lü Dongbin, Guan Yin, and Lord Guan. Containing a portrait of Confucius, the Taoist temple has a collection of Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist literature.

The architecture is the traditional Chinese temple style with grand red pillars, a magnificent golden roof adorned with blue friezes, yellow latticework, and multi-colored carvings. Aside from the Daxiong-baodian or Grand Hall, Sansheng Hall and the Good Wish Garden are also worth seeing. The temple grounds also feature three memorial archways. The first one stands outside the temple and is carved with the name of the temple. If you walk past the soothsayers and the fortune-telling stalls, you can see another memorial archway. And if you continue further along the third memorial archway standing before you. .[5]

Traditions[edit]

Practicing kau cim at Wong Tai Sin Temple.
Fortune-telling stalls.

Annually, from January 1 to 15, the temple receives numerous visitors, such as those whose prayers were answered returning to thank the immortal. Wong Tai Sin's birthday on the 23rd day of the 8th lunar month, and the Chinese New Year holidays are the busiest times for the temple.

On the Chinese New Year's Eve, thousands of worshippers wait outside the temple before midnight and rush in to the main altar to offer Wong Tai Sin their glowing incense sticks when the year comes. As the tradition goes, the earlier they offer the incense, the better luck they will have that year.

Most of the visitors come to the temple in search for a spiritual answer via a practice called kau cim. They light incense sticks, kneel before the main altar, make a wish, and shake a bamboo cylinder containing fortune sticks until a stick falls out. This stick is exchanged for a piece of paper bearing the same number, and then the soothsayer will interpret the fortune on the paper for the worshiper. Often the same piece of fortune is taken to multiple booths for verification purposes. Some booths offer palm reading service.

Recently, Taoist weddings have been performed here.

Operation[edit]

The temple is open from 7:00am to 5:30pm throughout the year, and runs overnight in the Lunar New Year Eve. It is currently administrated by Sik Sik Yuen, a Taoist organization in Hong Kong.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ DeWolf, Christopher "9 Hong Kong tourist traps -- for better or worse" CNN Go. 27 October 2010. Retrieved 2012-03-03
  2. ^ NextStopHongKong Travel Guide "Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple" Retrieved 2012-03-03
  3. ^ a b Siksikyuen. "Siksikyuen." History. Retrieved on 2007-04-18.
  4. ^ List of Graded Historic buildings (As at 6 Jan 2007)
  5. ^ Wong Tai Sin Temple, Hong Kong, TravelChinaGuide.com

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 22°20′33″N 114°11′37″E / 22.342572°N 114.193649°E / 22.342572; 114.193649