In contrast with the avowedly secular mainland, Hong Kong is a city with a lively and thriving religious life, with no barriers to worship and a range of different faiths practised. Unsurprisingly in a city with hundreds of Taoist or Buddhist temples, perhaps a third of the population are adherents to local gods, and many more maintain some connection with their traditional religion, perhaps leaving small offerings to the god of choice at key moments in their life or in gratitude for good fortune. They may not talk about their beliefs (particularly to foreigners) all that much, but these beliefs may be deeply held nonetheless. Don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s all part of the past at this stage. Confucianism, while not exactly a religion, is a philosophy that also deeply colours cultural attitudes.
Of the vast array of gods, Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Sea, is the most venerated, followed by Kwan Tai, the God of War. Read what you will into Hong Kong’s history from that. It would be a mistake of course to think that Taoism and Buddhism are the same thing, and there are certainly distinct believers in both, as well as many individual temples. However, it’s also fair to say that a lot of people hold loosely to both faiths and that Taoist temples demonstrate Buddhist influence. The result for visitors to temples is an array of colourful gods masterfully depicted in statue form, and magnificent Buddhas – most famously the giant Buddha at Po Lim Monastery on Lantau Island, a big tourist destination.
The British brought Christianity with them in 1841, and it has long spread to the Chinese population – Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang, for example, is a practising Catholic. Later waves of colonial immigration brought Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs and more. It’s not difficult to find somewhere to worship here, and some churches and temples produce their own newspapers; there’s also a long tradition of private faith-based schools, particularly Christian, with a reputation for academic excellence. Christian and other religious institutions are also deeply involved in community work and social endeavours.
In terms of numbers, estimates are about 700,000 practising Buddhists and Taoists and nearly as many Christians, split evenly between Protestants and Catholics. There are about 90,000 Muslims, though this number may in fact be higher due to unreported residents, for example Indonesian domestic workers. Hindus (40,000), Sikhs (8,000) and Jews (3,000-4,000) make up the rest of the major communities.
See listings below for places of worship that serve the foreign community here, or places that offer historical background or more information about observing your faith in Hong Kong. Note that this is just a sample of the religious options available, and that service times can change, so call to check. Times are for English-language services or opening times where appropriate.
Catholic Centre Hong Kong
Information, bookstore and social center for the city’s Catholics, as well as a chapel. See website for full list of services.
Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel
Mon, Wed, Fri 8am; Mon-Fri 5:30pm; Sun 9:30am, 11:30am
Grand Building, 15-18 Connaught Road, Central
Hong Kong Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
One of Hong Kong’s two cathedrals, this is a Grade I Historic Building and a local landmark.
16 Caine Road, Mid-Levels
Gothic-style church dating from 1905 and also a listed historic building.
Mon-Wed 8am, 6:30pm; Sun 10am, 6pm
125 Chatham Road South, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon
Friendly church serving the New Territories.
11 On Yin Street, Tsuen King Circuit, Tsuen Wan, New Territories
St John’s Cathedral
Built in 1847, this is the oldest Anglican Church in the Far East, smack in the center of the financial district.
Mon-Tue 8am; Wed 8am, 6pm; Thu 8:30am, 1:15pm; Fri 8am; Sat 8:30am; Sun 8am, 9am, 10:30am, 6pm
4-8 Garden Road, Central
Emmanuel Church Pok Fu Lam
English-speaking Anglican / Episcopal community in a restored heritage building.
Bethanie, 139 Pok Fu Lam Road, Pok Fu Lam
Evangelical Community Church
English-speaking international church formed in 1988.
Sun 9:30am, 11:15am
4/F Assembly Hall, Salisbury YMCA, Tsim Sha Tsui
Hong Kong China Temple
Gold-domed Mormon temple dating from 1994.
Tue-Fri 9am-7:30pm, Sat 7am-1pm
2 Cornwall Street, Kowloon Tong
Ohel Leah Synagogue
Jewish cultural and religious center for the whole city, in an impressive structure.
Mon-Fri 7am, Sat 9am
70 Robinson Road, Mid-Levels
Jamia Mosque (Shelley Street Mosque)
The city’s oldest and most famous mosque, dating from 1849.
30 Shelley Street, Central
Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre
Hong Kong’s largest mosque, holding 2,000 worshippers and rebuilt in 1984.
105 Nathan Road, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon
Happy Valley Hindu Temple
Impressive temple that is the focus of Hong Kong’s Hindu community.
1-B Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley
Khalsa Diwan Sikh Temple
The main Sikh temple, built by Sikh British Army soldiers in 1901.
371 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai