There is no clear record of when did the Man Mo Temple at Hollywood Road was built. The only evidence they can find is the inscription on a brass bell in the temple. It was dated “the 27th Year of Emperor Tao-kuang, Ching dynasty” which is 1847 A.D.
Other dated items in the temple include two sedan chairs for carrying of the statues of the gods “Man” and “Mo” whenever there is a parade. The two gold plated chairs were not made at the same time though. One was made in 1862 while the other one was made in 1885. All these help to get an estimation of the temple’s construction date and it is assumed therefore, that the temple is over 150 years old.
The Spring and Autumn Rites
In Ching dynasty, the spring and autumn rites were carried out throughout the country. According to the Ching dynasty’s Rites and Ceremony rules, Confucius, Civil God and Martial God were worshipped to emphasize the significance of their impacts. Civil God’s temple was built to the left of the Temple of Confucius and the Martial God’s on the right. Spring and Autumn Sacrificial Rites were leaded by the emperor. People all over China followed suit. As an agricultural country, it was natural for the people to worship the gods in spring time to pray for good harvest, and when their prayers were answered, people showed their gratitude in autumn by sacrificial offerings.
Nowadays, agriculture is a lot less significant in Hong Kong. But people are accustomed to praying to gods. Through time, people started to pray to the civil god for success in studying or pray to both gods for peace and prosperity, commonly on Chinese new year and Civil god’s birthday.
Current Man Mo Temple
The Temple at Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan today has undergone several renovations though it still maintains the two-hall-three-bay structure with traditional decorations like ceramic figurines, granite and wood carvings and murals. It is frequented by locals who seek both spiritual help or blessing from the civil god for students in the families.
At present, the Man Mo Temple is entrusted and managed by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals which is the biggest and oldest charitable organization in Hong Kong. Every year, the Directors of the Board of the Tung Wah group of Hospitals together with senior government officials and local dignitaries gathered at the Man Mo Temple at Hollywood Road to carry out the Autumn Sacrificial Rites. The current or ex-chairman of the group reads the sacrificial odes and other board members will be the Master of the ceremony. Over hundreds of people pay homage to the Martial God and the God of Literature on that day praying for peace and prosperity for Hong Kong.
The Tung Wah Group of Hospitals was granted the rights to manage the temple and its properties in a government ordinance issued in 1908. In 1958, an amendment was made to the ordinance such that the revenue from the temple shall go to charity other than the expenses on maintenance and renovation.
In 1993, the Hollywood Road Man Mo Temple was graded as a Grade I historic building and is now a declared monument. It means every effort should be made to preserve it because of its outstanding merits.