man mo temple

Hong Kong’s magnificent Man Mo Temple is among the oldest and most well-known temples in the territory; built in 1848, during the early years of British rule. Though it’s been rebuilt a number of times, much of the original structure still remains. During the 1900s, it is said that locals came here to solve disputes that could not be solved by British law. The process of finding an equitable solution involved the legal system of the Qing Dynasty, which stated that both plaintiff and defendant should make a promise in the temple and write it – along with a curse or punishment – on a piece of yellow paper. They then killed a chicken, chopped off its head, let its blood drip onto the paper, and burned the paper. It was believed that because the promise was made before the gods, if the individual broke the promise they would suffer the indicated punishment. Many Chinese preferred this justice system to the British system. While the temple is no longer used for settling disputes, believers come here for a number of other reasons. Devotees burn huge bell-shaped coils of incense that hang from the temple’s ceiling in hopes of attracting the attention of the gods. Some also believe the incense is food for the “spirits” that have gone before.

 

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