Have you ever heard of a deity dedicated to the service of gamblers? Well, Hong Kong appears to have one in the person of Che Kung a Southern Song Dynasty general who is said to have protected the inhabitants of Sha Tin Valley from a deadly plague. How he became a deity for gamblers is a mystery hidden in the mists of time, but he has been worshipped in the valley since then.
The two main temples dedicated to Che Kung, are in Ho Chung and Sha Tin. The more popular temple is the one at Sha Tin. On his birthday that falls on the second day of the Chinese New Year hordes of people flock to this temple to worship him so that they will have luck with their gambling. This temple is incidentally near Hong Kong’s Sha Tin race course, a much appropriate location, with many people seeking to turn the wheel of fortune in the temple three times, beat drums and burn incense to attain good luck for the New Year. The services of fortune tellers are also available in the temple. The temple’s popularity is such that on Che Kung’s birthday, special crowd and traffic control measures have to be implemented to handle around 100,000 worshippers.
The original temple is said to have been built in the Ming Dynasty and was renovated in 1890 and 2004. A new temple was built in 1993 / 94 to accommodate the hundreds of worshippers crowding into the old temple. The main hall in the new temple contains a huge statue of Che Kung. The old temple building has been conserved. It was categorized as a historic building in 1987.
The temple in Ho Chung is older than the one in Tai Shin and the original structure is thought to have been built in the mid 16th century. The present temple building was apparently built in the late 19th century. The spirit of Che Kung is celebrated with much fervour here on his birthday during the Chinese New Year.
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