Squatting at a makeshift shrine with joss sticks burning beside her, Granny Leung starts bashing a manlike paper cut-out with a pair of sandals.
An elderly woman performs a ritual beneath a bridge in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong in July 2011. A number of women in Hong Kong have made a successful business out of an ancient Chinese villain-hitting ritual that customers claim can drive away evil spirits.
"I beat you little people, I'm sending you away!" chants the 76-year-old woman, one of the last practitioners in Hong Kong of the ancient Chinese ritual of "da siu yan", or "beating the petty little people".
Granny Leung performs her mysterious incantations in the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay. And business is booming.
For as little as HK$50 ($6), Leung claims she can curse her customers' enemies and reverse their bad luck by burning paper offerings and hitting paper figures with shoes.
Believers say the ritual can help to drive away evil spirits in general, or a specific nemesis such as a hated neighbour, a business competitor or a love rival.
Ada Mak, a 50-year-old businesswoman, travels from the outskirts of Hong Kong to see Leung every weekend. She believes the ritual can protect her from negative gossip, lawsuits and financial loss.
"I always feel at ease after I see Granny Leung," says Mak, adding that she usually asks the old woman to curse a general villain rather than a specific target.
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