Sacred portrait moved in ceremony to mark start of Wong Tai Sin Temple redevelopment

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 April, 2008, 12:00am

Wong Tai Sin Temple kicked off its expansion project by moving its patron deity icon amid gong-banging and chanting.

The 93-year-old portrait, originally from Guangzhou, will remain at the adjacent Fung Ming House for two years while Sik Sik Yuen, a religious charity that owns the temple, demolishes and expands the main platform.

As worshippers made their way through incense clouds with joss sticks and roasted pigs, Sik Sik Yuen chairman Lee Yiu-fai led about 80 temple workers to the main temple.

After much chanting and bowing, and a cleansing ritual, Mr Lee took the portrait in procession to the front square, where he positioned a magnifying glass over gold-leaf paper to light it with the Sun's rays.

Andrew Cheung Yiu-kwong, managing director of P. K. & Ng Associates contracted for the demolition work and design consulting, hit the ground with a hammer to signify the project's beginning.

Sounding their gongs, the crowd took the portrait to its temporary home, where Wong Tai Sin's faithful will be directed while the work is ongoing, and blessed the hall in an hour-long ceremony.

The revamp is complicated because part of the temple will be hollowed to build the underground Lord of the Year and Age Hall, or Huen Sun Hall. That meant the foundations would be unstable, said Mr Cheung, whose firm also revamped the Po Lin Monastery.

P. K. & Ng would use steel columns and a reinforced concrete wall to support the foundations and constantly monitor them, he said.

Demolition would begin today and end in early August. There will be a tender some time in May to choose a construction contractor.

Wong Sau-ling, 64, who has frequented the temple for over 20 years, welcomed the expansion, saying it was too crowded.

She said Wong Tai Sin was luckier than other deities because fortune tellers at the temple foresaw the dates of two milestones in her life using prediction sticks: her entry to Hong Kong from her native Fujian to meet her husband in 1962, and the birth of her first son in 1967.