HONG KONG (AP) _ Hundreds of Buddhists solemnly greeted the arrival today of a holy tooth believed to have belonged to Buddha as Hong Kong geared up for its first official celebration of his birthday.

The followers hummed hymns as the tooth, encased in a miniature golden pagoda, was escorted off an airplane from Beijing by monks in saffron robes. The tooth is believed to bring peace and luck.

Usually kept in a temple in Beijing, the tooth is on loan to Hong Kong for one week to celebrate Buddha's birthday Saturday.

Hong Kong people believe in a mix of Western and Eastern religions, but the former British colonial government observed only Christian holidays and other secular Chinese holidays. The territory reverted to Chinese rule in July 1997, and last year Hong Kong declared Buddha's birthday a public holiday.

Beijing says only two teeth _ the other one in Sri Lanka _ had been found after Buddha was cremated 2,400 years ago. Taiwan disputes that, claiming that another tooth it received as a gift from monks in India last year also belonged to Buddha.