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Buddhist and Taoist Temples in Tai Po - District · PDF fileYAU Chi On, NGAI Ting Ming Buddhist and Taoist Temples in Tai Po Introduction Temples and monasteries are main venues for

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  • YAU Chi On, NGAI Ting Ming

    Buddhist andTaoist Temples in Tai PoIntroduction

    TemplesandmonasteriesaremainvenuesforChinese

    religiousworship,andyettheyplayrolesfarbeyondreligion

    inChinesesociety.They form integralpartsofourdaily

    lives, labourandproduction,and thepursuitofpersonal

    growth.After in-depthobservationandanalysisof these

    temples,onecanseethatreligionisindeedindispensableto

    everyaspectoflifeintraditionalChina.Asthesayinggoes,

    "thereisagodthreefeetaboveus."Chinesepeoplebelieve

    that anunexplainable force connects thingsvisible and

    invisible.Todenythatsuchaforceexists is tobeblindto

    thedevelopmentandchangesinChinesesocietythroughout

    history.

    DevelopmentofTaiPobeganlaterthanotherdistricts

    inHongKong. Inparticular, thebanonseafaring in the

    MingDynastyandtheevacuationof thecoast(Qianjie) in

    theQingDynasty,whichforcedcoastalsettlement inland

    severelystunted thedistrict'sgrowth.Theonlysettlers in

    TaiPoatthetime,suchastheMansandTsesofWunYiu,

    wererelocated.Nevertheless,althoughtheseearlysettlers

    werepioneers inastrange land, theystillgreatly revered

    theirgods.Inthe9thyearoftheDaoguangReign(1829),the

    MaswhohadrelocatedtoWunYiurebuilttheGodofthe

    EarthTempleinthevillage:

    The origin of the God of the Earth Temple in Wun Yiu is unknown, as is its age and builder. It has always radiated an aura of grandeur.1

    After theQianjieended, theMasmovedtoWunYiu

    fromChangleinthe13thyearof theKangxiReign(1674).

    Ithadbeentenyearssincethecampaignintheearlyyears

    of theKangxiReign,but the temple retained itsoriginal

    grandeurandbeauty,reflectingpainstakingefforts invested

    bytheunknownvillagerswhobuiltit.

    After theoriginal territorywas reinstated, a large

    numberofmigrantsarrivedinHongKongfromGuangdong

    andanewchapterinTaiPo'shistorybegan.Asthesettlers

    came fromdifferent regions inChina,manyvillages in

    TaiPohosteddifferent lineages.TheworshipofKwan

    Tai(GuanYu)becameaspecialcustomfor thesevillages,

    as itunited thevillagers in thebattleagainstnaturaland

    humandisasters.ManyvillagesbuiltKwanTaiTemplesand

    examplesareKwanTaiTempleinTingKok,HipTinTemple

    inPoSumPai,HipTinTempleinCheungShueTanandMo

    TaiTempleinWunYiu.

    At the same time, migrants from the Mainland

    graduallyestablished their livelihood inTaiPowith their

    own typicalcharacteristics.Somespecial formsof local

    worship began to emerge. For example, Fan Sin ("Fan

    Xian" inPutonghua)Temple inWunYiu lookedafter the

    potterybusinessof theMa family,whileTaiWongYeh

    TemplewasbuiltinYuenChauTsaiforthelivesandmutual

    developmentof theboatpeopleand those livingon land.

    Thesetemplegodsweredeeplyintegratedintoeveryaspect

    ofthevillagers'lives.Celebrationsfordeities'birthdaysand

    TaipingQingjiao (Dajiao),ceremonialoccasions, fortune

    telling,medical consultancy,villagemeetings andeven

    awardpresentationandpunishmentsalltookplaceinsidethe

    temples.Blessedbythesegods,themigrantsfinallyplanted

    theirrootsinTaiPo.

    In modern times, China has experienced drastic

    changes thathave impeded thedevelopmentof traditional

    religion. Some high-ranking monks travelled south to

    HongKong tospread theestablished religionsofChina,

    andgraduallychanged the faceof traditional religions in

    HongKong.Atthistime,TaiPowaslargelyanagricultural

    societyandpeopleweresimpleandunconcernedwith the

    outsideworld.Thedistrictwasalsoblessedwithwonderful

    landscapesand itbecamean idealplaceof seclusion for

    reachingBuddhist enlightenment.At the same time,Tai

    Powas conveniently connectedwith theoutsideworld,

    withToloHarbourprovidinganoutletbysea.In1911, the

    KowloonCantonRailroadwent intooperationandTaiPo

    StationbroughtthedistrictclosertoHongKong'sdeveloping

    areas.Since then,TaiPohasbecome, inessence,partof

    HongKongandhasprogressedwiththecity'surbanisation,

    no longer an impoverished town inGuandong'sXin-An

    County.

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    These favourable conditionsgave rise toTaiPo's

    emergenceasan idealsite forHongKong'sBuddhistand

    Taoistworshipsites.Beginninginthe1920s,manyBuddhist

    andTaoist siteswereestablished inTaiPo.The founders

    of thesesites includedtraditionalspiritual leaders,suchas

    MasterTinSiuTsuenofSinTinTaoand theHonourable

    BuddhistMasterZengSiu,aswellas"risingstars"suchas

    thebraveMasterBhiksuniTszChuengandMasterChan

    TszShek,whoexplored themysteriesof life.Therewere

    alsopeopleofhumbleorigins,suchasYeeGu,aspiritual

    mediumtotheotherworld,andevenmerchants,suchaslay

    BuddhistWongSiuWai.ThesefoundersselectedTaiPofor

    itsbeautifulnaturalenvironment.Thelectoriums,including

    ToYuenTung,YanLoBuddhistMonastery,TaiKwongYuen,

    PunChunYuen,LoFungAcademyandManTakYuen,were

    built forquiet studyandcontemplation,but theydonot

    shuncontactwiththecommunityat large.Forexample,To

    YuenTungisthemainlectoriumoftheSinTinTaosectand

    maintainsclosecontactwithotherSinTinTaolectoriumin

    HongKong.YanLoBuddhistMonasteryisinfactabranch

    lectoriumandthemainoneisinthecity.Meanwhile,Master

    TszCheungofTaiKwongYuenenjoyed travel-study,and

    wasofteninvitedfortravellectures.AsforPunChunYuen,

    itprovidedthevenueforahalf-dayretreatforthefounders,

    whowerelargelycitydwellers.Whetherthefounderswere

    citydwellerswhosoughtescape to realise loftygoalsof

    enlightenment in the countryside,or recluseswhoonly

    occasionally contacted the outside world, the railroad

    connectedtheworldoftheworshipsitesandthatofthecity,

    whichat firstglanceseemtorepresentconflicting ideals.

    However, inreality, theseworshipsitesbigandsmall,have

    takenpartinHongKong'sdevelopment.Havingundergone

    theirownmodernisation,thesesiteshavechangedthefaceof

    traditionalChinesereligionasHongKonghasevolvedintoa

    metropolis.

    Eventhoughtheworshipsitesretainedclosecontact

    with the rest of Hong Kong, their establishment and

    development stilldependedheavilyon support from the

    locals inTaiPo.ManyresidentsofTaiPooriginatedfrom

    theMainlandandthusdidnotopposeoutsiders.Sincethey

    toocamefromelsewhere, theyweremoreunderstanding

    ofmigrants from far awaywho soughtopportunities in

    TaiPo,andcouldappreciate themmore.Some founders

    of theworship sites inTaiPocame fromdifferentareas

    ofGuangdong fromChaoshan in theeast toDinghu in

    thewest, and fromGuangzhou in the south toFeixia in

    thenorth.When theysettled inTaiPoand founded their

    worship sites, the localsdidnot reject theirworship as

    cultsbutparticipatedin theirreligioninstead.Most locals

    treateddifferentfaithswiththesamerespect,whetheritwas

    anestablishedreligion likeBuddhismandTaoism,a local

    mixtureofBuddhismandTaoismliketheSinTinTaosect,

    oralegendarytemplegodtheywerefamiliarwithlikeFan

    Sin,KwanTaiand theTaoistLordLaozi.Theybelieved

    in theessenceof thesereligions, indoinggooddeedsand

    prayingwithanuntaintedmind.Blessings fromthegods

    wouldcomewithdevoutworship. In return, the temples

    madegreatefforts toprovideservices to thepeople.Sing

    KungChoTongofferedfreemedicalservices,whilespiritual

    mediumsinterpretedmessagesfromtheotherworldatFung

    LoiLeungYuenandSungSumToTakTan.TaiKwongYuen,

    meanwhile,providedfreeeducation.Someofthefounders'

    storiesarestillreminiscedaboutbythelocalstoday.TinSiu

    Tsuenwasknownforbeingknowledgeableandkind,where

    YeeGuwasanamazingspiritmedium.Theworshipsites

    formedmutuallybeneficialrelationshipswithlocalresidents,

    andtheyhaveestablisheddeeprootsinthecommonpeople's

    livesandbecomeanindispensablepartofTaiPo'scommunal

    history.

    TaoistworshipsitesinTaiPocanbecategorisedinto

    singong (immortals' palace), langyuan ("leungyuen" in

    Cantonese)andlectoriums.These includeFanSinTemple

    inWunYiuHeung,SingKungChoTong (worshipping

    MasterGuangcheng) inTingKokRoad,FungLoiLeung

    Yuen(worshippingLuTsu, theEight Immortals, theJade

    Emperor (Yudi) and Dragon Mother (Lungmu) in Pun

    ShanChauVillage,SungSumToTakTan (worshipping

    TaoistLordLuzi) inTaiPoKauVillage.The lectoriums

    mainlyworshipLuTzu,andexamplesareYanLoBuddhist

    MonasteryandManTakYuen.AsforBuddhistsites, there

    areTingWaiMonastery,TaiKwongYuen,andPunChun

    YuenoftheLotusAssociationofHongKongamongothers.

  • ThefollowingintroducesTaoistandBuddhistworshipsites

    establishedinTaiPofromtheQingDynastytothe1970s,in

    chronologicalorder.

    Taoist Temples

    Foreword

    There are a fewplaces inHongKong that host a

    numberofTaoistandBuddhistworshipsites includingthe

    areabetweenFungWongShanandKeungShanonLantau

    Island,betweenFuYungShanandSamDipTaminTsuen

    Wan,inthehillsabovePaiTauVillageinShatin,andfrom

    KamShanandShekKwuLungandMaWoShantoToYuen

    Tung(suchasTingWaiMonastery,TaiKwongYuen,Pun

    ChunYuenandYanLo)inTaiPo.NgBaLingmentionsYan

    LoandFungLoiLeungYuenwhenhewritesaboutTaiPo

    (seeGuidetoTravelinTaiPo()):

    Yan Lo, located in Kam Shan Village, is built along the hills and contains a world of its own. To Yuen Tung, situated upon a small stream behind Pan Chung, has four chambers Shui Yuet Temple, Siu Village Quiet Chamber, To Yuen Tung, and Longevity Chamber. It is a place of serenity. Fung Loi Sin Yuen [Fun Loi Leung Yuen] sits in Pun Shan Chau and can be assessed from behind the hills in Pan Chung. Having passed To Yuen Tung and Wun Yiu, one walks further for about half an hour to arrive there. The sit

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