Most people think the only temples in Hong Kong are shopping malls — the city’s shoppers are certainly passionate enough to be labeled worshippers — but spend a little time in the city and you’ll notice roadside shrines, tucked away temples and full-blown sprawling religious complexes.
Dedicated to Taoism, Buddhism and Ancestor Worship, and often a mix of all three, many temples are more than a hundred years old — ancient in Hong Kong terms. They are free to visit and welcome visitors. With no set services, temples are open to everybody from dusk until dawn and far more relaxed than churches or mosques. If you can try and visit during one of Hong Kong's big and bold festivals when you'll find locals lined up to give gifts to the gods.
Below is our pick of the best temples in Hong Kong.
Wong Tai Sin Temple
Taoism and Buddhism don’t do cathedrals, but if they did Wong Tai Sin temple would be Hong Kong’s. Occupying over 18,000 square meters, this is not only one of Hong Kong’s biggest temples but its most popular. When the grandstand celebrations such as Chinese New Year roll around, Wong Tai Sin Temple is top of everybody’s visit list and the temple and surrounding gardens become thronged with people.
Built to house a portrait of Taoist monk Wong Tai Sin in 1915, the temple contains deities from Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. It is, however, most famous for its fortune tellers. Next to the temple in the Wong Tai Sin arcade are dozens of talented or talentless (depending on who you believe) fortune tellers who can tell you everything from what stocks to buy to what to eat for dinner. While they read faces, palms and everything else you thrust under their noses, the most famous way of divining the future is chim sticks — an arsenal of numbered sticks that are shaken spilled on the floor and 'read'.
10,000 Buddha’s Monastery
Ok, so not strictly a temple, but a full-blown monastery complex set in the secluded hills of the New Territories. The most famous part of the 10,000 Buddha's Monastery, and where it gets its name, is estimated 13,000 miniature statues of Buddha as well as some frightening looking statues of war gods. There is also a 9 story pagoda which takes in unbeatable views over the lush, surrounding countryside. The bad news is the climb. An Everest-sized challenge awaits you with 431 steps leading up to the temples and further 69 steps if you want to see the tomb of Yuet Kai, the founder of the complex.
The best day of the year to visit the temple? Buddha's birthday of course.