Un­wanted deities find new home in Hong Kong

Kuwait Times - - WEEKENDER -

Tucked away on a coastal Hong Kong hill­side is a dif­fer­ent type of re­cy­cling point-here, thou­sands of un­wanted stat­ues of deities look out to sea, gath­ered and re­paired af­ter their own­ers dis­card them.

Ded­i­cated vol­un­teer Wong Wing-pong at­tends to the col­or­ful col­lec­tion of fig­ures which are perched on a rocky slope run­ning down to the sea in the south of the city. Twice daily he sweeps away leaves and burns in­cense sticks as of­fer­ings to the un­wanted gods, rang­ing from Bud­dhist and Taoist to lo­cal deities and Chris­tian icons.

A re­tired butcher, 85-year-old Wong has been look­ing af­ter the stat­ues for 17 years af­ter stum­bling across a small ne­glected col­lec­tion on the out­skirts on the site, near the res­i­den­tial dis­trict of Wah Fu, while he was out walk­ing. Back then there were a dozen unat­tended stat­ues, some bro­ken. Now the spot has grown into a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for dis­carded fig­ures, and is known lo­cally as “A sky full of gods and Bud­dhas”.

Wong says new stat­ues ar­rive ev­ery month from a num­ber of sources-restau­rants that are un­der­go­ing ren­o­va­tion, pri­vate homes where they can no longer be ac­com­mo­dated. He spruces them up and some who have do­nated fig­ures still come to wor­ship them. “No one should de­mean god. If they are out here, we should treat them well,” Wong told AFP. “If they are bro­ken, I will glue them back to­gether...I don’t dare throw them away.

It goes against the con­science.” Res­i­dents say they are thank­ful to Mr Wong. One woman in her 80s, who gave her name as Ms Wan, said she still vis­its stat­ues of lo­cal deities Guan Yin, god­dess of mercy, and Guan Yu, in­spired by a Chinese gen­eral, which she left at Wah Fu five years ago. “The place is very well kept. I am thank­ful to him,” said Wan, who re­moved the fig­ures from her home be­cause some of her rel­a­tives con­verted to Chris­tian­ity and did not want them on dis­play.

An­other res­i­dent, 65-year-old re­tiree Tse Sum swims off the shore near the site ev­ery day and also praised Wong for his ded­i­ca­tion. “If they are dumped they are trash,” said Tse of the un­wanted gods. “But if they are kept in or­der, they can be works of art.” ‘Give them shel­ter’

Re­li­gion and lo­cal cus­toms per­me­ate Hong Kong, where Bud­dhist and Taoist tem­ples are com­mon and in­cense of­fer­ings are reg­u­larly burned out­side lo­cal busi­nesses. Pri­vate homes of­ten have a shrine to a lo­cal de­ity, with Chris­tian churches and mosques also in the mix. But with space at a pre­mium in a city were rents are sky high, in­for­mal col­lec­tions of dis­carded gods of­ten dec­o­rate road­sides and pub­lic spa­ces.

In a leafy park next to a po­lice sta­tion in the north­ern dis­trict of Fan­ling, around 30 stat­ues sit qui­etly un­der the branches of a banyan tree. Un­like Wah Fu, this site is not cared for daily by a guardian, but still draws vis­i­tors.

Yoyo Ng, 54, has come to leave a Guan Yin statue, one she kept for more than 30 years, say­ing she had to re­move it from her home to make room for new ten­ants. “I didn’t want it to go...Hong Kong is just too small. I had no choice. I keep it in the shade so it’s not ex­posed to sun­shine,” says Ng, who works at a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre for the dis­abled.

To Ng, leav­ing the statue in the park means she can con­tinue to wor­ship it reg­u­larly there. She said vol­un­teers from her neigh­bour­hood in Fan­ling come sev­eral times a month to clean the fig­ures. Dis­carded deities have dis­ap­peared from some ar­eas over the years-res­i­dents say they are un­sure who was re­spon­si­ble or why they were re­moved.

The gov­ern­ment says it has no spe­cific pol­icy of clear­ing them, al­though they may be taken away if they are block­ing the foot­path. Wong says he has no in­ten­tion of aban­don­ing the fig­ures at Wah Fu. Look­ing af­ter the stat­ues has given him peace of mind. “I feel I’m more healthy now. I have good sleep,” he says. “I will come here un­til I can’t walk...I don’t care which re­li­gion they be­long to. I will look af­ter all of them.”— AFP

HONG KONG: This pic­ture taken on Au­gust 9, 2016 shows a dis­play of un­wanted stat­ues of deities, gath­ered and re­paired af­ter their own­ers dis­carded them, on a rocky slope run­ning down to the sea.—AFP

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