23 May 2017

Final reflection:

HK has for a long time been the icon of prosperity and economic boom, with all the skyscrapers that provide a well known skyline and city profile. It had a tremendous economic and financial development during british colonial times and continues to be an important free economic territory under Chinese government. In all its modernity, it preserves traditions and rituals that are grounded in millenary confucionism, taoism and buddhism. The concepts of family and filial piety are highly valued in Hong Kong. They are seen in ritual practices such as the Chingming Festival and the Ghost Festival.

HK became a british colony after the Opium wars with China in early 19th century (1939-42) and expanded to Kwowloon and the New Territories till the end of the century. During WWII, HK was occupied by the japanese troops and endured the hardships of the war. In 1997 the British have handed over the territory to China, according to previous treaty, maintaining its independent executive, legislative and judiciary powers. However, Mainland China government controls democratic ambitions of HK citizens. HK is a major financial centre with a prosperous economy and trade. It has one of the highest income per capita, but tremendous inequalities.

HK is a very materialistic and consumerist society, but still preserves some values ineherited from confucionism, taoism and buddhism, which are expressed in family relationships, honouring ancestors, praying in temples and celebrating important festivities.
One of those festivities is celebrated in Cheung Chau island, a quiet island with no cars. half an hour from HK, one of the sites where the Bun festival takes place.

HK is a thriving society with opportunities to explore, but too crowded. Many westerners work in HK and many migrants from Mainland China continue to move to HK, looking for better payed jobs. It’s a melting pot of cultures, exciting but with a hidden side of poverty and shocking social deprivation unacceptable in such a rich territory.

22 May 2017

My assignment:

Religion and how it impacts in society

Religion has a social impact both in the East and West. There are common traits but also particular rituals and traditions in christian religions as in taoism and buddhism.
Portugal is, traditionally, a catholic country, while in Hong Kong confucionism has an influence in cultural and social relations and taoist and buddhist rituals are practiced, worshipping local gods and ancestors.
However, confucionism perpetuated a moral code for human relations which gives special importance to tradition and rites. Taoism is a religion that gives relevance to live in harmony with nature . Both Taoism and Buddhism have played a role in social welfare and education.
According to statistics, about 80% of the portuguese population is catholic. The practice of rituals are not so present as in the past. During fascism in Portugal there was a strong link with the Church and it was usual to have the archbishop blessing major national events together with the «puppet» President and the prime minister dictator . The Church was extremely powerful in a country with a high rate of illiteracy and the teaching of catholic religion was compulsory at school. Since the revolution in 1974 there was a clear separation of State and religion, though the Church, as a national institution, remained powerful with all the assets it piled out for centuries. It maintains a role in charity and runs some private schools with a religious background. It is a very conservative institution with very few bishops delivering a social critical view on the poor and less priviledged in society.
The cultural revolution in China had some impact in banishing religion and destroying temples, as religion was found to be a source of superstition and subjugation. At present, there are still limitations to the practice of religions recognized by the State, and statistically the majority of Mainland chinese is agnostic or atheist, though  a big number of people follow the traditional taoist religion.
Rituals are practiced both in Taoist and Buddhist temples as they are in catholic and christian churches. People go to temples and churches to pray, making promises and requesting favours from gods. In chinese temples incense is burnt, in catholic churches candles are lighted. Chinese religions have festivities and special dates during the year to celebrate religious rites as catholics also do.
Many rituals and festivities turned into folklore events in Portugal and in Hong Kong. Many festivities incorporated a consumerist side of modern times, attracting many people. Local communities invest in these events as they are an opportunity for business.
Some rituals preserve a religious and family feature as the Ghost Festival celebrating dead ancestors in Hong Kong or Christmas in western countries with the Mass in the church and family reunion. Family gathering is the most important feature of Christmas, even for non-religious people.
So, we can find in East and West some common ground on the influence of religion in peoples lives with different expressions, rituals and festivities.

15 May 2017

Course Glossary


  • The Analects 論語: One of the most important texts of Confucianism. The Analects contains the sayings and ideas of Confucius. [1.9]


  • Buddhism 佛家: Buddhism is a religion and a belief system dating back 2500 years which is based on the principles posited by the historical Buddha in India regarding karma, reincarnation, and impermanence. Since its arrival in China in the 2nd-century, Buddhist monks there have disseminated Buddha’s teachings through the vehicles of Confucian and Taoist ideas, enabling Buddhism to be recognized by both the government and the people in a matter of only a few hundred years. Co-existing over the centuries with Confucianism and Taoism, Buddhism has enriched cultural life in China. [1.1][1.5][1.10]


  • Cantonese opera 粵劇: Originating in Guangdong province during the Ming dynasty (1368 CE – 1644 CE), Cantonese opera is one of the major types of Chinese opera that has been popular in Cantonese-speaking regions. [2.8]
  • Celestial Official of Earth: Also known as Lord Qingxu 清虛大帝. [2.11]
  • Chan Buddhism 禪宗: A school of Buddhism which originated in China in the 6th-century CE and became mainstream Buddhism in China during the Tang dynasty (618 CE – 907 CE). [1.10]
  • Chiuchow (Chaozhou) 潮州: A coastal city in eastern Guangdong province. View in Google Maps. [2.1]
  • Cheung Chau 長洲: An outlying island southwest of Hong Kong Island where the annual Bun Festival takes place. View in Google Maps. [2.1][2.2][2.3][2.6][2.9]
  • Ching Ming Festival 清明節: An annual festival for ancestor worship that is usually observed on 4th or 5th April in the Gregorian calendar. Family members assemble to pay respect to their ancestors by cleaning graves, burning paper offerings, etc. [2.12]
  • Confucianism 儒家: Developed by Confucius 孔子 (Kongzi, 551 BCE-479 BCE) in the Spring and Autumn period (771 BCE-476 BCE), Confucianism is a school of thought revolving around the concepts of humaneness, righteousness, propriety, intellect, loyalty, and filial piety and aims for the good of the country and society. Highly promoted by emperors since the Han dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE), Confucian ideas have spread and flourished throughout every aspect of Chinese culture for more than two thousand years. [1.1][1.5][1.6][1.9][1.10][1.11][1.12][1.13][1.15][1.16]


  • The Desperate Bridge (The Bridge to Hell) 奈何橋: In Buddhism, when one dies, his or her soul will walk over the Desperate Bridge that spans the Inevitable River, the boundary between the underworld and the mortal world, to learn of his/her judgement from Yen Lo Wang. [2.11]
  • Double Ninth Festival 重陽節: Another ancestor worshipping festival similar to Ching Ming Festival. Double Ninth Festival is observed on the ninth day on the ninth Lunar month in autumn every year. [2.12]


  • Fengshui 風水: Literally, “wind and water”. Closely related to Taoism, fengshui is a philosophical system thought to underlie natural phenomena and which affects human fate; therefore, it must be taken into careful consideration when choosing sites for graves as well as when designing floor plans for dwellings. [1.13]
  • Foshan 佛山: A city next to Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton, capital of Guangdong province). Many regard Foshan as the home of Cantonese culture and traditions. View in Google Maps. [2.3]


  • Ghost Festival 鬼節: Observed on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, Buddhists and Taoists believe that all the gates of Hell are opened and ghosts are allowed to return to the earth on this day. People prepare food, incense and offerings to welcome the return of their departed relatives while similar presents are put on the streets for wandering spirits. [2.1][2.11][2.12][2.16]
  • Ghost King 鬼王: Also called Tai Si Wong 大士王 by locals. He is the supervisor in charge of maintaining order during the process of feeding the Hungry Ghosts. [2.3]
  • Ghost with the Fiery Face: Also known as Ghost King. [2.3]
  • God of City: Also known as Shing Wong 城隍 [1.6]
  • God of Justice: Also known as Pau Kung 包公 [1.6]
  • God of Martial Arts: Also known as Kwan Tai 關帝 [1.6][1.15]
  • God of the North: Also known as Pak Tai 北帝 [2.3]
  • God of Literature: Also known as Man Cheong 文昌 [1.5][1.6][1.12][1.13]
  • God of the South: Also known as Hung Shing 洪聖 [2.3]
  • God of War: Also known as Kwan Tai 關帝 [1.5][1.6][1.15]
  • Goddess of Mercy: Also known as Guanyin 觀音, literally “perceive the sounds of the world”. The Goddess of Mercy is a Bodhisattva (someone who has an “enlightenment-mind” to reach Buddhahood for the benefit of all beings) who has the power to assume whatever form is necessary to alleviate suffering. [2.3]
  • Goose-Neck Bridge 鵝頸橋: A flyover in Wan Chai that passes over a three-way junction. For reasons associated with fengshui, it is one of the most popular places for “beating the petty person” in Hong Kong. View in Google Maps. [3.2][3.3]


  • Hailufeng 海陸豐: The coastal region of Shanwei 汕尾 in eastern Guangdong province. View in Google Maps [2.2][2.3]
  • Hakka 客家: Literally, “guest families”. One of the main sub-groups of the Han Chinese people in South China whose ancestors were from northern China. [2.7]
  • Hungry Ghost Festival: Also known as Ghost Festival 鬼節 [2.11]
  • Hung Shing 洪聖: Hung Shing was a government official during the Tang dynasty (618 CE-907 CE) in Panyu 番禺 (today’s Guangdong province) where he set up an observatory to forecast the weather. He was deified as the God of the South after his death. [2.3]


  • Junzi 君子: Usually translated as “gentleman”. In Confucianism, if a person is a junzi, it means he has an ideal personality for contributing to the good of society. [1.9]


  • Kwan Tai 關帝: An historical general called Kwan Yu 關羽 (162 CE-220 CE). Kwan Tai was elevated to the level of a deity by both the people and emperors because of his loyalty, righteousness, and bravery. [1.1]


  • Laozi 老子: An ancient philosopher who lived in the late Spring and Autumn period (771 BCE-476 BCE) of China. Laozi established himself as the founder of Taoism through his book Tao Te Ching 道德經. [1.10]
  • Lord Qingxu 清虛大帝: A Taoist deity who is responsible for judging the deeds of the living and releasing the deceased from suffering. [2.11]


  • Man Cheong 文昌: A Taoist deity in charge of examinations and literature who is traditionally worshipped by scholars and students. [1.1][1.6][1.12]
  • Man Cheong Tai 文昌帝: Also known as Man Cheong 文昌 [1.12]
  • May Fourth Movement 五四運動: Initially a student protest on May 4, 1919 that saw more than 3000 students protesting against the Beijing government’s intention to sign the Treaty of Versailles, which would allow Japan to take control of the 19th century treaty concessions previously given to Germany in China’s Shandong peninsula. View in Google Maps. The protest later turned into a decade-long social movement and a revolt over traditional values, with influential scholars calling for total Westernization. [2.7]
  • Military God of Wealth: Also known as Kwan Tai 關帝 [1.15]
  • Mo Tai 武帝: Also known as Kwan Tai 關帝 [1.6]
  • Monkey King 猴王: Also known as Sun Wukong 孫悟空. Monkey King became a mythological figure in China with the publication of the 16th-century classical novel The Journey to the West 西遊記. He was portaryed as a monkey born from a stone who acquired supernatural powers. Some scholars considered Hindu deity Hanuman as a source of influence. [3.2][3.3]
  • Mulian 目連: A chief disciple of Buddha whose story of rescuing his mother from Hell on the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the Chinese calendar is thought to be one of the origins of the Ghost Festival. [2.11]


  • Pak She Tin Hau Temple 北社天后廟: One of the oldest temples in Cheung Chau and built to worship the Goddess of Heaven, Tin Hau 天后. View in Google Maps. [2.3]
  • Pak Tai 北帝: Literally, “northern deity”. Pak Tai is a Taoist god in charge of the North. In Taoism, “north” is associated with the essence of water, and therefore, Pak Tai is also worshipped by the boat people (the so-called Tanka 蜑家) who regard him as their Sea God. [2.1][2.2][2.3][2.7]
  • Pak Tai Temple 北帝廟: A temple built in 1783 to enshrine Pak Tai, the most popular deity in Cheung Chau. The Bun Festival is also held in the open space outside the temple every year. View in Google Maps. [2.1][2.2][2.3]
  • Pau Kung 包公: Similar to Kwan Tai, Pau Kung (999 CE-1062 CE) was also an historical figure. He was a government officer and well-known for his honesty and uprightness. He was deified as the God of Justice who would protect the lower class against injustice; in much historical fiction and in the performing arts, Pau Kung is depicted as a magistrate with a strong sense of justice. [1.6]



  • Sha Tin 沙田: An urban area in the New Territories of Hong Kong which was hit by a super typhoon in 1962. View in Google Maps. [2.1]
  • Sheng bei 聖杯: Sheng bei (also known as Jiaobei_筊杯) is a pair of kidney-shaped divination blocks which are round on one side and flat on the other. The divination seeker needs to ask a yes-no question in a sincere manner before casting the _shengbei on the ground. If one block is flat and another is round, it means the deity answers “yes” and shows approval. [3.3]
  • Shing Wong 城隍: Literally, “city wall and moat”. Usually worshipped by people who live in walled cities, Shing Wong is the god who protects and watches over cities. [1.6]
  • Solar Terms: Also known as Twenty-four solar terms.


  • Tai Ping Shan 太平山: A settlement on the northern slope of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong where a plague broke out in 1894. View in Google Maps. [2.1][2.2][2.3]
  • Taoism 道家: Originating as a thought centered on the concept of Tao 道, or the Way, and originally formulated by Laozi 老子 (c. 6th-century BCE) and Zhuangzi 莊子 (c. 370 BCE- c. 286 BCE), Taoism has been shaped and has developed into a sophisticated religious and philosophical system over the centuries. Many Taoist rituals, deities, and doctrines constitute an essential part of Chinese culture today. [1.1][1.5][1.10][1.11]
  • The Taoist Sea God: Also known as Pak Tai 北帝 [2.1]
  • Three Character Classic 三字經: In the past, one of the most common textbooks and teaching materials for elementary education in China. [2.13]
  • Tin Hau 天后: Literally, “Goddess of the Heaven”. Tin Hau is the most popular and respected water deity among the people who inhabit the coastal area of southeastern China. [2.3][2.8]
  • Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda 聚星樓: A pagoda built by the Tang clan of Ping Shan in the late 14th-century to ward off evil spirts and ensure success for clan members in the civil service examinations. For details, please visit the Antiquities and Monuments Office website. View in Google Maps. [1.13]
  • Twenty-four solar terms/Twenty-four Chinese Feasts 二十四節氣: Twenty-four specific days in the Chinese calendar matching particular astronomical events or signifying some natural phenomenon. For details, please refer to the Hong Kong Observation website. [3.2]


  • Water Ghosts 水幽: It is commonly believed that a person who dies in a shipwreck will become a water ghost and never rest in peace, so religious festivals in coastal areas always include rituals of offering sacrifices to them. [2.3]
  • Wenchang Di: Also known as Man Cheong 文昌 [1.12]
  • Wonton 雲吞: A type of Chinese dumpling filled with minced pork and shrimp. [3.6]


  • Xiao 孝: Usually translated as “filial piety”. It is a fundamental virtue in Confucianism and Chinese culture. If a person is xiao, it means he/she is respectful to his/her parents, elders, and ancestors. [2.13]



  • Zhong Yuan Jie 中元節: Also known as Ghost Festival 鬼節 [2.11]
  • Zhuangzi 莊子: An important philosopher in Taoism. Zhuangzi (c. 370 BCE – c. 286 BCE) was born about a century after Laozi. Along with Laozi’s Tao Te Ching, his work Zhuangzi is one of the two fundamental texts of Taoism. [1.10]

13th May 2017

Week 3 Summary

  • “Beating the petty person” is a ritual practice, popular during Jingzhe in March.
  • Folk beliefs and practices, such as ‘Beating the Petty Person’, provide forms of social and emotional release and can help reduce anxieties and pressure.
  • Dai pai dongs and night markets are effective channels for building solidarity in the community, specifically through the sharing of a common space.
  • The residents of cage homes and partitioned flats try various means to cope with their harsh living environments.


11 May 2017

Cage Homes

Partitioned flats

10 May 2017

Da Xiao Ren or Da Siu Yan means «Beating the Petty Person» and is a ritual to  punish or to get revenge against a person, that usually takes place at a crossroads, at the bottom of a bridge, or on a hillside because these locations are focal points for collecting all possible malevolent spiritual forces.

Confessions of a ‘hit-woman’ – http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1189836/confessions-hit-woman

The Natural Origins of Voodoo – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-self-illusion/201307/the-natural-origins-voodoo

Beating the Petty Person – – http://hkjo.lib.hku.hk/archive/files/631acb40952bc80272f87352f9c9578f.pdf

Beating the petty person: a ritual of HK chinese – http://chinahopelive.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/BeatingthePettyPerson.pdf

8 May 2017

Street food, known as dai pai dong – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dai_pai_dong , still seen in Hong Kong and Macau

6 May 2017


The Ghost ceremonies translates into burning paper and fake money in honour of ancestors

It’s a Taoist ceremony and extends to Southeast Asia. This video made by students explain the ceremony in Singapore


4 May 2017

Week 2 Summary:

  • Traditional Chinese festivals show how people interact with their environment and respond to events.
  • Tai Ping Ching Chiu has evolved from a religious ritual practice for showing gratitude to and respect for deities, placating evil spirits and eradicating diseases, and wishing for peace and order to a platform for the local community which communicates messages of shared social concern while retaining religious significance for the faithful.
  • The Ghost Festival, although originating from religious beliefs, is widely celebrated among non-believers in Hong Kong because of the moral concept of filial piety which it propagates. It reflects the Confucian idea that Chinese people respect spiritual beings while simultaneously keeping a distance from them.
  • The concepts of family and filial piety are highly valued in Hong Kong. They are seen in ritual practices such as the Chingming Festival and the Ghost Festival, as well as in pop culture artifacts such as television dramas.


Cheung Chau Tai Ping Ching Chiu is a ritual practice in Hong Kong asking the Taoist deities for peace and rest. As with other ritual practices, there are many stories connected to this one as well.

A good resource made available in the course

Living in the Chinese Cosmos – Understanding religion in late imperial China (1644-1911)- Qing Dinasty – http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/cosmos/

Religion in mainland China

1 maio 2017

Week 1 summary:

  • Religion and rituals are two of the most fundamental practices of social institutions.
  • In Confucianism, studying is considered of utmost importance for scholars in order to contribute to the well-being of the country. Thus it is very common for parents and students to worship, and request study and exam intentions from, the God of Literature.
  • Loyalty has been a central value in Chinese culture for centuries and persons endeavour to uphold it not just in the five relationships but also uphold it as a matter of integrity in oneself.

Khan Academy on Confucious and Confucianism



24 April 2017

«Virtual Hong Kong: New World , Old Traditions» started in 24 April 2017, promoted by the University of Hong Kong in FutureLearn – https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/virtual-hong-kong/


  1. Describe Hong Kong’s traditional buildings and cultural events through a unique, virtual reality immersive learning experience;
  2. Identify social and cultural characteristics of Hong Kong as a city where East meets West with a unique legacy of traditions, beliefs, and folklore;
  3. Compare the social and cultural changes in Hong Kong taking place through the transformation of traditions in different stages: from the mid-nineteenth century to World War II; post-war to 1997; and from 1997 to the present;
  4. Explore the traditional Chinese concepts of Heaven, Earth and Mankind and their influence on folk beliefs in Hong Kong;
  5. Reflect on the co-existence of Eastern and Western values in Hong Kong and their impact on modern-day life.

In this course, an immersive learning journey is designed to lead you to discover and experience some of Hong Kong’s most distinguishing traditions.

Through use of virtual reality you will explore, in 3D virtual reality, temples, festivals, and rituals and understand their transformation in a global city like Hong Kong. You will also learn the Chinese basic concepts of Heaven, Earth and Mankind and how they influence the behaviours and the various aspects of daily lives of Hong Kong inhabitants.