A new mural at on the outer wall of the Kwong Fuk Ancestral Hall in Sheung Wan has attracted a barrage of criticism from citizens.

Commonly known as Pak Shing Temple, the hall houses the tablets of mainland Chinese who worked and died in Hong Kong, and is a Grade II heritage building.

The mural was produced by i-dArt, an initiative of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals which promotes artists with disabilities and social inclusion through art. The colourful mural was designed by Cheng Ka-yan, a local artist who makes collages with scraps of paper, often writing out phrases that appeal to her, according to i-dArt’s website.

pak shing temple
Photo: Facebook/i-dArt.

The mural features brightly coloured and patterned shapes on a black background. Names of deities, the Tung Wah Group, and common phrases said during prayer are written on the wall in brightly-coloured rectangles.

The new wall is part of the temple’s reconstruction. Previously, the entrance was a red wall with words meaning sacred place in its centre.

The group posted a photo of the mural on its Facebook account on Wednesday and asked people to visit, check in on social media, and take selfies with the artwork. Since then, the post has attracted hundreds of comments and angry emoji.

Commenters slammed the charity for not respecting the heritage building and asked for the wall to be restored to its original state.

“The Pak Shing Temple is a solemn Buddhist site, the design of Buddhist facilities have specific traditional elements and colours. Randomly adding in “new” designs lacks dignity and ruins the solemness of the place,” said one commenter.

Another said: “It’s gross, can we not keep making Hong Kong so ugly?”

pak shing temple

Another commenter said: “I’m very dissatisfied! My ancestors’ tablets are in there! I thought it would only be a new coat of paint, who knew it would become like this?”

Katty Law, convenor of the Central and Western Concern Group, told Inmedia that the design looked incongruous. “It’s not that I don’t accept new modes of art or graffiti, but the wall was originally already quite stylish.”

She questioned the guidelines followed by the organisers, and said that Tung Wah should have undergone consultation and made its decision based on the standards applicable to a monument.

Ko Tim-keung, a historian and former member of the Antiquities Advisory Board who has also written a book about the temple for Tung Wah, said that the wall was originally concrete, and was only painted red in the past thirty years.

He said he thought that the charity was hoping to spark engagement and interest in local residents through the project.

“It can let residents take an interest in looking at and experiencing history.”

i-dArt responded on Facebook by saying that it had hoped to inspire tourists and locals to understand the temple’s history and culture. It added that it was a new venture for Tung Wah and for the artist, and thanked everyone for their comments. It also said that the art was pasted onto the wall and it will switch out designs later on.

catherine lai

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.