20 April 2019
For the year to March 31, 2016, Wong Tai Sin Temple reported a revenue of HK$366 million, of which HK$98.3 million was listed as donations. Photo: GovHK
For the year to March 31, 2016, Wong Tai Sin Temple reported a revenue of HK$366 million, of which HK$98.3 million was listed as donations. Photo: GovHK

Running a temple is big business in Hong Kong

How much are you willing to pay to make your wish come true?

For a lot of people, a lot, apparently, judging by the hefty revenues recorded by temples across Hong Kong.

The Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, one of the most popular in the city, received an average of HK$1 million a day last year, but, surprisingly, it’s not even one of the top three local temples with the most assets.

That’s according to Apple Daily, which came out with a special report on the most profitable temples in Hong Kong on the occasion of Buddha’s birthday on Wednesday. 

The event is an official public holiday in Hong Kong, but is not celebrated in mainland China, although it falls within the country’s Golden Week festivities.

Wong Tai Sin Temple, which promises to “make every wish come true upon request” for believers of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, reported a revenue of HK$366 million for the year ended March 31, 2016. Of this amount, HK$98.3 million was listed as donations.

The temple, where local and foreign visitors pay homage to the great immortal monk Wong Tai Sin, is running a pretty successful business that qualifies for mainboard listing.

It operates as an educational and charitable foundation, which also offers a free medical clinic.

Aside from its own income-generating activities, it receives government subsidy for running its various services.

Thanks to soaring property prices, Wong Tai Sin’s net assets have reached HK$880 million.

That may be a staggering amount, but Wong Tai Sin lags far behind three other temples – Po Lin Monastery in Tung Chung, Yuen Yuen Institute in Tsuen Wan, and Fung Ying Seen Koon in Fanling – all of which recorded net assets of more than HK$1 billion each.

With over 100 years of history, Po Lin Monastery, also known as the “Big Thatched Hut”, topped the list with net assets of HK$1.36 billion, a quarter of which were in stocks and fixed income, according to its annual report as of the end of December 2015.

In that year, the Lantau Island monastery famous for its Big Buddha recorded a revenue of HK$146 million, of which HK$55.9 million was listed as donations.

But no one could beat the Chi Lin Nunnery in Diamond Hill when it comes to donations.

In the year to March 31, 2016, the Japanese-style Buddhist temple recorded a revenue of HK$264 million, of which HK$106 million was listed as donations.

Chi Lin is a retailer of souvenirs and vegetarian food with close to HK$48 million in turnover and HK$32 million in profits.

The high-margin business is exemplified by its famous vegetarian banquet, which includes braised matsutake and porcini mushrooms, which costs about HK$400 per order. A pot of tea costs between HK$160 and HK$800 when served at its Nan Lian Garden.

Rest assured their catering service is comparable to that of Peninsula Hotel.

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EJ Insight writer

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