Petty Person Beating – Quirky Hong Kong Traditions

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Petty Person Beating by Old Ladies - Hong Kong
Petty Person Beating by Old Ladies – Hong Kong

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?

Shrine of the Shaman who beats the Petty Person for you - Hong Kong
Shrine of the Shaman who beats the Petty Person for you – Hong Kong

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?

Cost of Petty Person Beating- HKD $50
Cost of Petty Person Beating- HKD $50

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

Paper Tiger & Incense Sticks - part of Petty Person beating ceremony
Paper Tiger & Incense Sticks – part of Petty Person beating ceremony

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.

Petty Person Beating - Hong Kong
Petty Person Beating – Hong Kong

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?

Read More:

  1. Meeting a female Oracle in Ladakh
  2. Street markets of Hong Kong
  3. Best Hong Kong Souvenirs to Buy
  4. Temples, Gardens & Walled City of Kowloon
  5. Wan Chai Heritage Walk

41 COMMENTS

    • Mikaela – So true, every ritual tell us a lot about the people and their society. I also love the fact that in the midst of all modernity, culture lives on in Hong Kong. Do check it out when you visit HK next.

  1. Wow, this is fascinating, I had no idea a ritual like this even existed. Discovering little traditions and things like this is one of the things I love about travel. (I also love those paper tigers, how cute!)

  2. A tower made of edible buns?! ok I am intrigued now. That sounds like I need to visit Hong Kong after all at some point. I think it might just be the right place for me if I think about the variety of food. Besides I always wanted to taste hong kong sweet buns. =D I am not so sure what to think of these kinds of traditions. It reminds me of the way people handle their affair on the Caribbeans. I take it with a grain of salt. In this case, at least it gives you the option to relax a bit if you feel stressed out by somebody. So I guess it has some therapeutic effect, if not that then at least it’s a fun tradition with a unique name. I actually thought at first it was called beating Petty person…. beating up a lady called petty (or Betty) person. lol

    • Helene – I think it is a psychic exercise, where you feel relieved of the stress someone has given you. And yes, it is fun to watch it and I am sure it is fun to see the negativity being beaten to death. I want to go and see that tower made of edible buns 🙂

  3. There are some fascinating traditions around the world. Sometimes I am so focused on my checklist that I miss things like this. Anything that gets rid of bad vibes works for me. Great video as well!

  4. I’d never heard of Petty Person Beating before, thank you for telling us! And I’m starting to think we should have some of that in Italy as well! 😀

  5. LOL I love the Petty Person Beating tradition… and I am sure I could think up some people to be nominated! I have a little Guatemalan figure in a bag that was given to me at WTM in London which apparently I can name after my enemy and put under my pillow at night to protect me from them…I think…

    Perhaps I better stick with Petty Person Beating and take myself to Hong Kong, it sounds a bit more certain!

  6. Haha! This is a very weird tradition, but one that many people will surely enjoy! I can’t seem to decide what I thin of it, but still, I’d love to watch such a ceremony!

  7. Wow this is fascinating. I had never heard of this. I went to a whipping ceremony in Ethiopia where woman would ask the men to whip them with a stick so that their back would have these huge gashes on it. It was said to prove that they were worthy of a husband. I find it really interesting to read about these different cultural traditions.

    • Nicole, In India in some villages around Mathura women beat men publicly during the festival of Holi and I always thought this was their way of cleaning their pent-up emotions. If and when I visit Ethiopia, I will check out this whipping ceremony – it sounds fascinating.

  8. Never heard of it but I can understand the basis for the same. It might sound humbug, but I am sure there is a psychology behind it and that makes one calm down. I guess voodoo tradition of sticking pins into dolls have similar basis.

    • Nisha – yes, most cultures have something that lets you Let Go of the negatives in your life. I think these are or were easier solutions than long lifeless sessions with psychologists these days.

  9. This is pretty awesome – I definitely know a few people I would like to use this for. I’ve never heard of this before, it is a great story to read about your experience with the petty person beating – and a bit hilarious as well!

  10. What an unusual stress buster kind of custom! These age old methods while giving a culture shock makes travel more interesting. I am not sure if I will resort to something like this. It is always better to sit and talk things out.

  11. This is quite a new tradition for me. I had never heard of it. You have penned it down also very interestingly. I enjoyed reading your post. Now I have got something new to explore in Hongkong. 🙂

  12. This is something I have never heard of and it is quite interesting too. It feels petty person beating in Hong Kong is a good stress buster as well it will help remove all the negative feelings for a person. Quite Interesting post as well video.

  13. This must be one of the most unique practices I’ve ever heard of. I don’t know who in my life I would actually have this done for, but it’s a really interesting idea. I can actually see the principles behind how it would actually be effective. I always say that Eastern medicine is better than Western.

  14. Haha….This is such a fun ritual. I was intrigued about the name of the person you must have given but was disappointed to learn that you did not :p
    We have something similar with pricking pins /needles into a doll down south in villages..Some tantrik ritual ! These rituals though might seem funny actually do have a psychological effect of Calmness and Fear.

    As , I was reading I was wondering about the people I would have named.Then,I saw the rate and thought -Why should I waste so much on each? 😂

    • Meenakshi – I would not have named one person. The Bania in me would have paid one time money to diminish all possible negative forces in my life :-). Where can I see the pricking dolls ritual – have never seen one.

  15. I have to admit that I think that this belief that the evil beater can remove the obstacles in your life is quite interesting. And that it’s not something you do, but a whole ritual – like you said: outsource the anger. But I see that the ultimate goal is for these ladies to help you – they remove that “villain’s” power over you, which is a noble scope. Definitely an experience worth considering when in Hong Kong!

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