Over 300,000 people thronged to glimpse a 2,500-year-old finger reportedly preserved from the Buddha which arrived with traditional religious fanfare and ceremony in Hong Kong yesterday from China, report agencies.
But critics have dismissed the move as a political gesture by Beijing to appease the Hong Kong people, many of whom are angry after China refused to let the territory directly elect its next leader in 2007, said the BBC.
Hong Kong's leading Buddhist cleric, the Venerable Sik Kok Kwong, arrived with the holy relic in a bulletproof glass box. Monks chanting prayers and blowing horns accompanied the finger as it was shifted from the aircraft to a specially modified truck marked with gold panelling and lotus flowers.
The 2,500-year-old bone, which was found buried at Famen Temple near the ancient capital of Xian in 1987, is reputed to bring peace and luck. Chinese officials approved its transfer to the former British colony, where it will be displayed as part of ten-day birthday celebrations for Buddha which begin today, said the Times, London.
Several other relics thought to be parts of the Buddha's body - including a number of teeth - are preserved in various monasteries in Asia. But the finger may be getting a reputation for its links with political diplomacy, said the BBC. In 2002 it was loaned to Taiwan, which China is keen to woo away from pro-independence voices on the island.
Since the 1997 handover, there has seen a gradual move away from the colonial past in an attempt to create a common identity with the mainland. Even public art galleries have been told to toe the line, with the emphasis on Chinese exhibitions to the exclusion of Western art, the Times said.