Worshippers embrace festival spirit

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 May, 2006, 12:00am

Shops cash in near Tam Kung temple while thousands flock to Buddha ceremony

Tam Kung, Taoist god of the sea, brought a wave of good fortune to shops and vendors at Shau Kei Wan on his birthday yesterday, attracting more than 20,000 visitors to the district with lion dances and street parades.

Roads leading to the Tam Kung Temple, built in 1905, were sealed to make way for the troops of drummers, lion and dragon dancers and children dressed in costumes to emulate Chinese gods.

The festival was heavily publicised for the first time this year under a campaign by the Tourism Board to promote Hong Kong's cultural heritage.

The flock of visitors, including tourists and people from various districts of Hong Kong, was welcomed by business people, who cashed in on the occasion.

The Tam Kung Temple charged visitors for hitting its drums and gongs, symbols of good luck.

Donation boxes or basins were placed at virtually every point at which worshippers would stop while lining up to burn incense.

Outside the temple's back door, seven or eight elderly men and women swooped on visitors, shoving into their hands filled-in Mark Six tickets and red cards with words of blessings printed in gold, asking for money.

Worshippers believe Tam Kung was able to summon storms, or calm them, by throwing peas into the air. Legend says he was born in Huizhou prefecture in Guangdong.

The weather myth is popular among the seafaring peoples of Hong Kong and Macau.

Meanwhile, Buddha's Birthday, which coincides with Tam Kung's and gave people a public holiday yesterday, attracted more than 5,000 to an opening ceremony at the Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Among them were political and community leaders.

National People's Congress delegate Tsang Hin-chi, director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, Gao Siren , and Patrick Ho Chi-ping, secretary for home affairs, were present.

Buddhist leaders offered blessings for Hong Kong's fortune, prosperity and peace. Until May 7, celebrations will be held at the convention centre and in Golden Bauhinia Square, including the reciting of scriptures and prayers, a lantern festival, Shaolin Temple monks' martial arts shows, and seminars on Buddhism.

More than 100,000 visitors are expected to participate in the activities.