Hong Kong’s “villain hitting” ritual, explained

When things get bad, frustrating or upsetting, it feels really, really good just to hit something.

Hong Kong’s “villain hitting” ritual, explained
Source: Flickr/Miles Leung

When things get bad, frustrating or upsetting, it feels really, really good just to hit something. And Hong Kong has that on lock.

In one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping districts, Causeway Bay, underneath the Canal Road flyover, there’s a group of (mostly) elderly women known as “villain hitters” ready to exact revenge. They can be hired by anyone who comes their way to hit whoever they want … kind of.

The villain hitters, or sorcerers, have a stall where they hit a paper effigy with their shoe while cursing the “villain.” It costs HK$50 (US$6) to hire them, and the process takes about five minutes. First, the effigy is beaten until it falls apart, and then, just for good measure, the sorcerers rub what’s left with pork fat and burn it. Lastly, they’ll do a chant for good fortune.

A 2014 survey by a local Hong Kong paper said the top targets of this kind of sorcery were colleagues, bosses and mistresses.

The patron looking to punish someone can write a name on the effigy or even bring a photo. But, the villain can really be anyone, from a political figure to an employer to an ex. It doesn’t even have to be a specific person – it could represent negative people in your life, evil spirits or bad luck.

The ritual started a few centuries back when farmers would do it to drive away evil spirits. But, now, it’s often used for pissed-off people looking to vent.

Hong Kong villain hitting
Source: Flickr/Miles Leung

“During the hitting, we ask the gods of heaven and earth to punish the villains, to make them less dominant,” explains Wong Gat-lei, a third-generation villain hitter who’s been at it for over 20 years. “People want to weaken others through villain hitting to achieve peace of mind. But it’s more about achieving peace of mind by releasing your anger.”

Right now, the popularity of the villain hitters is at a high because March is something like the villain-hitting season. Some people believe the best day for the ritual is “ging zat,” as pronounced in Cantonese. This is a day on the Chinese lunar calendar that translates to the “awakening of insects.” This year, that day fell on March 6. And, as Hong Kong moves away from COVID restrictions, crowds are forming around the sorcerers as they do their work.