Religious diversity on a short walk around Happy Valley
I love talking to people about religion in Hong Kong and using the example of Happy Valley. Religion is something that isn’t typically associated with Hong Kong and accordingly people are often surprised to see how much religious and cultural history there is.
A short walk around Happy Valley provides a keen insight into Hong Kong’s historic and contemporary religious diversity. Leaving Causeway Bay behind and walking down Wong Nai Chung Rd with the Happy Valley racecourse to your right you will first of all encounter the impressive edifice of St Margaret’s Catholic church. Further on and turning the left up Blue Pool Rd you see the entrace and steep climb up to Tam Kung Tin Hau Temple. If you are fortunate enough to be in Happy Valley during the Pak Tai festival you can enjoy the lively procession as Pak Tai is taken from the temple on a tour of Happy Valley replete with Lion Dancers, drumming and chanting.
Moving across the valley to Shan Kwong Rd you will find the Jewish cemetery nestled between the Po Kuk middle school and Hong Kong’s only seminary for buddhist nuns, Tung Lin Kok Yuen.
The cemetery is quiet and secluded with a fascinating collection of headstones, many in Hebrew. Walking down the hill back toward the race track you will come across the Hindu Temple. This is often a busy site at the weekends and occasionally the host to some oppulent weddings.
Following Wong Nai Chung Rd out of Happy Valley and toward Queen’s Road East you will pass the Catholic cemetary. A recent book on this historic spot gives a valuable and in-depth treatment of the cemetery, its origins and efforts to conserve it.
Just next door to the Catholic cemetery is the Muslim cemetery. This was first developed in 1870 and originally housed a small mosque. This cemetery was reduced in size at the end of the 1970s when the Aberdeen tunnel was built to transport traffic to the south side of Hong Kong Island. Below is a screen shot of Bruce Lee at the Muslim cemetery in a shot from the film Enter the Dragon.
In compensation monies were paid the the Muslim community and the Osman Ramju Saddick IslamicCentre was built on Oi Kwan Road just a few hundred metres away from the cemetery.
Turning left past the Cosmopolitan hotel and up Queens Road East you come across Hong Kong’s Sikh Gurdwara the Khalsa Diwan temple. The temple has recently been extended and has some quite beautiful views.
So there it is. A whistle stop tour of religious diversity to be found in the streets of Happy Valley, in Hong Kong. Do note that this is not exhaustive, the Hong Kong Japanese Christian Fellowship, The Chinese Muslim Cultural and Fraternal Association, The Incorporated Zoroastrian Charity Fund, are all a stone’s throw from these sites.
So much history, so many cultural connections, some many intersecting beliefs in such a small space. An everyday slice of hybridity in Hong Kong.