• Ideas
  • Nov 24, 2022

Tai Wong Ye Lore

The Staunton Creek Nullah in Wong Chuk Hang. Image from Wikicommons.

 

At some point after the Qing dynasty, the villagers in Wong Chuk Hang gazed over the blue horizon and saw a wooden statue floating among their fishing boats. They carried it onshore and identified it by three carved characters: “Tai Wong Ye (大王爺),” meaning “Royal Lord”. They built a temple on the shore and have worshipped the lord ever since.

At present, near the location of the Hong Kong Ocean Park, a renewed statue sits on the main shrine (a gift by a grateful worshipper.) The deified lord is Li Wenzhong, the nephew of the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty. At some point during the 13th century, the young but mighty general led cavalry attacks and ousted the Mongolian Yuan dynasty rulers. While the duke probably had nothing to do with the southernmost part of China, he’s known for being a patriotic Confucian who gave relief to the people. And the faraway fishermen worshipped the efficacious deity regardless.

Like many temples in Hong Kong, Tai Wong Ye houses many other spirits: the Thai Four-Faced Buddha, the Taoist saint of war Guan Yu, three cats, one white cockatoo, and many local ancestors. Caretaker Chu (朱生) has tended to them for over 60 years, diligently offering incenses and pet food.

At some point during the plague years, the three cats, Baby Chu (朱小寶), Floret Chu (朱小花), and Turnip Cake (蘿蔔糕), skirmished with and clawed the cockatoo. Soberly remembering its defeat, Little White (小白) remained aloof in splendid isolation. It was not until the Year of the Tiger that it caught the cats eating off guard. Swooping down from a opened cage, the vehement bird charged with its head crest extended, totally wrecking the cats’ bowls.

 

The Adopted animals in the temple. Images via Facebook.

Curated by an ArtAsiaPacific editor, “Lore” is a biweekly blog that probes into the histories and mythologies of media.


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