The calming smell of burning incense permeates one’s senses once you enter these temple premises sprawling over a vast area emanating a sense of religious elegance and charm. Although located more than 3 kms away from the harbour, it carries within it an oceanic aura quite unique to the shrine which immediately manages to capture the hearts of many who visit this place. Dedicated to Tin Hau or the oceanic goddess Matsu known to be one of the favourite deities of the people, this temple like the very many others dedicated to the same deity had stood on the ocean shore.
In Cantonese, Tin Hau stands for “Heavenly Empress” an honorific name for the ocean goddess in whose honour the temple has been built. This is one of the more than 60 temples built in this deity’s name. Worshipped mainly by those who make their living by the sea such as sea faring merchants, fishermen and such, the number of temples that dot the city is not surprising since Hong Kong was once made up of a large number of fishing communities which had in turn made up the majority of its finance capital. However today, the goddess has morphed into an all purpose deity of mercy honoured by all living near the almighty sea.
The Tin Hau Temple is actually a complex of temples made up of several buildings which comprise the Shea Tan, Shing Wong Temple, a study hall and a Tin Hau Temple. The main altar is truly a sight for sore eyes adorned with a gold-embroidered red cloth and piled quite high with offerings from faithful devotees. A wonderful example of traditional goddess worship, the Tin Hau Temple is a charming place where a Southern Chinese-style gate leads to a small but elegant courtyard where large banyan trees which had withstood centuries give shade to the many worshippers who flock to this place. The atmosphere is one of sanctity while spirals of smoke can be seen emanating from huge cones of incense, perfuming the entire area. Surrounded by the vibrant Temple Street Market, this is the ideal place to observe the local culture while taking some time to also observe the fascinating history saturated within this ancient temple’s walls.
One can also get the fortune read by the large assortment of fortune tellers who dot the vicinity. Chim is a popular form of fortune telling practiced in this area where a cardboard box full of numbered sticks is shaken until one falls out and based on numerology, a fortune teller relates the fortune. You can also have a mystic bird pick out your fortune for you as well which would be a new experience for all those who visit the place.
The Tin Hau Temple is best explored while lodging in a hotel in Kowloon. Cosmo Hotel Mongkok is one of the preferred Mongkok hotels among many who visit this place as it is known to combine the convenience of travelling with the best facilities available to its guests.