Set in the mountainous Ngong Ping area of Lantau Island in Hong Kong is the Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. Not one of Hong Kong’s more famous or spectacular tourist attractions but it is a center of Buddhism in Hong Kong and well worth a visit.
The Tian Tan Buddha is very impressive and can be seen from as far as Macau on a clear day. The Po Lin Monastery is a major center for worship and has a beautiful main temple. Just avoid all the commercial hype surrounding the Ngong Ping 360 gondola and village which give Ngong Ping a bad reputation and image.
Tian Tan Buddha
Background – The Tian Tian Buddha is an enormous statue on the top of a hill of Buddha sitting in a lotus throne that rests on a three tier platform. The Tian Tan Buddha is 34 meters tall, weighs 250 tons, made out of 202 separate pieces of bronze and was completed in 1993 after three years of construction. At the time of it’s completion, it was the world’s out door seated Buddha prior to being dethroned in 2007
The Steps – You have to climb 240 steps up the side of the hill to visit the Tian Tan Buddha. Not a hard climb with a giant Buddha welcoming you at the top.
The Offering of the Six Devas – Six smaller bronze statues representing the Six Divas ring the front of the Tian Tan Buddha. Three of the divas are to the left of the stairs and three to the right. The divas are offering wisdom, patience, zeal, meditation, charity and morality, the qualities necessary to enter nirvana.
Alignment – The Tian Tan Buddha is one of the five large Buddha statues in China and it faces north towards mainland China. The other four Buddha statues face south.
Po Lin Monastery
Background – The Po Lin Monastery has one large hall, several smaller buildings and was founded in 1906 by three monks from Jiangsu Province. The Tian Tan Buddha is officially an extension of the monastery.
Ten-Thousand Buddha Palace – The Po Lin monastery is in the middle of major renovations with a very large Ten Thousand Buddha Palace being built behind the current hall. In typical Hong Kong style, the monastery is inviting donations from the public as a form of investment with the reasoning that your donation will be returned to you by Causal Law. Donations accepted range from HK$200 for a humble brick to HK$3,000,000 for an altar table.
The Main Hall – Housing three bronze statues of Buddha that represent Buddha’s past, present and future lives, the main hall is the highlight of Ngong Ping. The Tian Tan Buddha is impressive but not particularly spiritual. The main hall on the other hand is peaceful, tranquil and very in tune with the philosophy of Buddhism.
The Gondola – The gondola started in 2006, is 5.7 kilometers long and runs between a suburb on Lantau Island called Tung Chun and the top of Ngong Ping. The gondola station is right next to the Tung Chun MTR station and makes getting to the Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha very easy. The views from the gondola of the airport and surrounding islands are excellent.
Ngong Ping Village – This is a retail and commercial center at the top of the gondola that is called a village for promotional purposes. It is meant to “…mirror and uphold the cultural and spiritual veracity of the Ngong Ping area.” but is so cheesy and embarrassing collection of shops and over priced restaurants. The only place in Ngong Ping village worth visiting is the toilets.
MTR – The easiest way to reach the Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha is to catch the MTR to Tung Chun which is the last stop on the Tung Chun line. Once you exit the Tung Chun MTR station, you can take the 360 Cable car OR you can catch a bus from the large bus stop next to the MTR.
Ferry – A ferry service runs from pier No.6 at central to Mui Wo at Lantau Island. From Mai Wo you can catch a bus to Tung Chun and switch to another bus or the cable car.
Hiking – There are several hiking trails that run from Tung Chun and nearby to Ngong Ping that would be great to use if you have the time and energy.
Tips for Visiting the Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha
On the Way to the Airport – Buses run between the Tung Chun MTR station and the airport in around 10 minutes. If you have a flight in the afternoon or evening, you can visit the Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha on the way to the airport. There are even lockers at the cable car station to store your luggage.
Take a Bus – At HK$125 a ticket, taking a cable car is expensive. If you are on a budget, take a bus from the Tung Chun MTR station to Ngong Ping for just a few dollars.