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Incense | Man Mo Temple Hong Kong


The Man Mo temple in Hong Kong swelters in a bluish haze as the smoke from smoldering incense carries prayers upward to heaven. Certainly some gets lost on the way and the ceiling is varnished black by more than 150 years of exposure.

The temple does offer a quiet escape from busy Hong Kong. The temple was constructed in the early years of the city to house two gods, Man and Mo which hold dominion over war and bureaucracy. Over time the temple was put to use to hold a couple more gods. Perhaps the most famous is the god of literature and parents and children come to touch the pen in front of the shrine in hopes it will grant them super hanzi (漢字) powers.

To one who has no love of war or bureaucracy, and who has already touched the pen, attention turns immediately to the center of the temple where perhaps two hundred spiral coils of incense hang burning under an open section of roof. At the center of the spirals is tied a red or gold piece of paper with a prayer written upon it. As the incense burns, the smoke rises and with it rises the hopes of those who have written upon the paper. Borne on the smoke, the prayer is lifted into the grey skies of Hong Kong.

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