Wong Tai Sin Temple is one of the most famous shrines in Hong Kong. Every Chinese New Year, thousands rush towards the temple to burn incense and pray.
This year, the Wong Tai Sin Temple has gone for a revolutionary technological upgrade.
The 90-year-old temple has added a new underground prayer room decked with gold, marble, LED lights and motion detectors. It features a vaulted echo-enhancing ceiling emblazoned with a planetarium-like digital replica of the Hong Kong sky that rotates in accordance with the seasons. Two HK$3 million floor-to-ceiling wall hangings, made of marble and rare gemstones, adorn the entranceway. Worshippers enter the hall and deposit a written prayer before one of 60 statues representing the gods of the Chinese zodiac, which responds with flashing lights and bursts of smoke.
This 10,000-square-feet chamber costed HK$100 million (US$13 million) and took 3 years to complete.
The modernization of the 2,500-year-old religion has inspired both awe and disapproval. Further adding to the controversy is the new prayer hall’s entrance fee (HK$100; HK$50 for seniors), which makes Wong Tai Sin the first prayer facility in Hong Kong to charge admittance. A prayer offering at the temple’s automated statues costs an extra HK$300. Sik Sik Yuen, the Taoist nonprofit organization that runs Wong Tai Sin, says the fees are required for the maintenance of the new hall.