Temple gets hi-tech help to make sure visitors pick the right sticks

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 February, 2010, 12:00am

Worshippers worried about missing fortune sticks spoiling their readings should proceed to Wong Tai Sin Temple next month, when it introduces a hi-tech system to ensure all sticks are present and correct.

Picking the bamboo sticks from a container to find out what lies ahead is a tradition in Hong Kong.

The system will be based on similar technology to the Octopus smart card, said Wilson Or Wai-shun, director of Sik Sik Yuen, the organisation that runs the Kowloon temple.

'Some worshippers have told us they are concerned about the accuracy of stick-picking, because they have no way of telling whether a stick is missing from the container,' Or said. 'So we want to put people's minds at ease with this new system, which is fast and accurate.'

Sticks at the temple will be implanted with a chip, at a cost of HK$2 to HK$3 apiece. A container of the bamboo sticks can be checked by placing it in the temple's HK$20,000 machine, which detects missing or repeated sticks using radio frequency identification technology.

'Put the container into the machine and it will tell you whether you have the correct set of sticks in five seconds,' Or said.

Until now worshippers wanting to make sure they have a full set of 100 sticks have had to count them or ask temple staff to do so. Or said the new system will cut counting time from five minutes to five seconds - with three staff on hand to help temple-goers, rather than the previous 10.

The temple will suspend fortune stick-picking on Lunar New Year's Eve to reduce congestion over the busy period.

The system will begin on a trial basis from next month and it is scheduled to go into regular use after six months.

The temple has had 500 bamboo sticks, or 50 sets, implanted with the chips and that number is expected to increase to several thousand.

Meanwhile, the temple yesterday reopened its main altar - which had been closed for renovation work over the past year - ahead of the Lunar New Year.

With the expansion work on the altar completed, police expect the temple will draw about 800,000 people during Lunar New Year - 10 per cent more than last year.

The revamped altar's terrace for praying has been enlarged by 40 per cent to 750 square feet and can hold 2,000 more worshippers.

The temple will also set up a wall for wishing notes for the first time during Lunar New Year.

The temple will be open to visitors from 9pm on Lunar New Year's Eve, Saturday, until 6.30pm on Sunday.

The temple has urged visitors not to bring candles, oil or excessive amounts of incense to the temple for environmental and safety reasons.

Police security measures will be in place at the temple from 7pm on Saturday until 6.30pm on Sunday, and daily between 7am and 6.30pm from February 15 to 21 and on February 23, 25, 27 and 28.