on February 28, 2006
Visiting this temple after 14 years in Hong Kong reminds me of the lifelong New Yorker who never visited the Statue of Liberty. I‘m glad I finally managed to see this shrine.This is one of the most famous temples in Hong Kong, dedicated to Wong Tai Sin, or the Great Immortal Wong. According to legend, as a shepherd boy of 15, he was taught by an immortal to refine cinnabar into a medicine capable of curing all illnesses. He spent the next 40 years in seclusion perfecting this technique before emerging as a healer. His brother found him after spending years searching for him and the sheep in his care. Wong Tai Sin allegedly changed white boulders into sheep to replace those he had lost. There’s a beautiful white jade statue here commemorating that feat. Today, he is revered by Taoists concerned about their physical health and the health of their relationships and businesses.Liang Ren-an, a Taoist priest, brought the sacred portrait of Wong Tai Sin from Guangdong to Hong Kong in 1915. Following several relocations, the Wong Tai Sin Temple was formally established by at its present site in 1921. It was originally private but has been open to the public since 1956. In somewhat typical Chinese fashion, it combines three religions or practices, Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, but is considered basically to be a Taoist Temple.The complex is actually managed by an organization called Sik Sik Yuen, from the original name for the village that stood here 100 years ago. It can be confusing, as some guidebooks refer to it by that name. Locally, it is known as Wong Tai Sin Temple. We were here 1 day before the Lunar New Year celebration. It was crowded but not as overwhelming as it would be the next day. The incense smoke was so heavy in spots, it kind of got to us. We first visited the Main Altar, where the portrait of Wong Tai Sin presides. Other than the praying and incense burning, it was most interesting seeing all the food that was carried there to be blessed, including dozens of roasted baby pigs. There is much to see here. We spent over an hour just wandering. The beautiful gardens are outstanding and not crowded. I was impressed by the existence of this oasis of calm and beauty in the middle of a densely populated urban area.On the grounds, there are over 100 fortune tellers specializing in every kind of soothsaying: fortune sticks, I Ching, palm and face reading, astrology, Feng Shui, etc. Some offer their services in English. The place was so busy, we didn’t have our fortunes told—next time.We were also impressed with the Nine-Dragon Wall, modeled after one in Beijing; the Good Wish Garden; the Bronze Pavilion; the Memorial Archways; and the traditional architecture of all the buildings. Access the Sik Sik Yuen website for information on hours, etc.
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