Reporting by Ray Au, Photos by Duey Tam
Taoist temple, Thriving religious hub; Man Tai (Left), the God of Literature; Mo Tai, the God of War (Right)
Built over 400 years ago in the reign of Shen Zong of the Ming Dynasty (1573-1620), the Man Mo Temple in Pak Ngan Heung is the oldest temple in Mui Wo, and well worth a look. It remains a thriving religious hub for the worship of not one but two deities: Man Tai (Man Cheong), the ‘civil’ God of Literature; and Mo Tai (Kwan Tai), the ‘martial’ God of War. Hence the name, Man Mo.
Renovated in 1901 and again in 1960, the temple’s original appearance has been completely preserved, meaning it hasn’t lost an ounce of authenticity. Though tiny and unassuming, it’s clearly well cared for, with a lantern hung, vibrantly painted exterior. In the shadowy room within, large incense coils burn nonstop. The incense carries prayers and wishes to heaven – to Man Tai and Mo Tai.
At face value, it’s not easy to see why the civil God of Literature and the martial God of War sit well together. But what we’re looking at here is a totally Taoist harmonising of apparent opposites – between the ‘intelligentsia,’ who dream up a society and the ‘warriors,’ who step up to protect it. Needless to say, believers flock to a Man Mo Temple for many different reasons. The two gods were popularly sought out by scholars and students in the Ming and Qing dynasties, who were looking to succeed in their studies or in the civil service, and nowadays people still believe that Man Tai and Mo Tai can bestow career success on their followers. Working together, the thinker (Man Tai) and the fighter (Mo Tai) can help you get the result you seek.
Besides being a place of worship, a Man Mo Temple was traditionally used as a court of sorts – a place where people could calmly settle their disputes, again guided by the intelligence of Man Tai and the strength of Mo Tai. Individuals and community groups continue to meet at temple to resolve arguments to this day.
Tags: destination, lantau, mui wo, temple