On our last day in Hong Kong, disappointed by the antiques sellers in Cat streets – everyone had the same bundle of Maoist posters, pictures of Kai Tag and fake Communist paraphernalia – we stumbled upon a true gem.
Founded in 1847, Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road is dedicated to two gods: the “civil” Man Tai and the “martial” Mai Tai, members of the crowded pantheon that characterised the Chinese folk religions. These two gods have been “adopted” by students who use to worship them before exams.
We entered in tiptoes, unsure of what we’d found. Up until that day all Hong Kong temples had been polished as hotel lobbies, and as refrigerated, but we needn’t worry. Man Mo Temple was hot, air heavy with incense smoke resounding of the buzz of distant ventilators and of the humming of mantras repeated on two ancient loudspeakers.
Inside a few local prayed: a young man, an elderly woman busy leaving offers on the altars and a lady kneeling by a corner. A few workers lingered, lighting heavy spirals of sandal wood, homage to the gods.
It was as close as we possibly got to have a sneak peek view at the life, at the real culture of this people and of this city besides the high rises, the glitzy shopping malls and sanitised trains. Then a busload of rude tourists, mainlanders almost volgar in their nouveau richeness obstentation, flooded in, almost kicking us and the locals out. But the images, the deep serenity remained.
Man Mo Temple, it’s been brief but great.