Protecting people from natural disasters is no easy feat, but one man took on the great role no matter how taxing it was. Hung Shing (洪聖 hung sing in Cantonese) was the governor of Panyu County during the Tang Dynasty who was a master in astronomy and mathematics. His duty to the people, while living and after passing on from human life, is why he’s celebrated today.

What is Hung Shing Festival? 

Hung Shing Festival (洪聖爺誕 hung shing ye daan in Cantonese) celebrates the life of Hung Shing. It falls on the 13th of the second lunar month, which is 4 March 2023 on the international Gregorian calendar. However, certain neighbourhoods (notably, Sai Kung) celebrate the festival on the 13th of the eighth lunar month (27 September 2023). Celebrations last for one week.  

entrance of hung shing temple with painting of chinese gods in the ocean
Hung Shing Temple in Cheung Chau with mural depicting deities in the sea (© Ryan Yeung via WikiCommons)

Hung Shing made significant contributions to especially fishermen with his weather forecasts and founded an observatory, and was believed to have saved many lives from natural disasters in the sea. Hung Shing has several aliases:

  • Hung Hei (洪熙 hung hei in Cantonese);
  • Hung Shing Ye (洪聖爺 hung sing ye in Cantonese);
  • Hung Shing Wong (洪聖王 hung sing wong in Cantonese);
  • Tai Wong (大王 dai wong in Cantonese).

Hung Shing Festival became an Intangible Cultural Heritage in Hong Kong in 2014.

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How did Hung Shing Festival start?

Hung Shing Festival’s origins began centuries ago after the death of Hung Shing. He was a well-respected historical figure serving as governor in Guangdong while using his expertise in astronomy, geography, and mathematics to help the community. People entrusted him to steer them towards protection and safety. He toiled day and night, dying at a young age from over-exertion. It wasn’t until after his death that the imperial emperor honoured him with the title “Nam Hoi Kwong Li Hung Shing Tai Wong” which literally translates to “Saint Hung the Great King of Extensive Benefits of the South Seas.”

Hung Shing rose to become a deity after his death. It’s said that he became immortal as he continued to protect the lives of those in the face of uncontrollable harm even as a spirit. The Chinese deity is remembered for his greatness and aptitude in saving people from natural disasters, keeping them from harm’s way. Thus, he’s known as the deity of the southern sea. Most temples built in honour of Hung Shing are by coastal fronts thanks to his technical prowess in weather forecasting.

small temple dedicated to hung shing beside the sea in sai kung
Seaside Hung Shing Temple in Tung Lung Chau, Sai Kung (© UnderwaterBuffalo via WikiCommons)

How do you celebrate Hung Shing Festival? 

A multitude of festivities and religious rituals take place in the week-long Hung Shing Festival extravaganza. A popular celebration takes place in Ap Lei Chau, a small fishing village located off the coast of Hong Kong Island, at the 245-year-old Hung Shing Temple that’s a declared monument. Expect to see colourful parades, dragon and lion dances, and Chinese opera performances. 

Ho Sheung Heung in Sheung Shui is another famed temple to celebrate Hung Shing Festival traditions. Alongside the parades, dances, and opera performances is the highlighted Floral Tribute Scrambling tradition. A floral tribute represented by a bamboo tube is fired into the air from a scaffolding fixture, in which participants scramble to grab the tube. Whoever succeeds in obtaining the tube is blessed with good luck and fortune. A poon choi, or “big bowl” or “basin” feast, is held later in the evening for worshippers.

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Chinese New Year: History, Dates, Zodiac And Traditions
fishing village po toi with fishing rafts
Po Toi’s mariculture rafts and green-roofed Hung Shing Temple (© UnderwaterBuffalo via WikiCommons)

Other places that host festivities are Tai Kok Tsui’s Hung Shing Temple, which sets up a fair on the first Sunday of March, and Po Toi O village in Sai Kung, which celebrates Hung Shing Festival on the 13th day of the eighth lunar month. 

FAQ about Hung Shing Festival

Who is Hung Shing?

Hung Shing was a governor in Guangdong in the Tang Dynasty who was also skilled in astronomy, mathematics, and geography. He’s known to have saved many lives from natural disasters with his skills. Upon his death, he was revered as the deity of the southern sea. 

What are the towering floral tributes for Hung Shing Festival?

One of the Hung Shing Festival traditions feature towering floral tributes that cannon off into the air, whereby festival goers have to scramble to catch the tribute. Whoever catches it is blessed with good luck, and to continue the luck, the winner has to bring a new floral tribute the following year to the festival.

What are the traditions for Hung Shing Festival?

Traditions for Hung Shing Festival include Chinese opera performances, lively parades, and lion and dragon dances around temples dedicated to Hung Shing.

Other traditional Chinese festivalsLunar New Year — Lunar New Year Fair — Birthday of Che Kung — Chinese Lantern Festival — Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival — Ching Ming Festival — Tin Hau Festival — Cheung Chau Bun Festival — Buddha’s Birthday — Birthday of Tam Kung — Dragon Boat Festival — Birthday of Kwan Tai — Qixi Festival — Hung Shing Festival — Hungry Ghost Festival — Mid-Autumn Festival — Monkey King Festival — Birthday of Confucius — Chung Yeung Festival — Winter Solstice Festival.

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Your Complete Guide To Giving Lai See (Red Envelopes) During Chinese New Year

Header image credits: bushton3 via Canva

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A hermit at heart, Agnes likes to connect with the world across various platforms that share a wealth of content on beauty, culture, lifestyle, and travel. She loves using the art of language to portray her voice and poor sense of humour whenever possible. When she’s not nerding around or head deep into a piece, you’re sure to find her spending time outdoors with friends and family or going down the Pinterest rabbit hole to find all sorts of inspiration she can!

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