MangoVine
Adventures in East Asia

Altars at homes and businesses

Chinese culture in Hong Kong still has lots of visible signs of tradition, none more so than the placement of red altars in homes and businesses. I've already mentioned that my family is fortunate enough to have a small but completely separate building for our altar, so we don't have one in our Hong Kong house, although there is a small pot just outside our door to burn incense occasionally.

However, it's quite common to visit our relatives or friend's homes and see small altars placed somewhere visible but out of the way, in their living rooms. Its a simple and convenient way to pay respects to ancestors on a daily basis and on special occasions.

Like with our food and drink offerings, the red altars can have piles or oranges or small cups of tea left in front of them. They're usually lit with a light bulb which is more convenient than building candles constantly.

These altars are also commonly seen in businesses and can be placed in any position where they won't be in the way. Here's one stuck high on the wall in a local café in Tai Po.

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Visiting the local furniture shops in Tai Po also reveal the typical display cabinets we're used to in the UK, albeit with a built-in, mini cubicle, lined in red especially for use as an altar.

In our village, Ting Kok, there is also a large tree which my father explained was where he once almost caught a snake, when he was just a kid. (Catching it would have meant being able to sell it to someone else to eat..) The tree itself has some red and orange paper stuck to it, which my parents explained may be there because someone is also using the tree as an altar.

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Incidently, I've yet to see any snakes in our village although there are small bats flying around quite visibly at night around the lamp posts.


This entry posted in : Culture. Hong Kong. New Territories.

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