The Pak Tai Temple in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong is officially known as Yuk Hui Kung, the Jade Void Palace.
During the collapse of the Shang dynasty, about 1,000 BC, the Jade Pure One tapped young prince Pak Tai to do battle with, and defeat, the great scourge of the land, the Demon King. Placed in charge of the 12 heavenly legions, whose duty was to fight evil, Pak Tai was to destroy the Demon King and bring peace to the land. Meeting the Demon King in combat, who summoned a giant tortoise and serpent to help him win, Pak Tai was proven triumphant, vanquishing the Demon King. As a reward Pak Tai was granted the title of Supreme Emperor of Dark Heaven, and elevated to the level of immortal. Pretty sweet ‘job well done’ bonus you have to admit.
The temple itself is quite a sight to see. It sits at the end of a dead-end street, at the foot of a jungle mountain surrounded with trees. There are little gargoyles as fence toppers on the surrounding iron fence, with vines running from the trees to the ground. The courtyard is old stone with lots of green plants, with the occasional whiff of smoke blowing out from the incense inside. Ornate, detailed, and set within the jungle, the temple seems somewhat surreal, like a set piece for an epic movie.
Inside, the ornate details of the temple were ubiquitous. In every corner and on every rafter there’s a lantern, or statue or symbol of some sort. This is on top of the main, or central, altars and incense pots used to offer up prayers to one of the variety of specific deities enshrined. I couldn’t begin to keep track of who’s who, who did what, why this one’s holding fruit, or that one’s has flowers, or why this one little statue in the middle of many has a red ribbon on its head. I looked about for a 200 year old Yoda-like Chinese monk who could point to stuff with a cane explaining what was what. Unfortuantely, there wasn’t one.
There are adherents though, as this is an attended temple. Candles and incense are both plentiful as prayers are offered up by worshippers. Attendents stock and clean and resupply and greet, and generally attend to the temple is the most devoted manner.
It’s a great place to grab a bite also, the small park literally on the other side of the tiny road from the temple. If you’re ever in the Wan Chai section of Hong Kong, you really should swing by the Jade Void Palace and have a look.