Petty Person Beating turned out to be just one of those Hong Kong Traditions that I was looking for my short visit to Hong Kong. I explored temple and museums. At the Hong Kong Museum of History, I discovered a lot of fascinating festivals. For example, a festival where a tall tower is made with eatable buns. There is, of course, the Chinese New Year that you have to experience. To attend festivals, you have to time your visit to festival calendar. However, I was looking for everyday rituals and traditions.
My curiosity took me below a flyover at Causeway Bay – the area where I was staying. Around the pillars supporting the flyover, were women sitting with a small shrine-like setup. They had a shoe in one of their hands which they would smash against a pile of bricks while inviting you to come and sit with the other hand.
These women are experts at Petty Person Beating.
What is Petty Person Beating?
Petty Person Beating is one of the Hong Kong traditions, a folk ritual in Hong Kong and China, primarily of the Cantonese people. It is to help you feel lighter after beating a person who may be malicious towards you. It could be your boss or a cranky relative or an envious neighbor. You can go to these ladies and they will beat the effigy of this person with their shoes, perform the small ritual and say protective prayers for you. At the end of it, you are emotionally clean that someone has taken care of an enemy for you. These ladies also bless you so that you stay protected.
Some of the Petty Person Beating ladies are also astrologers who can see your hand and suggest solutions for your problems.
Petty Person Beating is also called Villain hitting. It is on the list of ‘Intangible Heritage of Hong Kong’. That should be a good reason explore this Hong Kong tradition.
Who is the Villain?
It can be a specific person, whose name you can write for the Shaman or it could be a generic set of people. It could be someone known to you or a public personality.
When to go for Petty Person Beating?
At Causeway Bridge in Hong Kong, you can meet these ladies all year round. They usually come around 11 AM and sit until late night. Most people come to them after working hours.
However, traditionally JINGZHE is the best time to beat the enemy.
Chinese calendar divides the solar calendar into 24 parts each belonging to 15 degrees of Sun Rotation. Jingzhe is the 3rd of this period when sun between latitudes of 345 – 360 degrees. It would fall somewhere around March in general calendar. In an agricultural calendar, this is referred to as ‘Awakening of the Insects’ corresponding to Spring time when animals and insects awaken from their slumber to eat.
How much does Petty Person Beating Cost?
When I visited they charged HK$ 50 per visit. You can negotiate based on the queue – if there are no customers, they will go down on price.
Most of these women do not speak anything but Cantonese. They have small printed cards to communicate the essential – which is the price 😊
Petty Person Beating Ceremony Video
Once you pay the lady, she lights a few incense sticks to begin the ceremony.
Shaman hands you over a pack of papers. Open the pack and write the name of the person who needs beating from you. The more information you provide about the person, the better it is. You can also provide something belonging to the person like clothes.
The lady would then keep the piece of paper on a brick and hit it hard with her shoes till the paper starts tearing. Sometimes they also curse the person being beaten.
The paper is then burnt and put symbolically in the mouth of a paper tiger. Together they are thrown into a tin can next to the shrine.
Then another yellow Paper is used to for bless the person. Initially just like that then after lighting it with fire.
Post this the Lady can be asked any questions. She may look at your palm and answer or roll two pieces of stone to get the divine answer.
My Experience of Petty Person Beating
Just for the heck of it, I wanted to experience at least one of the Hong Kong Traditions. I had a huge language barrier. We started the ceremony but I could not get that I have to write someone’s name and had to abandon it there. I sat around and observed the ceremony a few times, after which one of them gave me the permission to take a video.
When I showed her the video, the lady hugged me and returned the money I had paid her. I was surprised at her honesty, as I was not expecting the money back.
There were about 10-12 women sitting in a small area. All of them were beating the empty stone with a shoe in one hand and eyes looking for the next potential customer.
Living Culture & Traditions of Hong Kong
This was experiencing a living culture and traditions of Hong Kong. A belief that the evil beater can remove the obstacles in your life. You can in a way outsource your anger to her and she will tell the person to not mess with you. I wanted to speak to those ladies, but this SCMP Article comes closest to speaking to them.
I wondered if there would be situations when two persons would be beating each other with two different ladies at the same time. It could happen within families or co-workers.
However, I understand it is not really beating or killing a person, but just the evil spirit that they are carrying for others.
Do you know of any other such quirky traditions?