Hung Shing Festival Offers a Glimpse of Old Hong Kong

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A dragon to be used in the Hung Shing Festival is under construction in the village of Ho Sheung Heung in the Northern New Territories. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Travel Hong Kong

Hung Shing Festival falls on the 13th day of the 2nd moon of the Lunar Calendar. In celebration, one of the largest traditional festivals in Hong Kong will be held in a small village in the New Territories, with lion dancing, a procession, Cantonese opera, Canto-pop, and more.

Hung Shing – the Legend

Also known as Hung Shing Ye and Tai Wong, Hung Shing was a government official in Guangdong province during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907).

Not only was he highly regarded for his righteousness and sound governance, Hung Shing was also respected for his promotion of education and application of astronomy, geography, and mathematics.

By establishing an observatory, Hung Shing contributed to the well-being of the people under his governance, especially fishermen and mariners.

As with many of the gods worshiped in China, Hung Shing was a historical figure that was deified after his death. He is believed to have saved many lives during storms.

More than 30 temples dedicated entirely or partially to Hung Shing are scattered about Hong Kong.

There are several Hung Shing Temples on both Hong Kong Island and in the New Territories. There is one Hung Shing Temple  in Kowloon.

In addition, several Hung Shing temples are located on some of Hong Kong’s Outlying Islands as well as overseas.

Ho Sheung Heung Village

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Hung Shing Temple (left) and Pai Fung Temple are located in the village of Ho Sheung Heung in the New Territories of Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Temples dedicated to Hung Shing are situated throughout Hong Kong and Guangdong province.

One of the largest Hung Shing temples in Hong Kong is located in the small village of Ho Sheung Heung on the outskirts of Sheung Shui in the Northeastern New Territories.

It is one of three historic sites in the village. Pai Fung Temple is situated next door and the Hau Ku Shek Ancestral Hall is located a few minutes walk down the street.

Although Hung Shing Temple and Pai Fung Temple are currently located next to each other, they were originally two separate buildings built at two different times in two different places.

While the date of the construction of Hung Shing Temple is unknown, the oldest relics of the temple at the site date back to the 16th century.

Pai Fung Temple, which was originally located in Pai Fung Ling, was moved to its present site in 1937. The two temples were connected by a kitchen in the 1960s.

Because of the kitchen, the temples appeared to be one structure when I moved to the New Territories in the late 1990s, and they were in a terrible state of disrepair.

A few years back, bamboo scaffolding was erected around them, and they were taken apart tile by tile, brick by brick.

By the time the workers had finished, only the walls were left – and even they were not fully intact.

The kitchen was totally destroyed. The workers then set about rebuilding the two temples, and they are now beautiful inside and out.

Hung Shing Festival

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A temporary opera house made of bamboo is set up each year behind the basketball court in the village square. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

The Hung Shing Festival falls on the 13th Day of 2nd Moon of the Lunar Calendar. In 2019, that will be Tuesday 19 March.

The largest Hung Shing celebration in Hong Kong is held in the town square of Ho Sheung Heung.

The ceremony begins at 11 am, with lion-dancing, a procession, and other festivities.

The celebration in Ho Sheung Heung, however, actually spans two weekends, kicking off on Saturday 16 March.

The festival attracts hundreds of Cantonese opera buffs to the usually quiet village.

Cantonese Opera

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Cantonese opera performances are held in a temporary opera house built of bamboo from 16 to 20 March.

Some of the performances are held in the afternoon. Most of the performances take place after dark.

There will be an evening of nostalgic Canto-pop on Saturday 23 March, starting at 7 pm.

In my experience, the Canto-pop concert is the highlight of the festival, drawing the most enthusiastic audience.

If You’re New to Chinese Opera …

As with Western opera, Chinese opera is as much about spectacle as it is about music. Most opera fans grow up with the genre, and they already know the plot.

One of the key differences is that audiences attending Chinese opera are not expected to sit there quietly during the performance.

For example, it is perfectly okay to chi chat with friends, stand up, walk around, and crack melon seeds.

With clashing symbols and beating drums, however, the fighting scenes can be quite spectacular!

Even if you don’t understand a word of the dialogue, the dramatic clashes  between  heroes and villains can make it all worthwhile.

How to Get There

Take the MTR to the Sheung Shui MTR Station on the East Rail Line.

There is a mini-bus station across the street from the station, in front of the Landmark North shopping mall.

Take the 51K green mini bus to the end of the line in Ho Sheung Heung..

Extra buses are deployed during the festival, and lines can be long. You can walk to the village in about 30 minutes.

A similar festival is held at the Hung Shing Temple on Ap Lei Chau on the southern side of Hong Kong Island.

For More Information …

For schedules and more information, call 2670 6198 or 2670 0292.

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Why You Should Visit Hong Kong is a monthly feature in the Accidental Travel Writer.

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