Some of the marvelous 19th century tiles atop the temple. They are
Sancai (3 color glazes) and depict daily court life during the Ming
Inside the temple the attendant was busy caring for the offerings, and
burning paper money for the spirits. There is a thriving business in
Tai-O of providing paper articles for the dead. The Taoist belief is
that everyone must spend 180 days in Hell, and then, after that, they
can go to heaven (ultimately to be reborn). However, the dead cannot
take anything with them, so their family members (preferably a male),
must provide it. In the old days, servants or slaves were sacrificed to
accompany the dead; food and money was burned or buried with them.
it's sort of fallen out of fashion to sacrifice household help, so
relatives can buy paper items that (theoretically) take their place.
There are airplanes, luxury cars, special Hell money, passports,
tickets, houses, etc. that can be purchased to burn. It is considered
bad luck to give someone Hell items unless they ask, so shop keepers
allow the patrons to wander around the shops, picking out what they
want, then take their (real) money.
This is Kurt, our Austrian guide, on Lantau Island. He was an
enthusiastic comparative religion student. He lives with his wife and
child on Lantau.
The temple has been remodeled many times, but, like many of the older
buildings, elements were kept.