Buddha's Birthday and other events celebrated in Hong Kong

Experiencing a major festival in Hong Kong is an enchanting and memorable occasion for visitors. It is also one of the best ways to discover and appreciate the unique culture of this modern East-meets-West destination. The first festival of the spring line-up is the Tin Hau Festival, which this year falls on 11 May. This event celebrates the birthday of Tin Hau, the Queen of Heaven and Goddess of the Sea. Chinese legend says that Tin Hau, the daughter of a Fujian Province fisherman, had visions that enabled her to predict storms. She saved her father and many others from drowning in fearsome storms and remains today the patron saint of fisherfolk. Tin Hau temples dot China’s coastline wherever there are fishing communities. During this annual festival, fishers make a pilgrimage to pray for protection on the sea and for full nets in the year ahead.

For visitors there’s a Tin Hau Festival Tour. It starts at the Wishing Tree of Lam Tsuen where the local custom is to throw up colourful papers tied with oranges while making a wish. Participants then enjoy the colourful Tin Hau Festival celebrations in the reserved seating area of the Yuen Long Stadium and a dim sum lunch before being transported to appreciate the elaborate, giant paper floral shrines at the Tin Hau Temple in Yuen Long.

The Cheung Chau Bun Festival, due to take place on 26 May, is one of Hong Kong’s most unusual and colourful celebrations. Set on Cheung Chau Island, this event features a parade of gaily decorated floats led by the image of Pak Tai and interspersed with musicians loudly beating gongs and drums to frighten away demons. It is believed that each year the hungry ghosts of pirates’ victims roam this peaceful island in search of food, and the festival is held to placate the ghosts. The stars of the parade are the islanders’ children, costumed as mythological figures and Chinese heroes, who are paraded on floats balanced on the tips of swords or flying on rods and wires. And those ghosts are placated with three massive bamboo towers studded with sweet buns located in the grounds of Pak Tai Temple.

Visitors to Hong Kong at the time of this festival can enjoy a Bun Festival & Island Hopping Tour which includes the spectacular boat ride to the island, lunch, a place in the official grandstand for the Bun Festival Parade, a visit to Pak Tai Temple to see the huge bun towers and then a visit to Lamma Island to enjoy a seafood dinner in an open-air restaurant beside the ocean.

While some of this season’s events are perennial favourites, others are unique to this year. In the latter category is the Celebration of Buddha’s Birthday … a Reverence and Blessing Ceremony of Buddha’s Finger Relic Gratefully Received by the Hong Kong Buddhist and General Community. This captioned event, organized by the Hong Kong Buddhist Association, will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from 26 May to 1 June. The Buddhist community, as well as the general public, have the rare privilege to borrow the Buddha’s finger relic from Famen Buddhist Temple in Xian, Shaanxi Province. The finger bone relic is the only one of its kind in the world and is considered one of the most precious cultural assets in human history. It will be accompanied by 19 articles of “super-national treasure” status, normally not on public view.

According to historical documents, the holy finger bone of Sakyamuni Buddha remained in the world when his body was cremated after His passing into nirvana and today this relic is worshipped by hundreds of millions of faithful all over the world. Those who seize the opportunity to worship the relic in person are sure to be filled with serene thoughts, loving kindness, stability and growth, joy, equanimity and seeds of wisdom. In addition, the presence of Buddha’s relic will bring blessing to the Hong Kong community and establish closer ties between Hong Kong and Mainland China as well as between Hong Kong and overseas countries.

During the seven consecutive days of the ceremony a number of special activities are planned. These include paying homage before the relic, the bathing ceremony of Buddha, a Buddhist heritage exhibition, a refuge-taking ceremony of ten thousand people and a unique light transmission dharma gathering.

While the Buddha’s Birthday observance will be a solemn and serene occasion, the same cannot be said of Hong Kong’s wildly popularDragon Boat Festival, due to take place this year on 22 June. This cacophonous, lively event combines traditional festival with a fast-paced sporting spectacular. Also known as the Tuen Ng Festival, the event commemorates the death of Chinese citizen Qu Yuan who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River over 2,000 years ago in a protest against corrupt rule. Legend says that as townspeople attempted to rescue him, they beat drums to scare the fish away. Today those heavy drums still beat as teams race elaborately-carved and decorated, 10-metre long dragon boats with crews of 20-22 paddlers while the spectators wildly cheer on their favourite team and feast on those dumplings.

While colourful cultural festivals are a good reason to visit Hong Kong, every visitor also has “shopping” high on their list of things to do. And for this popular activity there’s no better time to visit than during the 10-week-long Hong Kong Shopping Festival which begins 26 June and runs through to 31 August. The festival highlights the region’s unique shopping experience by showcasing its sophistication, diversity and quality. Shopping (and dining) promotions will feature late-night shopping; special activities, sales and offers; themed shopping events; a lucky draw and much more. A Late Night Shopping & Dining Passport will be distributed to all visitors at this time. And when the shopping is done, there will be a wide range of activities to complete the entertainment: an aquatic, multi-media extravaganza of fountains, music, lights and special effects in Tsim Sha Tsui as well as Hong Kong’s dazzling nightly multi-media show – A Symphony of Lights – which highlights the facades of 18 major buildings along Hong Kong Island’s waterfront.

All in all … many wonderful reasons to visit Hong Kong in the months ahead.

For more information, contact the Hong Kong Tourism Board at 9 Temperance Street, Ground Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5H 1Y6. Tel: (416) 366-2389 or 1-800-563-4582, Fax: (416) 366-1098, E-mail: yyzwwo@hktb.com , Web site: www.DiscoverHongKong.com/canada

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