See Colourful Hymns to the Sea in Hong Kong

A short boat ride away from the local business districts is another world lifted right off a history book. Not too long ago, Hong Kong was still populated by fisher folk who appealed to their sea deities for safety and prosperity. Their annual celebrations still take place every year at the end of spring, attracting local urbanites as well as visitors from far and wide. Like their ancestors, the city’s rural seafarers throw elaborate celebrations that are unique to Hong Kong, giving thanks for the year past and expressing hopes for the one to come.

The first of these will take place on 25 April, which is the birthday of the compassionate goddess Tin Hau, who forecasts the weather and protects people from shipwreck. The hottest seat in the city will be the ancient Tai Temple in Sai Kung, Hong Kong’s oldest surviving temple. Fishermen’s boats are decked with fluttering banners to form a colourful boat parade, while intricate floral floats and traditional lion dances take place on land. Also worth a visit is Tai Shu Ha in Yuen Long, where a three-hour procession will take place, featuring lion and dragon dances, a floral parade and a marching band. Yet as exciting as these festivals are, they are but an appetiser for what’s to come.

The big day to mark down is 10 May, which is a public holiday, and for good reason. The devout worshipper (and ambitious traveller) should start early, because there are at least three stops to make: one for the birthday celebrations of Buddha, another for the birthday of Tam Kung, and a final one for the Cheung Chau Bun Festival and its famed Aerial Parade, a one-of-a-kind event exclusive to Hong Kong.

Though Buddha’s worshippers will be congregating in monasteries throughout the city, the savvy traveller should make for the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, home of the world’s largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha. There, they can kneel with the faithful and pay their respects by bathing Buddha statues in an act symbolic of their own spiritual purification. Sumptuous vegetarian feasts will also be laid out, while Shaolin monks perform astonishing kung fu feats. The sea god Tam Kung’s worshippers gather with similar fanfare at his temple in Shau Kei Wan, where local fishermen will throw raucous celebrations and parades of their own. Travelling Chinese opera troupes will often make stops throughout the city, performing famous religious excerpts from classics.

However, if there is one place to be that day, it’s the Cheung Chau Bun Festival on Cheung Chau Island. As the old story goes, the island was once invaded by evil spirits, or pirates, according to another version. That is why local children, disguised as gods, will take flight to drive away the invaders (with the help of elaborate stilts). This is the colourful Aerial Parade, which will wind throughout the island, finally arriving at Pak Tai Temple and the famous 60-foot bun towers. As their name implies, these towers are covered in ‘protection buns’, and to pluck one off the top is to enjoy a year of safety and peace. That is why, at the stroke of midnight, athletes who have passed the qualifying rounds will make a rush for the tower, vying for the glory of snatching the largest number from the top to invoke another good year. This race is also open to travellers who register beforehand, but be warned: you will be up against stiff competition.

Do come see yourself and experience these colourful festivals in the Asia’s World City.

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April 7, 2011 · admin · Comments Closed
Posted in: Hong Kong