Sunday, 16 August 2015

Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen Hong Kong

After about an hour of the leisurely walk around the Aberdeen Promenade, Hong Kong, I headed into Aberdeen town centre. In particular, my next stop is going to be Tin Hau Temple (天后古廟).

Incense and candles, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Aberdeen's Tin Hau Temple is located at the intersection of Aberdeen Main Rd and Aberdeen Reservoir Rd

Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Main entrance
Roof decoration, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
From the outside, Taoist temple can be easily recognised with its elaborate roof's decorations.
Usually there's a pair of dragons (just outside the photo). 
Buddhist temples roofs are quite plain without little or no decorations.

In the Taoist Heaven, Tin Hau (天后) is translated literally as the Empress of Heaven (aka Queen of Heaven). In the neighbouring Macau, she's better known as Mazu (媽祖), which literally means Mother-Ancestor (or Ancestral Mother).

Statue, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
statue, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Left:  Tin Hau statue in the main altar in red Empress regalia embroidered with dragons (interestingly not phoenix) design.
Above:  Closeup of Tin Hau wearing an empress' crown

Remembering that Aberdeen - and indeed the whole of HK - is a fishing village once upon a time. Aberdeen still retains some character of a fishing village. So you can expect there're at least several Tin Hau temples in HK, not the least, in Aberdeen: the original HK. This is because Tin Hau is worshiped by seafarers and fishermen in the Chinese communities. It's believed that she rules the waves (Britania also claimed such power).

Main hall, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Tin Hau is franked by 2 fierce looking guarding generals:
"Thousand Miles Eye" (千里眼, Qianli Yan) and "With-the-Wind Ear" (順風耳 Shunfeng Er). 

These 2 generals aren't just her body guards, but her friends. In fact, once upon a time, her pursuers, in other words, wannabe boyfriends. Looks like most of statues in this temples are made in lacquered woods. Maybe she finds them a bit wooden?

Thousand Miles Eye, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
"Thousand Miles Eye". He has a 3rd eye on his forehead
to enable him to have amazing telescope vision.
With the Wind Ears, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
"With the Wind Ears". Notice the size and shape his ears are such that it enables him to hear sounds that are very far away.

"Thousand Miles Eye" is a singular eye appears in the forehead. The Hindu believes this is the location of the Third Eye Chakra. In some cultures, this is the location of the so-called 3rd Eye. Apparently, Chinese too has such a concept. It seems quite universal. This leads scientists to suspect that there's something to it.

Some mystic schools believe this 3rd Eye is referred to the pineal gland, which is located just behind the 3rd Eye. It's quite interesting - in fact spooky - that the pineal gland is light sensitive. This beg the question, how did the ancients know about it? Is it just coincidence, and there's something more to it? Perhaps our collective consciousness make us aware of that. Weird, isn't it?

Her main altar are franked by 2 side altars with Taoist deities.

Chinese ancient physician Hua Tuo, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Ancient physician Hua Tuo (華佗)
Figurine of Tin Hau, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Tin Hau figurine
God of Wealth, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
God of Wealth (财帛星君 Cai Bo Xing Jun)

At first, I was surprise that statue of Hua Tuo is found in this temple. Hua Tuo to TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) is what Hippocrates is to the ancient Greek medicine. While the traditional Greek medicine is no longer mainstream in the West, TCM is very much alive in Chinese communities. While the West isn't practising ancient Greek medicine, but his spirit lives on in the Hippocratic Oath today.

Chinese knows about Hua Tuo via the Chinese classics Romance of the Three Kingdoms where he performed surgery on Guan Yu, and suggested performing brain surgery on Cao Cao to cure his chronic headaches (possibly caused by brain tumour). Yes, you hear me right, brain surgery in the 2nd century.

Cao Cao ordered his death. While waiting to be executed in the prison, Hua Tuo wrote his masterpiece in a hurry. No wonder Chinese today don't like Cao Cao.

At first I was surprise by his appearance in this temple. Deified historical figure isn't anything new in Chinese or many other cultures. For example, Guan Yu was deified as a god. On second thought, his presence shouldn't be come as a surprise at all.

What are the main blessings devotees come to pray for ? For fishermen (and seafarers), safety at sea is the most important. This is Tin Hau's jurisdiction. The other 2 important things are, of course, health and wealth. These 3 deities simply embody the devotees' 3 main concerns.

Devotee praying with joss stick, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Goddess bless you !
Pray hard, work hard. Looks like there's some serious praying going on here. Is she praying for work promotion or a date, perhaps? Maybe both, and in that order. Can she pray for more than one thing? Is there a quota on how many prayers can occur at a given time? What about prayer quota on a weekly, a monthly basis? Where can I get the instruction manual? Can I pray for an instruction manual? What's the instruction for praying for instruction manual? Just playing the Devil's Advocate...

incense or joss coils, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Incense coils suspended from the ceiling with bottom ashtrays.

Except for the smallest of temples, most Taoist temples are temple complexes that house different halls within the complex. Just like chapels within a church.

Side entrances, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Side circular entrances to the main hall of Tin Hau as well as Guayin and Wong Tai Sin halls.

Guanyin signboard, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Above:  Signboard for Guanyin "Attic" (small temple).
Right: Guanyin statue
statue, Guanyin, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong

Guanyin is another Taoist goddess, who's even more popular than Tin Hau because of her broad jurisdiction. In other words, devotees can come to her for everything.

statue, Wong Tai Sin, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Signboard, Wong Tai Sin, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Above:  Signboard for Wong Tai Sin.
Left: Wong Tai Sin statue

Wong Tai Sin (黃大仙 Great Immortal Wong) is very popular in HK, and Zhejiang. Unlike the 2 above mentioned Taoist goddesses, who are also very popular in many Chinese communities in and especially outside Mainland China. It was due to unique historical situation that makes Wong Tai Sin being worshipped in HK.

According to my uncle, who's an amateur monk (for the lack of a better term, meaning he's engineer by trade and a monk by passion. He works closely with temples, but he retains his secular life) told me that Wong Tai Sin is something like HK's patron saint (borrowing Christianity's terminology, St. George is the patron saint of England, St. Patrick is the patron saint of you-know-what-country, and St. Francis or San Francesco is the patron saint of Italy, and so on).

There're other minor Taoist deities that I'll leave you to explore yourself.

temple incinerator, Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Aberdeen Baptist Church and Tin Hau Temple, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Left:  Burnt offering incinerator
Above:  Aberdeen Baptist Church locates just behind Tin Hau Temple, side by side like ebony and ivory on a piano, with the church kinda looking over the shoulder of the temple.

Just a few mins before 5pm, smoke starts to rise from the burnt offering incinerator. Since nobody except for me in the temple, I suspect this is a closing ritual for this temple. As he closes the gate, the temple manager sees me and say that he though I have left. He says I'm lucky that he sees me before he locks the gate. I'm neither Spiderman nor a parkour expert, but to climb over a 1m tall gate, I can manage. There's little chance I'll spend the night in this temple (would be a very interesting experience).

While I'm thinking of going to visit St. Peter's Church and its dead quiet neighour the Aberdeen Chinese Permanent Cemetery (who doesn't want to visit cemetery?), but daylights are dying off, and so is my energy level. I'll have to do that in Ada's next visit to the Horizon Plaza.

I also visited the larger Tin Hau Temple in Yau Ma Tei in Kowloon. To read it, click here.

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