Goddess pilgrims take 'loans', but just want happiness
Most Buddhist believers on this annual pilgrimage want wealth, but this year people queueing up to 'borrow' money from the Goddess of Mercy, Kwun Yum, seek good health and a peaceful society.
The early birds arrived at 10am yesterday to line up outside the Lotus Palace in Tai Hang and at the Kwun Yum Temple in Hung Hom for the opening of the treasury at 11pm today, the 26th day of the Lunar New Year. Another popular location is the Tin Hau Temple in Shau Kei Wan.
'The most important thing is to come with a happy heart. Even gods can't really help you - it's really what you do with your life. It's important to not be so stressed out about the minute things in life,' said a Mrs Wong, a Malaysian Chinese woman who arrived in Hong Kong 38 years ago and has been coming to the temple for more than 20 years.
'Remember, it's really not about money or making more money, but about getting peace and living a happy life.'
Mrs Wong, who was first in line at the Lotus Palace and like others did not wish to give her full name, said the pilgrimage had become almost like a habit, and less about belief.
Many of the worshippers were hoping for good health for their families, and a better and steadier society.
Another Mrs Wong, who was fourth in line, said health was also first on her list of wishes. 'Mostly I ask for blessings for my children and family. My daughter has A-levels this year, and I will have a new grandchild soon. I just want to ask for happiness and health,' she said.
During the two days that the treasury is open, worshippers in groups of 20 are allowed into the temple to pay their respects to their deity.
Each person receives a red packet, or lai see, containing a note with a number representing the amount of money Kwun Yum is 'lending' them, but no real money is handed out.
The larger the number, the greater the financial rewards people should expect in the year ahead.
At the Hung Hom temple, a Mrs Lee said the queue started forming a day before the opening. 'But for me, everywhere is just the same, as long as you believe,' said Lee.
Aside from the red packet, people take home lettuce, which is associated with good fortune, and an envelope full of peanuts, lotus seeds and other nuts symbolising a prosperous year. The notes must be returned before the next Lunar New Year.