It goes without saying that to achieve our dreams, we must work hard. We’re met with responsibilities and obligations daily, most of which involve being financially abundant. While we toil, we can also use a bit of luck. This is where Kwun Yum or Guan Yin (觀音, Cantonese and Mandarin pronunciations, respectively), comes in. She’s known as Hong Kong’s Mother Goddess in the Taoist tradition and offers mercy and compassion when things get tough. On the 26th day of the first lunar month (16 February 2023), people celebrate Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival (觀音借庫, kwun yum je fu) to seek monetary gains and achieve financial success.

What is Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival?

76 metre tall guan yin statue in tsz shan monastery tai po
The Guan Yin statue in Tsz Shan Monastery is the tallest bronze statue of the deity in the world at 76 metres (© afs1180 via Flickr)

Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival is a significant festival in Hong Kong because this is the day when the goddess opens her treasury and people ask her for “loans.” Hongkongers celebrate this festival in hopes of seeking more fortune by borrowing imaginary money from Kwun Yum in the form of red paper notes. There is no limit to how much is too much, so some loans can be as high as in the millions!

How did Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival start?

In Hong Kong culture, most festivals begin with a legend and Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival is no different. The folklore story behind it denotes a dutiful son building a bridge for the public’s benefit. The son was birthed by a woman who was in trouble swept out at sea. To save her and her unborn child, she seeked Kwun Yum’s help. She promised the goddess that if she managed to escape the treacherous conditions and gave birth to a son, her son would contribute to societal good by building a bridge. The son grew up but lacked the financial means to build it.

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view of kwun yum statue from tsz shan monastery
Tsz Shan Monastery’s Guan Yin viewed from within the Buddhist temple (© xahl dera via Flickr)

Taken by his filial piety, Kwun Yum descended onto earth as a beautiful woman and sat perched on the son’s boat, proclaiming that she would marry whoever successfully striked her with a silver ingot. Many men tried, but none were successful. The piled ingots on the boat were then collected by the son to build the bridge, called Luoyang Bridge.

How to celebrate Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival?

Called Guan Yin in mainland China, Kwun Yum’s treasury opens at 11 pm on the 26th of the first lunar month. However, some eager crowds flock to the temples on the 25th day (15 February this year) to be the first to offer incense, even if it means waiting for hours on end outside the temple. Kwun Yum Tong on Tai Ping Shan Street in Sheung Wan is a popular place, as well as the Kwun Yum Temple in Hung Hom where the rowdiest yet exciting festivities occur.

Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival traditions include praying, burning incense, and participating in a lucky draw of red notes, which is where visitors can secure the symbolic money, or luck, to fulfill their monetary wishes. The paper notes usually have the loaned amount and lucky Chinese characters written on them. It’s important to note that these loans must be returned through worship and/or donations by the time the next new year approaches if the borrower wants to secure further loans. Besides getting the loans, people make donations to the temples, purchase lucky items like ingots and paper money, and take home red envelopes filled with nuts and other auspicious snacks for good luck.

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Chinese New Year: History, Dates, Zodiac And Traditions
kwun yum temple in sheung wan
Kwun Yum Tong in Sheung Wan (© Underwaterbuffalo via WikiCommons)

FAQ about Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival

What is the meaning of Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival?

Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival is significant in Hong Kong culture because it’s the day people can ask Kwun Yum, also called Guan Yin, for “loans” (symbolic money which represents good fortune in the various aspects of life) to reach financial abundance and success. Worshippers ask for greater blessings in the new year and bring home red notes that denote their monetary wishes and good luck.

Who is Kwun Yum/Guan Yin?

Kwun Yum is perhaps one of the most praised major goddesses in Hong Kong culture and in Buddhism, Taoism, and other Chinese religions. She’s a divine goddess, also known as the Mother Goddess to the people in Hong Kong. She stands for compassion and mercy, exuding powerful grace.

When did Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival start?

It’s uncertain to this day when Kwun Yum Treasury Opening Festival started and why it falls on the 26th day of the first lunar month. But, it’s believed that the festival began around the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, when people from Guangdong Province would visit temples and pray to the revered goddess for wealth and success.

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.

See also
20 Important Traditional Chinese Festivals & Cultural Events In Hong Kong

Header image credits: kemmudsudsakorn 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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