Monday, February 16, 2009

Hong Kong: Part 2

Our second day in Hong Kong was much better than the first. We decided to get out of the city and go to see the largest Taoist temple in Hong Kong. It is about an hour's train ride outside of the main city. Based on our observations during the train ride, it sees to us that everyone in the country lives in a high rise. They were everywhere! I mean we were an hour's train ride from the city, and still there were high rises everywhere!

The Fung Ying Seen Koon temple is actually pretty cool. I don't know much about Taoism (or Daoism) but I intend to learn more this year. The main temple houses three deities. Based on the extreme similarities between this temple and the one next to our house, I have to conclude that the temple that is on the same block as our apartment building is a Daoist temple.

I unfortunately didn't get a picture inside of this main temple because there were a lot of worshipers and I didn't want to be too intrusive. But it looked pretty similar to this one (this is a picture of a temple that we stumbled upon later in the day) Basically there are three of these alters. If memory serves me, one was gold like this one, one was red, and one was blue. Each one is perfectly situated directly in front of one of the doors of the temple.

There were lots of buildings on the grounds of this temple, including two other places of worship. I know that each temple served its own purpose and had its own deities, unfortunately, I don't have any details about them.

The first room we went to was very serene. This was the main deity in the room, but there were also a bunch of pillars in the room covered in tiny little deities in glass globes. I've never seen anything like it before, so I thought it was pretty cool. The second room had figures lining all along two walls, there must have been at least 50 of them and people were praying at and leaving things for each of them individually. In addition to all of the lesser deities lining the walls, there was one very large shrine in the middle of the room. That deity had like 6 hands, 4 faces, and looked pretty intimidating.

There were lots of people at the temple on Saturday and they were all burning incense and saying prayers at the alters. They also brought flowers, fruit, candy, and all kinds of small gifts.

In addition to the temples, they also had lots of "Ancestor Halls." These are places where people can memorialize their ancestors and then come to burn incense for them and pray to them. So, the halls are full of pictures of people's deceased relatives.

The temple also had some other cool things, like this big wall that had some pretty detailed carvings on one side and the entire Daoist text inscripted on the other side.

After we wandered around the temple for a while, Nick found a small set of stairs way at the top of the property. It kind of looked like a place we weren't supposed to go, but we went up anyway and stumbled upon a cemetery.

I had never seen a Daoist cemetery before and it was pretty cool. Ancestor worship is very important in Asian cultures and based on what we saw at this temple, its very important to the Daoist religion. Instead of simple head stones like the ones we get in the U.S. the grave-sites here were all little alters to for the ancestors. Some of them even had little urns on them so that the surviving relatives can burn incense at the grave site for the dead.

(here is a shot of the graveyard hillside)

(Here is what the typical grave sites in the cemetery looked like)

(This is one of the more opulent grave sites... we figured this guy had some dough!)

The temple was pretty cool and it was neat to have some time exploring on our own. We had our backpacks with us because we were getting on the plane later that night and it was so hot out that while we were in the grave yard (no one was around) I changed out of my jeans and into a pair of carpi's.... I hope I wasn't being too disrespectful, but it was FREEKING HOT!

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