> Retiree Wong Wing-pong, 85, has been looking after thousands of unwanted statues of deities left on a coastal Hong Kong hillside
and diety 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 who swims off the shore near the site every day, 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.”
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 where 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 will look after all of them.” – AFP
Left out in the cold … (left) the spot known locally as ‘a sky full of gods and Buddhas’ at Wah Fu filled with unwanted statues of dieties. Wong (below left and bottom) offering incense to the abandoned gods under his care.