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Have a villain in your life? In Hong Kong, a ritual helps ease anxieties

Louise Delmotte/AP
A customer prays during a "villain hitting" ceremony under the Canal Road Flyover in Hong Kong, on Sunday, March 5, 2023. People holding a grudge may have found a way to release it in Hong Kong's "villain hitting" ritual.

HONG KONG — People holding a grudge may have found a way to release it in Hong Kong's "villain hitting" ritual.

To relieve themselves from a bad mood, customers paid ritual practitioners who work underneath the Canal Road Flyover in Causeway Bay, one of the city's shopping districts, and watched them bashing an image of their target with a shoe. It could be anyone — rival lovers and unfriendly colleagues, or horrible bosses and unlikeable public figures.

The ritual is particularly popular in March because some people believe that the best day to perform it falls on "ging zat," as pronounced in Cantonese, a day on the Chinese lunar calendar that literally means "awakening of insects."

This year, "ging zat" fell on March 6. The tradition, mostly run by elderly women, attracted crowds of customers after the lifting of major COVID-19 restrictions, including the mask mandate.

"I'm hoping to cut out all the gossip around me and wish that the bad people would stay away from me," said tourist Edison Chan, who traveled from neighboring Guangdong province.

Ho Pan-yong, one of the practitioners, said she wanted to help her customers whack the bad people away from their lives. She charged 50 Hong Kong dollars ($6.4) for the five-minute act, which includes lighting incense offering to gods followed by whacking the target and concludes by ritual blessing.

The ritual, which does not hurt anyone physically, could help bring hopes to those who are distressed, said Dr. Beatrice Ng-Kessler, a registered clinical psychologist in Hong Kong and in the U.K.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.