Tears at the Temple

Yamamoto_2_2Thirteen Flights of Stairs Later…

We were invited to visit a nearby temple, by one of my peer’s auntie. They would be participating in a ceremony that directs wandering spirits, during this time of Hungry Ghost Month. I’m excited to see the temple; I’m not a temple-going girl myself and I’ve never been to one, let alone seen a ceremony. But to go to the temple we must cover ourselves even more, which means a quarter sleeve shirt and extra sweating for me. We make our way to the temple, furiously fanning ourselves. It’s still morning, but the Hong Kong heat has no mercy. There, we learn the news: we must climb thirteen flights of stairs, to the top! The stair are inside the building, no wind, and the typical olden city type. You know, the ones that spiral up a small space. After a lot of heavy breathing and mild complaining, all twenty-something of us make it to the top. We’re kindly greeted by air conditioning and complementary water bottles.

I wish I could sing along!

Inside it’s stunning. Lots of red and gold, plus bowls of fresh food to offer the hungry ghosts. The ceremony began with the participants playing gongs and other types of drums. Then everyone, besides us of course, burst out in song. It sounded so lovely and put together, even though I couldn’t understand a word. The music lasted a while, about 30 minutes, and we were in awe the whole time. We then promptly lined up to each take a bow, at the shrine and put an incense in the pot. After all of us had finished, one of the ladies in charge thanked us for our prayers. She informed us that one of the other women of the temple’s mom had died just that day. She continued to talk about Chinese culture and the high level of respect they hold for their parents. The sudden intensity gripped our hearts and many of us, myself included began to weep for and with the lady and her dear mother. The sympathy poured through my eyes and didn’t need to understand Cantonese to see the pain on her face.

Warm and fuzzy

Even though I was crying, that was one of the best moments of the trip. The emotion was so real. Even though we come from different stories and background we all have the same feelings. We all love our parents. We may celebrate life in other ways and believe in different gods, but it all comes from the heart that we share in common. To be able to meet a random lady from another country and pray for her mother’s death and weep alongside her, despite our differences, was a truly amazing experience that makes you feel so connected with humanity. Who knew crying with strangers was so fulling? Three cheers for new experiences!

Conclusion: When at a HK temple, don’t forget the tissues, just in case!