Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mini Hong Kong Shrines

I just saw this small shrine in a tiny Dim Sum kitchen out in the maze of Hong Kong island's streets. Tucked up in the corner, just above all the bamboo steamers, it looked so quintessentially Hong Kong. I had to steal a snap shot. The overworked cook in the kitchen gave me a quizzical look. This is a bit of a local lunch hole and far from picturesque.

But what I noted in this shrine, as in many around the city, was the presence of the Monkey King. Also called Sun Wukong, the Monkey King is a well know folklore character from the Chinese epic Journey to the West.  His likeness is often found in small shrines like this one. In this case he is standing with Kwan Yin and Guan Gong. Pretty respectable company.

The Monkey King is known for strength, speed, mischievousness, shape shifting and martial arts. There are many stories, such as stealing peaches from the Jade Emperor and the gold staff of the dragon king. He is a mix of Taoism, Buddhism and traditional folk tale traditions.Monkey King - ceramic statue Monkey King
Our own collection of Shi-Wan ceramics includes a very traditional rendition of the Monkey King. It is 12-inches tall and includes both the staff and peach mentioned above. Each is entirely hand painted. While the Monkey King's stories are mainly tales of trouble making, you will still find him in Chinese homes and shrines because people value his strength of character, hard work and unwillingness to back down from adversity. Even Uncle Mao used him as an example, the same man who tried so hard to squash so much of China's lore with his Cultural Revolution. Indeed the Monkey king is resilient.