Hong Kong Cultural Celebrations
This May, the vibrant, living culture of Asia’s world city is on show with four festivals. In modern and cosmopolitan Hong Kong, rousing gongs and drums, colourful parades, ancient rituals and bizarre customs signal the celebration of the city’s ancient Chinese past with the birthdays of Tin Hau, Buddha and Tam Kung, plus the Cheung Chau Bun Festival. And this is your guide to experiencing the energy, tradition and passion that are the very soul of Hong Kong!
- 1-31 May 2013
Do the Temples by Tram
While May is a great month to enjoy Hong Kong’s traditional festivals, you can experience the real soul of the city at any time of the year on one its oldest forms of public transport – Do the Temples by Tram!
Enjoy Magnificent 360-degree views of Hong Kong Cultural Celebrations
We’re using Google Street View to give you wonderful 360-degree views of the places and happenings of Hong Kong Cultural Celebrations.View
Tin Hau’s Birthday falls on the 23rd day of the third lunar month. You can find the Western calendar date here.
Hong Kong’s maritime heritage ensures that Tin Hau, Goddess of the Sea and patron saint of fishermen, has a strong and loyal following here. On her birthday, locals flock to the more than 70 temples dedicated to her in Hong Kong to pray for safety, security, fine weather and full fishing nets during the coming year. So enduring is the reverence for Tin Hau in Hong Kong that this festival is even celebrated by many young people who are more likely to catch a fish in a seafood restaurant than on a trawler.
In Shap Pat Heung in Yuen Long, there is a colourful parade of fa pau (floral wreaths), lion dances and a fa pau raffle. There are also festivities in Sai Kung, where a brightly decorated procession of fishing boats makes its way to the city’s oldest Tin Hau Temple.
- 2 May 2013
The Cheung Chau Bun Festival falls on the fifth to the ninth days of the fourth lunar month. You can find the Western calendar date here.
Every year, the people of Cheung Chau get busy making papier-mâché effigies of deities, preparing costumes, baking buns and building a bamboo tower. They’re preparing for the thousands of people that will soon descend upon their tiny island for what Time.com deemed one of the world's 'Top 10 Quirky Local Festivals'.
It all started with a plague that devastated Cheung Chau in the late Qing dynasty (1644–1911). The islanders built an altar in front of the Pak Tai Temple and petitioned the god Pak Tai to drive off the evil spirits besieging the island, while parading statues of deities through the narrow lanes of their village. The plague ended after the performance of these Taoist rituals and 100 years later the rituals are still performed in a festival that is listed as an intangible part of China’s cultural heritage.
For the locals, this is the continuation of their customs. The islanders have a strong sense of community and those who have left to work elsewhere will return for this celebration. For the thousands who crowd the ferry boats to the erstwhile pirate haven, this is the spectacular Cheung Chau Bun Festival. The weeklong event includes Taoist ceremonies and music, a parade, lion dances, drum beating and a spectacular Bun Scrambling Competition involving a tower of buns.
Festival Activities at a Glance
|12 May||Noon to 6pm||Climbing Carnival
• Climbing demonstrations
• Game stalls
• Variety shows
|Soccer Pitch of Pak Tai Temple Playground|
|14 May||10am to 9pm||
• Ceremony inviting deities to Pak Tai Temple
• Ritual marking start of Bun Festival
|Pak Tai Temple Plaza|
|14 - 21 May||7:30pm to 11pm||• Chinese opera performances||Pak Tai Temple Plaza|
|16 May||2:30pm to 3:15pm 3:45pm||• Lion and Unicorn Dances
• Ritual and Chinese Acrobatic Performances
|Pak Tai Temple Plaza|
|• Unicorn and Kung Fu Performance
• Bun Festival Parade
• Bun Scrambling Competition*
|Pak Tai Temple Plaza
(Please refer to the parade map)
Soccer Pitch at Pak Tai Temple Playground
|18 May||2pm||• Ceremony to send the deities back to their temples||Pak Tai Temple Plaza|
- 14-18 May 2013
Buddha’s Birthday falls on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month. You can find the Western calendar date here.
The Birthday of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama), the founder of Buddhism, also called the Buddha Bathing Festival, is one of the most spiritual and unique festivals celebrated in Hong Kong.
According to legend, nine dragons sprayed water to bathe the baby Buddha at birth. To commemorate this, at Buddhist temples across the city, devotees gather to pay their respects to this revered deity by bathing statues of him in bowls of water. The ritual is believed to aid in the purification of one’s soul. One of the grandest ceremonies is held at the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, home of the Big Buddha.
Before and after the Birthday of Buddha, celebrants also eat special green cookies – and if these sound unappetising, that’s because they are. These cookies are deliberately quite bitter, as eating them represents passing through hardship to enjoy better things.Experience Hong Kong’s Buddhist culture on a tour of Chi Lin Nunnery & Nan Lian Garden.
- 17 May 2013
Tam Kung’s Birthday falls on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month. You can find the Western calendar date here.
Like Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Sea, Tam Kung is revered amongst fishermen and coastal communities; however, the worship of this deity is unique to Hong Kong.
Born in the Huizhou prefecture in Guangdong Province during the Yuan dynasty (1206-1368), Tam Kung was capable of forecasting the weather and healing the ill when he was a child. His statue is usually portrayed as an 80-year-old man with the face of a 12-year-old child because he is believed to have achieved wisdom at a young age and learned the secret of remaining forever young.
One of the principal events of this festival takes place at the most impressive and oldest Tam Kung temple, which is located in Shau Kei Wan. Here, every year, devotees mark his birthday with an array of ceremonies, including traditional dragon and lion dances and a street parade.
This temple was built in 1905 and was reconstructed in 2002, with the original design carefully preserved. Inside you’ll find an iron bell and a stone tablet that date back to the construction of the temple. There are also models of a wooden junk and dragon boat. It is believed that the boulder in front of the temple bears the seal of Tam Kung.
Visit Tam Kung’s and other Hong Kong temples by tram.
How to get there:
- MTR Shau Kei Wan Station Exit B1, walk along Shau Kei Wan Main Street East to the Tam Kung Temple.
- Visit Tam Kung’s and other Hong Kong temples by tram.
More festive activities targeting in-town overseas visitors will be bundled to extend the campaign period and enhance visitors’ travel experience.
Check the below activities to experience the Hong Kong Cultural Celebration!
Google Street View puts you in the heart of the vibrant Hong Kong Cultural Celebrations. Below are some views of the temples featured in this year’s festivities. Click on any of the maps and enjoy!