A History Of Wong Tai Sin Temple In 1 Minute

Kyle Magnuson/CC BY 2.0/Flickr
Kyle Magnuson/CC BY 2.0/Flickr
Photo of Sally Gao
14 September 2016

The Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, located on the south side of Kowloon’s Lion Rock mountain, covers almost 18,000 square meters. This beautiful complex of altars, pavilions and gardens, is listed as a Grade I Historic building and is one of the most popular temples in Hong Kong. Legend has it that the temple will answer all your prayers – ‘all wishes are granted.’

The temple is dedicated to the Taoist deity Wong Tai Sin. Born a poor shepherd in the Jin Dynasty around 328 AD, he retreated to a mountain cave to dedicate his life to Taoism, eventually achieving enlightenment and becoming immortal. It is said that Wong Tai Sin’s powers include healing the wounded and sick.

The worship of Wong Tai Sin was brought to Hong Kong by a man named Leung Renyan. Originally from mainland China’s Guangdong province, he moved to Wan Chai in 1915, bringing a sacred portrait of Wong Tai Sin with him. He set up the portrait in an altar in the back of his herbal medicine shop, and his customers would pray at the altar for their illnesses to be cured.

In 1918, Leung’s herbal shop was destroyed in a fire. According to legend, he was then instructed by divine guidance to construct a new shrine near Kowloon City. The temple was thus established at its present site in Chuk Yuen Village in 1921.

(Left) Klaus Nahr/CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr | (Top Right) Anita Ritenour/CC BY 2.0/Flickr | (Bottom Right) MsAnthea/CC BY-ND 2.0/Flickr

The temple operated as a private altar until 1956, when it was granted permission to open to the public. Over time, the temple grew into a complex of halls and altars catering to Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian worshippers.

The Main Altar houses Leung Renyan’s original portrait of Wong Tai Sin. Below the main temple, you’ll find fortune teller booths where you can pay for a consultation with a soothsayer.

Wong Tai Sin Temple is famous for a popular fortune telling practice called kau cim. The ritual comprises the following: a worshipper shakes a container full of bamboo sticks until a single one falls to the ground. The stick is exchanged for a piece of paper corresponding to a number, which is then taken to a fortune teller for interpretation.

The temple is especially crowded on Wong Tai Sin’s birthday – the 23rd day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar – and on the eve of Chinese New Year, when myriads of worshippers come in at midnight to offer incense to Wong Tai Sin.

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