They’re impossible to miss: rhythmic slaps, chants audible over the traffic, brief billows of warmth from their flames. Several women, mostly retirees, are icons under Canal Road Bridge in Causeway Bay, where, for a fee, they will tell your fortune, summon mystical protection, or even curse your enemies.
Villain-hitting is another expression of syncretic belief: Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folklore are cinched together and the practice is teased out by the self-proclaimed mystics. Statuettes housed in makeshift altars, assembled each morning and torn down every evening, are donated by the women’s most loyal clients—people who believe the act will help them curry favor from the gods.
On most days, business is scant. Most paying customers are tourists. One mentionable exception is the day known as Jingzhe on the Chinese lunar calendar, which typically falls in the first week of March. In the past few years, Hongkongers have lined up for hours so they could “ hit” the Chief Executive.
(Left) The villain-hitters of Causeway Bay use a variety of footwear in their rituals—stilettos, sneakers, sandals, and anything else shaped like a foot.
(Right) “Villains” that may plague a person are represented by printed graphics. To strike them down, the “villains” are hit until the paper is rubbed through… in theory, anyway. Most of the time, the women end up tearing the sheets before setting them aflame.
(Left) One of the women says the people in her bloodline are attuned to mystical forces. Her brother performs Taoist rituals. She reads the future and prescribes fortunes.
(Right) Opinions among the villain-hitters are split. Some truly believe that what they do isn’t mere superstition, but actual invocation with real consequences. Others openly admit it’s a hustle or service meant to please anyone with HK$50 to spare. What they do agree about is this: there isn’t anyone to continue the tradition. Once they’re gone, it will die with them.
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