Tin Hau is the Goddess of the sea and protector of fisherman and sailors, as Hong Kong is surrounded by the deep blue she is one of the city’s most popular deities. Hong Kong has around fifty temples at least in part dedicated to Tin Hau, and there is a dedicated Tin Hau festival each year. This tour takes place in the Tin Hau Temple in Causeway Bay.
Tin Hau Temple - Tin Hau MTR, Victoria Park
A Fiery Entrance
The Tin Hau Temple in Causeway Bay is a declared monument and the local area, known as Tin Hau, derives it’s name from the sea goddess. This particular temple is over 200 years old, and one of the most active in Hong Kong. During the Tin Hau Festival, queues form down the street. A pair of fiery dragons stand guard at the entrance to ward of evil spirits.
Where the Gods Gather
Like most temples in Hong Kong, the building is used for prayer to many gods, not just Tin Hau. Some visitors can also be confused by the fact that temples are not necessarily dedicated to one religion, with deities from Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism often sharing temples. Added to this confusion is Ancestor Worship, which at certain times of the year trumps all three. Tin Hau is primarily Taoist, but as you can see from the pictures, superstars from all of the religions make an appearance.
Color Schemes and Decorations
Taoist temples are the most colorful of the three religions, as you can see from the picture above. Ornately decorated, worshippers often add brightly colored flowers and streamers to decorate the temple. Taosim is deeply superstitious and color is seen as bringing good luck, particularly red. You will find sellers outside most temples hawking statues, incense as well as flowers.
God's Eat Chinese Take Away
Worship to Taoist gods, as well as Buddhist and Confuscist, is usually by way of offering. People will bring food to please the god, this is usually in the form of fruit, however in a move unique to Hong Kong many people will offer hot takeaway meals - although this is more usually associated with ancestor worship. If you want to find some favor with a certain god, bring some fruit and place it at the feet of your favorite immortal.
Warning: As in western churches, praying is an intently personal experience. Before taking any pictures, ask permission.
From Praying to Gambling
Temples are far more easy-going places than churches in the west. Temples usually have gardens and a courtyard, and are a popular meeting place, particularly for the elderly. Mahjong is the favored form of passing the time, as is Chinese Chequers, the two men in the picture are listening to racing tips while picking their best ponies out of the local newspaper.
Warning: These men generally don’t like having their picture taken while gambling, more for fear their wife will find out than anything else. Ask first.