MangoVine
Adventures in East Asia

Ting Kok Village Altar brought down from the Temple

Today (Thursday 5th February) marked the start of the Beijing Opera shows. Its also the day that the village brings the altar down from the village temple (Jip Sun) to the performance space for the shows. I think this is the start of the process to bring the god's "presence" down to bring good luck to the village for the forthcoming year.

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I have to mention that I can't fully explain all the traditions my local culture has although I'm enquiring and noting down what I learn through my limited Cantonese. The customs seem pretty particular and complex with timings and processes all set out.

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The village temple is just up at the top of the village only about 100 metres from the community centre / basketball court (that forms the majority of the village recreation area). The performance space is a large fully bamboo construction piece built by hand by skilled craftsmen who are able to construct a pretty tight building with their strategically placed knots and ties.

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At 4pm, all the men of the village gather outside the centre and a unicorn dance is set off. I'm not actually sure why its just the men, but I'm not surprised as alot of the customs seem quite old school, revolving around the males.

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The unicorn leads the way up to the temple and is joined by another unicorn and a lion. As they "dance" and snake up the alleys in between houses, they are followed by all the men. Its a quite straight forward affair. When they get to the temple, the older (and I suppose wiser) men organise the preparations for the altar to be brought down.

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The altar is too heavy to be lifted by just a couple of men, so some long pieces of wood (painted red) are inserted strategically so that approximately three men on either end can lift simultaneously. Lots of single items such as vases, flower pots and urns also need to be brought down.

After 15 minutes or so of organisation, a procession begins back down to the performance space. Its led by a few vertical red banners, followed by a mix of all the individual items, the unicorns and lion and the altar itself, seemingly in no particular order. Because of the tightness of some of the alleyways turns, the altar has to be negotiated carefully in order not to damage it.

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When the unicorns and lion reach a bit of open space near the performance area, they dance and pray a bit more before moving into the bamboo performance area itself, where the lion dances in front of the newly positioned altar (which is at the back of the seated area, furthest from the stage, but facing it). During the dance, a long string of firecrackers are also set off.

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If you're interested, there are more photos documenting this event on Flickr: HK 20090205 Village Altar photoset.


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

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