One of the less trodden gems of Hong Kong is the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin. The Big Buddha with its cable car on Lantau gets much more attention, but 10,000 Buddhas provides you with a much more intimate and surprising temple experience.
The entrance is hidden behind a government building near an Ikea; often visitors (like me!) accidentally go into the Ancestral Grounds, called Po Fook Hill, where mourners burn incense for levels upon levels of deceased relatives. The escalator next to the stairs and lift lead to this location so instead, veer to the right (or turn on the proper road) to go to the monastery. After all, escalators are an uncouth way of entering a sacred space – you must climb the mountain!
Once you’ve made it past the chain-link fence, you’ll find yourself on a paved walkway, gradually sloping upwards. Then the statues begin… About 500 unique golden statues (plastic, painted gold) line both sides of the path leading up the slope, each with his own emotive facial expression representing the experience of enlightenment (Arhan statues).
It is hard to imagine at this stage that it could get any better. Each face is entertaining and insane, calm and serene, angry, charming, happy, or yes… even sassy. There are bald ones, hairy ones, ones in hats, ones with weapons. The creativity is inspiring – one even has small arms coming out of his eyes.
But after 400 steps of this, your legs start to hurt a bit. Luckily, you have nearly reached the monastery itself. The 10,000 part of the 10,000 Buddhas is actually the 12-13,000 miniature Buddha statues housed in the main temple among glittering lights.
Outside the main temple are some miraculous statues – floating, stretching arms and legs – as well as a pagoda. Apparently, you can climb up the pagoda to see a lovely view and even more Buddha representations, but it was closed the day we visited. There is also a café next to the temple, which offers delightful Cantonese snacks and refreshing tea – some much needed sustenance after the climb!
After you’ve replenished, you should make sure to continue upwards to check out even more life-size Arhan statues, and a few interesting temples too. The temples feature mythological scenes, miniatures and larger than life icons: deities riding their mounts and waging war, or calmly meditating and blessing worshipers. Some of the temples on the next level up are still under construction though.
Once you go beyond them, however, is the most beautiful part of the visit – Arhan statues scattered across a knoll overlooking the city. And in the furthest reaches, overlooking the grove of golden statues, presides an ivory white Kwun Yam statue – a goddess riding a dragon who holds a red orb in his throat. The furthest part of the journey is also the most rewarding.
To get there take the MTR to the Sha Tin stop on the East Rail line (the light blue one), then go towards Ikea; when you see it, turn left up Pai Tau Street. At the end of the road, there is an imposing government building (Sha Tin Government Offices), at which you turn right. At the back of this building is the sketchy looking entrance surrounded by chain link fencing with a sign. From there the journey begins!
For a little more info, go here.
Jamie writes about Hong Kong life on her blog jamielynnolson.wordpress.com.