Apps Allow Virtual Hong Kong Temple Visits
Think of a question, then shake the iPhone. In the next screen, a stick with your fortune emerges.
CREDIT: Cory Lam
In superstitious Hong Kong, the faithful regularly trek to the temple to get their fortunes told, find out auspicious dates for everything from weddings to C-sections, burn incense or make offerings to their favorite deities. (The god of wealth is always popular.)
Of the many temples that dot Hong Kong, the hundred-year-old Wong Tai Sin temple is perhaps the most famous, renowned for what worshippers consider its accurate fortunetelling. But what’s a Hong Konger to do when there’s no time to make the trip?
There are 10 apps for that. Wong Tai Sin temple apps now make it easy to make offerings or even get fortunes told while slurping noodles or rushing between business meetings.
Most of the 10 apps in the Hong Kong iTunes Store focus on the fortunetelling talents of Wong Tai Sin. When at the temple, visitors shake a cup holding 100 sticks, each with a number corresponding to a cryptic poem that divines their fortune. Shake until a single stick falls out, and you have the answer to your question. Several iPhone apps (all called Wong Tai Sin) give you a similar experience with a few variations.
Most have a screen with numbers that light up randomly before settling on number with your fortune. But one app by Zhang Xu allows you to shake the phone in order to get your virtual stick. Another app, by Hong Kong developer EnrichMe, lets you share the results on Facebook. Prices range from free to $9.
Sik Sik Yuen, the Taoist organization that runs the Wong Tai Sin temple, says it has nothing to do with the many Wong Tai Sin apps that have cropped up. “They should ask permission, but Wong Tai Sin is quite famous,” said a Po Yung Ng, a spokeswoman for Sik Sik Yuen. [See also: Religious Congregations Embracing Cutting-Edge Tech]
The temple's official app, launched two years ago, acts mostly as a guide and doesn’t have any fortunetelling functions. It does provide some explanations for the 100 cryptic poems on the fortune sticks, however.
Sik Sik Yuen, the organization, hasn’t shied from technology. Two years ago, it invested HK$100 million (nearly $13 million U.S.) million to build a new high-tech prayer room that swapped out smoky incense sticks for LED lights. The organization also has an “online prayer” function on its website, allowing worshippers to send a 60-character message to monks at the temple, who print them out, then burn them in a traditional Taoist ritual.
“We are hoping to combine the technical and traditional together. We want to attract more young people to come to the temple,” Ng said.