Travel Writing: Wong Tai Sin Temple
Nestled in between the busy streets and hectic buildings of Hong Kong is the tranquil Wong Tai Sin Temple. Almost as out of place as a mouse in a herd of elephants, this 100 year old temple stood tall and proud- grateful that it stood out among the cookie cutter buildings that surrounded it. This was my first time visiting this temple, and before arriving, I imagined the temple as just a temple. I had been to many other temples before this but I never truly thought about anything other than the temple itself. I didn’t take any notice to the smells, the noises or the general atmosphere outside the temple, however after visiting Wong Tai Sin Temple, I realised that the environment around the temple was just as important as what was inside.
Within a few metres outside the MTR, the grand and majestic Wong Tai Sin Temple can be clearly spotted without any difficulty. Its regal stone entry and oriental jade green gates contrasted heavily with the dull buildings behind it. In fact, the typical Hong Kong apartment blocks seemed to enhance the overall grandeur of the temple, complimenting and emphasizing its differences in colour and shape. It was a completely surreal experience. Just by turning your viewpoint from left to right could transport you from the present to the 1900’s.
Upon entering the temple, the first thing that you notice is the smell. The strong, powerful smell that emits from the many incense sticks held by visitors at the temple creates a rich and earthy musk that traps the entire temple in a cocoon of its aroma. The smell of the incense fully disperses the heavy stench of pollution that seems to envelop the whole of Hong Kong in besides the temple, almost as if the smell of incense acts as a protective barrier between the peaceful temple and nonstop Hong Kong.
For me, the most fascinating part about the temple was its colourful and pristine roof. Every roof in the temple was decorated in the most beautiful and bright colours. Vibrant reds, tranquil blues and imperial gold lined and filled the surroundings of the temple. The design of the roof- like most traditional Chinese roofs was done in a way that the ends curved downwards. This was done as it was believed that evil spirits could not enter the temple as they would slide down the roof. However I believe that the evil spirits most likely didn’t want to spoil the radiance and everlasting splendour of the temple. The architecture and aesthetics of the temple was in such immaculate condition that it looked as if it had been built last week. I was continually drawn back to the intricate traditional Chinese carvings and patterns of the roof. Perhaps this was due to the fact that after glancing at the monotonous and dreary Hong Kong buildings my eyes needed to view the roof again as if nothing could compare to the exquisiteness of it.
You may enter the MTR with a clouded and busy mind however you will exit and immediately feel calmer and fresher. One of the best things about Hong Kong is that despite it being one of the most consumerist and industrialised places in the world, it still holds many gems that have not yet been damaged by the modern world. The Wong Tai Sin Temple is one of those gems.