When You Wish Upon a ... Tree

Find out more about the art of creating a Chinese Wishing Tree.

We’re getting ready for our Chinese New Year festivities at Kelvin Hall this week. Along with Ricefield Chinese Arts and Culture Centre and our colleagues across the road at Kelvingrove, we’re planning a fun filled day of traditional games and craft activities at both Kelvin Hall and Kelvingrove on Sunday 5th February.

In the village of Fong Ma Po in Lam Tseun, an area of Hong Kong consisting of around 26 villages, there are two ancient banyan trees, and its Wishing Tree tradition began around two hundred years ago. Legend has it that fishermen seeking protection and luck would throw pieces of paper, known as josses, into every earth god, or Pak Kung tree, as they travelled through each village on their way into Hong Kong. There is another legend of a man who came to wish upon one of the trees because his son was not performing well at school. His son’s performance miraculously began to improve and word got out that the trees were magic. Villagers and visitors alike would burn joss sticks at the bottom of the trees to worship the earth god and they would create their wish, or “Bao Die” to throw into it. A “Bao Die” was made by writing your wish on a piece of gold or red paper and tying it to a weight – usually an orange. If you threw your “Bao Die” into the tree and it caught on one of the branches, your wish might come true. The higher you managed to throw it, the more chance you had of becoming a reality. If, however, it fell or you could not get it to catch on a branch, then you were being too greedy with your wish.

It would appear that, unfortunately, no-one wished for a stronger Wishing Tree. The extra weight of all the oranges was too much, and in 2005 a branch from the larger Wishing Tree fell and injured two people. It was replaced four years later by a plastic tree and visitors can tie their wishes to plastic oranges and throw them instead, which doesn’t quite have the same feel to it.

Our wishing tree will be made of wood and will be small enough that you can tie your wishes directly onto it, which hopefully means they’ll stay put and have a better chance of coming true. No oranges required.

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