The Man Mo Temple is named after its two principal deities – Man (also referred to as Man Tai / Man Cheong), the god of literature, is dressed in red, and quite fittingly, holds a calligraphy brush. Mo (also known as Kwan Yu or Kwan Tai), the god of war and appropriately fierce looking, is in a green robe and holds a sword. Apparently, Mo is the patron god of restaurants, pawnshops, the police force (we were told Mo shrines are there in most Hong Kong police stations even today) and – hold your breath – the notorious Triads too.
In fact, Man Mo broadly translates to "civil" and "military" – a rather strange combination of gods. The largest Man Mo temple in Hong Kong is the one on Hollywood Road. The easiest way to get to this temple is to take the Central to Mid-Levels escalator to Hollywood Road and turn right there. Alternatively, you can also get there on the MTR – get off at the Sheung Wan station.
The Man Mo temple on Hollywood Road (located at its intersection with Ladder Street) dates back to 1847 when a group of tycoons decided to put in the money to build this magnificent temple. Strangely, history records that at one time in the late 1800s and early 1900s, it also played the role of a house of law. It worked this way as per the legal system of the Qing dynasty – to find a settlement to disputes, both plaintiff and defendant would make a promise in the temple premises and write it along with a punishment on a piece of yellow paper. Then the head of a chicken was cut off, its blood dripped on to the paper which was then burnt. The belief was that the promise having been made before the gods, if it was not kept then the person concerned would suffer the indicated punishment…this ritual had to be performed at this Man Mo temple and was not legally acceptable if performed elsewhere!
Since the early 1900s the Man Mo temple on Hollywood Road has been managed by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals. It is a declared monument and is open daily from 8am to 6pm.
One of the most striking features of this temple are the giant cone shaped incense spirals lit by believers as offerings to the gods and to their own forefathers - the aromatic smoke is believed to carry prayers to the spirit world. In fact once you’re on Hollywood Road, you don’t need a map to locate the temple – just follow the smell of burning incense! Inside the temple its just a heady, smoky incense haze – and while we don’t know if this is true, we were told that the really large incense coils can burn for as long as three weeks!
Another major point of tourist attention are two intricately carved wooden sedan chairs shaped like houses near the entrance to the temple, which were used to carry the two gods at festival time through Hong Kong’s streets. We understand that these sedan chairs are almost as old as the temple itself! A copper bell dating back to the Qing dynasty is another noteworthy artefact.
Just as we had seen at Wong Tai Sin temple, a number of fortune-teller stalls are there near this temple too. Worshippers light incense sticks, kneel before the main altar, make a wish, and gently shake a bamboo cylinder containing fortune sticks until a stick falls out - the fortune stick that falls out is exchanged for a piece of paper bearing the same number, and then the fortune teller tells you your destiny.
Part of a rather quaint tradition, outside Man Mo temple, shops sell ‘comfort’ offerings that can be burnt in two stoves within the temple to make the after-life comfortable for departed souls – these offerings include paper cars, hell bank notes etc., If for nothing else, one must appreciate the sentiment behind these offerings – the desire to keep the dear departed comfortable not just in life but afterwards too…
1. Man Mo temple offers a huge number of exotic photo opportunities. While photographs are allowed inside the temple, the use of the flash is not.
2. Hollywood Road and Upper Lascar Row (known also as "Cat Street") are full of antique shops, and has an open-air curio market as well. Cat Street shops offer a crazily eclectic mix of curios, replicas, and some junk too. Keen browsing in these shops can reveal lotus lamps, jade art pieces, snuff bottles, watches, framed art work, copper and brass kettles, old eyeglasses, bird cages, replica Mao souvenirs and so on. These sidewalk shops generally operate from 11am to 5pm Monday through Saturday. Bargains can also be found in the stalls on Ladder Street, a few metres downhill. And yes, bargaining is an essential part of getting a good deal.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.