Tributes for Chau Yum-nam, the 'White Dragon King', ahead of funeral
Chau Yum-nam, said to have had vision of spirit of great white dragon, was beloved by followers
Vivienne Chow and Ada Lee in Pattaya
He was known as the "White Dragon King" - a guru to Hong Kong's showbiz set, many of whom claimed he was able to anticipate the future and had led a number of struggling actors to stardom.
But to some of his followers, the late Chau Yum-nam was simply a wise man who taught them how to act morally.
"My memories of sifu [master] were not of a god, or anything supernatural like what the media describes," said Lum Chun-yip, 48, who followed Chau for more than 20 years. "What sifu taught me was pretty much the same as what my parents said, but one often doesn't like to listen to one's parents."
Chau, who died at home on August 17 at the age of 76, was reportedly born to Chinese parents near the Thai seaside resort town of Pattaya and worked as an electrician and perhaps a bicycle salesman. He allegedly had a vision of the spirit of a great white dragon - the White Dragon King - when he was 13. He built a temple when he was 28, purportedly following the dragon's orders, after surviving a fatal car accident, so that he could become a portal to the supposed deity.
Lum pointed to one of Chau's sayings - "With a kind heart, success will come" - written in calligraphy and hanging in the VIP room at the Shun Tak Centre branch of Lan Fong Yuen, the much-loved Central dai pai dong founded by his father in the 1950s where "silk stocking" milk tea was invented and which Lum now manages.
Lum recalled that Chau taught him to respect his parents, to have a good heart and temper, to keep things tidy and orderly and to maintain good interpersonal relationships.
"People often call him White Dragon King, but sifu is sifu," Lum said.
He added Chau played the role of White Dragon King only when he was at the altar, and that he could channel what he claimed was a deity to give blessings to his followers and help those in need. Lum said Chau never asked for money in return.
Chau's apparent desire to help people made him a favourite among showbiz types. Among his famous disciples were Infernal Affairs movie investor and now tourism chief Peter Lam Kin-ngok, director Andrew Lau Wai-keung, and stars Andy Lau Tak-wah and Tony Leung Chiu-wai, who all followed him for decades.
Lam said Chau suggested changing the Chinese title of Infernal Affairs from four characters to three. The film's title was revised from Mo Gan Heng Tse to Mo Gan Doh and it became a smash hit.
At a ceremony held yesterday ahead of Chau's funeral, his family and followers - including Andrew Lau and fellow film director Wong Jing - chanted for him at the White Dragon Temple in Pattaya. Hong Kong followers including businessman Albert Yeung Sau-shing and actor Timmy Hung Tin-ming sent wreaths and banners to the temple.
Chau's circle of celebrity acquaintances won him followers all over Asia, and led the entertainment press to sensationalise any event to which he could be connected, however tenuously.
Lum said he disliked the media froth around Chau, but that he had abilities beyond those of ordinary individuals.
Michelle Wong, a 32-year-old accountant, followed family friends to see Chau in 2008. She said she didn't get to speak to him for the first two years, which was supposedly a good thing as he only spoke to those who had problems.
The third year, Wong recalled, Chau spotted her from afar and asked her to come to the front of the gathering. He said to her: "You have done what you could to appease your mother, but she still doesn't treat you the way you want. If she continues to hurt you, you should ask her if upsetting you would make her feel better. If she says Yes, then let it be. You respect your mother by tolerating her."
"I burst into tears," said Wong, who has been troubled by her poor relationship with her mother. "Now I just try my best to tolerate my mother."