Sixty gods to worship - for a HK$100 fee
A new worship hall will open in crowded Wong Tai Sin Temple on Sunday, but unlike other parts of the temple, visitors will have to pay HK$100 to get in.
Sik Sik Yuen, the 90-year-old Taoist group managing the temple, has spent three years and over HK$100 million from donations to build the underground hall where visitors can worship 60 gods of the stars.
Group chairman Lee Yiu-fai said the fees collected would be used for maintenance of the hall and to employ cleaners. Any surplus would go to charity, he said. 'The temple attracts millions of visitors every year. We don't want to use our donations to serve tourists. So, if they wish to worship the gods, they should pay for themselves,' Lee said.
For the entrance fee, visitors would get three joss sticks, and volunteers would help them tell the gods their wishes. After the wishing is done, smoke will rise from behind the god they are praying to and a lamp will light up, meaning the god has received the message.
The hall features an astrology diagram on the ceiling. Two reliefs of the gods made of natural and semi-precious gems, each costing HK$1.5 million, are on the sides of the doors. The banners on top and on the sides of the doors were written by sinologist Jao Tsung-i.
Asked why only part of the temple had an entry fee, Lee said: 'Isn't it more beautiful here? That's why we need to charge our visitors for that.'
Or Wai-shun, a director of the Taoist group, said the new hall was part of the group's charity work. 'By having a new hall, we can collect more donations to do charity work.'
Yuen Kwok-keung, Wong Tai Sin district councillor, objected to the idea of charging visitors to go into the hall. 'The hall is built with donations, and Wong Tai Sin Temple is a very popular landmark among the public and the tourists. It's unreasonable they charge visitors for that when they have got enough funding.'
Another district councillor, Joe Chan Yim-kwong, said the HK$100 entrance fee was acceptable. 'They are not forcing the visitors to go in. It's just a part of their plan to get more donations and to compete with other temples.'
Sik Sik Yuen says the fees will pay for maintenance and cleaning of the hall
The Taoist group has spent more than this much over three years to build the new underground worship area: $100m