A relic of the Buddha's skull bone was enshrined in Hong Kong for public worship on Wednesday.
The relic's 10-day display in Hong Kong and Macao marks the first time the only known part of the Buddha's skull has been taken out of the mainland.
The relic arrived in Hong Kong at 3 pm on Wednesday afternoon as monks chanted sutras on the apron at Hong Kong International Airport.
As the relic was taken out of the aircraft, escorted by Buddhist masters, a golden 1.38-meter-high replica of the Asoka Pagoda appeared, covered by a bullet-proof glass shield. Through a specially designed door on one side of the pagoda, the relic could be seen sitting on a lotus pattern, enshrined in a transparent case to ensure stable temperature and humidity.
The relic was then transported to Hong Kong Coliseum on a decorated float under police escort. The coliseum was decorated with statues of Buddha and a lotus-shaped ceiling light, with monks chanting, singing and beating drums. When the relic arrived, thousands of devotees raised their clasped hands, holding candles and singing with monks.
Eminent monks who attended the ceremony included the 11th Panchen Lama, who left the mainland for the first time.
Kok Kwong, president of the Hong Kong Buddhist Association, and Chuan Yin, president of the Buddhist Association of China, conducted the purification ceremony.
"Seeing the relic is like seeing the Buddha. Buddhism offers a wealth of wisdom, which brings true happiness to people," said Kok Kwong.
"Worshiping the relic can promote people's inner mercy, purify people's minds, and is conducive to world peace."
He told China Daily it's also the first time he saw the skull bone relic. The 93-year-old led a group of 150 monks to Nanjing, Jiangsu province, a day ahead to welcome the relic. "It was truly joyful. I was filled with Dharma joy," he said, recalling the very first moment he saw the relic in Nanjing.
Kok Kwong noted that devotees and the public can see the holy relic very closely at "only one to two meters" away. He described the opportunity as "once in a thousand years".
The skull-bone relic of Buddha, will be on display for public worship for six days to celebrate the Buddha's birthday on April 28, as well as the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland.
Hong Kong is the only city so far where all three holy relics - the Buddha's skull bone, tooth, and finger bone - have been enshrined for worship.
It is estimated that more than 300,000 people will worship the relic in Hong Kong during the period. Some 20,000 tickets have been reserved for tourists from the mainland, Southeast Asia, Europe and the United States.
The event also coincides with the World Buddhist Forum in the city. After completing the Hong Kong leg on April 30, the relic will be taken to Macao for public worship and return to Nanjing on May 4. The skull bone was unearthed in Nanjing in 2010 after being buried for more than 1,000 years under the Song Dynasty Changgan Temple.
The precious relic was not insured and no security check has been arranged at Hong Kong Coliseum. But the organizer, the Hong Kong Buddhist Association, has hired two security companies and installed security cameras at the stadium.