Chinese Gods, Good Fortune and a Waterfall

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It was the perfect setting for a picnic. Under the shade of a few trees, next to the sloshing waves of the East Lamma Channel, we set down a blanket, some wine and some snacks and spent an afternoon watching the ships pass by. What more could we ask for?

How about a waterfall? Oh, and some World War II ruins. And a resting spot for Chinese gods. And to be able to get there from Causeway Bay in less than twenty minutes.

Not only does Waterfall Bay have all of this, it’s one of the most peaceful places you can go without venturing more than five minutes from the nearest bus stop, Wellcome or 7-Eleven.

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Convenience, in a sense, is one of the bay’s hallmarks. Two hundred years ago, passing British ships found it a handy spot to stock up on the fresh water that spilled into the sea from the waterfall. Now the whole area is part of Waterfall Bay Park, a narrow stretch of greenery that remains untrammeled by weekend crowds, despite the sweeping sea views.

The low-key atmosphere has helped the park maintain an idiosyncratic stock of attractions. Next to the waterfall are the ruins of a World War II pillbox and searchlight. With a commanding view over the channel separating Lamma and Hong Kong islands, the pillbox served as a bunker for Allied troops fighting off the Japanese, who invaded and occupied Hong Kong in 1941. Next to the pillbox is the old searchlight, known as a Lyon Light, which was powered by a small gas generator. You can explore the ruins by walking across the bay at low tide; at high tide, there is a path that runs over the top of the waterfall.

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Further down the coast, at the other end of the park, is another surprise: hundreds of porcelain gods meticulously positioned in the woods, along a path and on rocks next to the sea. Many people consider it unlucky to discard a statue of a god, so rather than throw it into the trash, people bring it here for a long seaside retirement. You can find similar collections of statues in other spots around Hong Kong, usually on hillsides or next to the ocean, but this is one of the largest and most impressive. Somebody has even gone to the pain of gluing some of the figurines to an offshore rock; how they survive the summer typhoons is a mystery.

In the midst of all the statues is a small shrine that is used as a weekend gathering spot for men who play cards and Chinese chess. It’s no wonder why they return every week, or why this location was chosen for the god statues: the feng shui here is said to be amazing. In fact, it’s so good that Wah Fu Estate, which overlooks Waterfall Bay, is claimed to be Hong Kong’s most fortunate public housing estate, which might explain the number of BMWs and Audis parked in its garages.

Of course, beautiful sea views and poor auditing of public housing tenants’ incomes might be another reason for the luxury cars. But the mystical explanation is certainly more romantic.

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This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Wednesday September 07 2011at 11:09 pm , filed under Asia Pacific, Environment, Heritage and Preservation, History, Public Space, Society and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

2 Responses to “Chinese Gods, Good Fortune and a Waterfall”

  • YTSL says:

    Hi Chris —

    Waterfall Bay Park is quite the place, isn’t it? When I visited some years back, there were hardly any other people around and I found the “discarded gods” area quite eerie.

    Did you also see an intrepid swimmer or more diving into the waters from near the rock with the statues glued on to it when you were there?

  • Hi Yvonne! It’s a beautiful place but rather than embracing its natural beauty, the LCSD has put up but fences and barriers around all of the most scenic spots. The waterfall is supposedly off-limits but everyone ignores the signs and climbs over the locked gate.

    I didn’t see any swimmers but on both of the occasions I was there, the surf was pretty rough, so it might not have been the best time to swim.