Hong Kong religion and Chinese culture are very closely intertwined when it comes to spirituality and beliefs of the people of Hong Kong.
Most people in Hong Kong do not claim an affiliation to a particular "organised" religion, but practise elements of different doctrines, with Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism being the most prevalent.
This is possible since these doctrines are not based in the belief of one specific god but rather in following the teachings of a leader.
Buddhism is founded in the teachings of Buddha, and followers seek to reach a deep understanding of the nature of life, to conquer suffering, and to use meditation as a means of training and purifying the mind.
Taoism is based on the philosophies of Lao Tsu, who teaches the virtues of keeping the world in natural balance and living in harmony with the "tao" or "the way of the universe".
Confucius, China's most famous thinker, emphasized respect to the elders, the importance of education, and strong family bonds.
So people may call themselves Buddhist and at the same time follow Confucian principles. People even if they are not religious, may visit a temple every now and then and pay their respects, to their ancestors or a particular deity, specially around the New Year when offerings for coming good fortune are done.
Popular Deities in Hong Kong Religion
Everybody regardless of their faith, may believe in the power of fortune tellers, the forces of feng shui, spiritual benefits of tai chi, and special gods or deities. For example,
- Tin Hau, Goddess of the Sea, considered the patron of the city as Hong Kong was mainly a fishing community in the old days, Tin Hau protects fishermen who traditionally came to pray for full nets and calm seas. There are Tin Hau temples all over the city, over 60, and Tin Hau's birthday on the 23rd day of the 3rd Lunar Month (around April/May) is a big celebration.
- Kwun Yam, Goddess of Mercy (pictured), comforts those who are sick or in distress, the compassionate god that inspires love and devotion. You find a shrine dedicated to Kwun Yam in Repulse Bay, it's a beautiful colorful shrine in a striking setting on the seaside.
You see Hong Kong religion inherent in Chinese culture in many ways. Several of the most colorful Chinese festivals are associated with some religious god or deity.
During the Chinese New Year, praying at temples for good fortune is a long-held tradition. And even non-believers come and pay respect to their ancestors on Ching Ming Day, or Tomb Sweeping Day.
Hong Kong Temples and Shrines
There are over 600 temples in this tiny territory. Some are magnificent structures with elaborate and colorful decorations and some are tiny and unassuming.
They all have their own charms and are worth a visit just to get a feel for this very unique facet of Hong Kong religion and spirituality and the many traditions that have been practised for generations.
Here are some very popular places of worship worth a look to witness these aspects of Hong Kong religion and tradition, which are easy to visit, some are in very central locations which you may even run into during your visit.
About Traditions and Practices
Worshipers have shown their devotion in many ways and these practices have passed on from generation to generation.
Visiting temples and making offerings is almost a way of life. Offerings can be in a very simple form, as in bringing a gift of some fresh fruit or other foods to the shrine, for example, or something more elaborate as setting up an entire temple.
You are likely to witness the very common types of offerings:
- Fruits and Rice: sometimes you see these offerings in small altars set up for this purpose, either on temples, at homes, businesses and even along the roads. Rice is a commong offering, it is a nourishing food and a symbol of blessing.
- Incense Offerings: incense is thought to have a "cleansing" effect, burning incense purifies its surroundings.
- Burning paper money or other paper offerings: Chinese believe that burning something conveys the essence of the burnt element to the spirit world. Sometimes people burn papers with pictures of things that can be "used" by those that have passed away, i.e. cars, electronics, and of course "ghost money"
Incense Offerings at the Po Lin Monastery Courtyard
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