Monday, February 11, 2008

Che Kung Temple (chē gōng miào) and the Power of Prayer

Saturday was the third day of the first lunar month of the Chinese New Year and traditionally it is the day worshippers flock to Sha Tin in Hong Kong to worship and pay respect to the famous and revered Generalissimo Che (or Che Kung). Legend had it that in the Song Dynasty there was a plague and many died. Che Kung was credited with making the plague disappear and saving the villagers and thus elevated to the “deity” status. This was alleged to have happened in the village of Jiu Yue. Villagers constructed a temple and started worshiping Che Kung’s image. Of all the temples in Hong Kong, the Che Kung Temple (chē gōng miào) in Sha Tin (New Territories) is the most famous. Inside the temple there is a brass fan-bladed pinwheel of fortune and word soon goes round that one can get good fortune by worshipping Che Kung and then turning this pin-wheel. The third day of the first lunar month is allegedly Che Kung’s birthday, when a large number of Hong Kong people make their annual “pilgrimage” to the Che Kung Temple and buy a replica pin-wheel of the temple to take away.

In The Cockroach Catcher, there is a story of how the prayers of a mother and her church group were believed to have brought about the recovery of a girl who was unconscious for 23 days.

“……There was now a candlelight vigil at the church and it was hoped that there would always be a lit candle until she came home. The story was in the local paper and radio. Faith was now on field test if not on trial. The doctors were not. They had done their best.

On the 10th day the ventilator came off, and she was able to breathe without support.

They then started a vigil in the girl’s home.

By the 23rd day, as my optimism was about to give in, word came from the hospital that she became conscious. It became big news in the papers……”

Whether the plague in the Song Dynasty disappeared when quorum (quorum sensing) was not reached and whether this girl recovered as they do from viral encephalitis spontaneously, people will believe in what they would like to believe. Science cannot offer 100% explanation on everything and as long as that is the case people will choose to believe in what they would like to believe.

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