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Hong Kong: A Tourist’s Delight

August 26, 2014 | By

Giant Buddha at Lantau, the scenic beauty of Repulse Bay and Stanley Market, Lamma and Cheung Chau islands (fishing villages), Man Mo temple, Temple Street, Ladies Market (Mong Kok), Ocean Park, Disneyland, Victoria Peak and various museums showcasing the past and future of China – there’s so much to see in Hong Kong.

Main Hall Chi Lin Nunnery

Main Hall Chi Lin Nunnery

Hong Kong is a tourist’s delight. There are so many interesting places to see! We had been to Hong Kong recently and saw the usual tourist spots – Giant Buddha at Lantau, the scenic beauty of Repulse Bay and Stanley Market, Lamma and Cheung Chau islands (fishing villages), Man Mo temple, Temple Street, Ladies Market (Mong Kok), Ocean Park, Disneyland, Victoria Peak and various museums showcasing the past and future of China. Every day we explored a new place to get the ‘feel’ of Hong Kong.

Two other places are a must see on a visitor’s tour list. One is Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery, an oasis of beauty and peace in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the busy streets on Diamond Hill. The other is the temple of the Ten Thousand Buddhas (Sha Tin), a steep climb up 400 steps!

Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery

Nan Lian Garden is located on Diamond Hill in Kowloon (HongKong). The landscape of this garden en capsules the four elements of Tang dynasty style gardens – artificial hillocks with many bizarre shaped huge boulders, miniature water falls and lotus ponds, old ornamental trees and wooden structures. This scenic garden incorporates jie jing (borrowed scene), tou jing (penetrating scene), yan jing (concealing scene), ge jing (separating scene) and kou jing (magnifying scene).

Bizarre shaped rocks in Nan Lian Garden

Bizarre shaped rocks in Nan Lian Garden

The Nan Lian Garden covers an area of 3.5 hectares. Multi-storied buildings dot the surrounding hills. Noise barriers keep away the sound of traffic from pervading into the park while ornamental trees absorb the dust in the air.

The golden Perfection Pavilion

The Golden Perfection Pavilion

The Golden Perfection Pavilion stands in the Lotus Pond and is connected by two red-painted wooden Zi Wu bridges to the pathway in the garden. Water ripples down the rocks of a nearby hillock. Smooth stones dot the boundary of the Blue Pond while large, colourful koi fish lazily paddle in its cool water.

There is a water wheel mill near the Silver Strand waterfall. The water falls over the window of a restaurant! White, misty water vapour gushes out of holes in the mounds of soil and crevices in the rocks on Fragrance Hill creating white wispy ‘clouds’ on the huge rocks. The fragrant smell in the air comes from ‘sweet smelling’ trees in the garden.

Chinese believe that stones are the essence of life. Stone collection became a passion during the Tang dynasty. The Rockery is a wooden hall exhibiting huge coloured stones. The grooves and shape of each mammoth stone have been etched out by the waters of the Hongshui river. These are known as Dahua Yantan or coloured scholar rocks (jaspilite). Yantan means ‘shore of rocks’. The rocks were discovered in the 1990’s. These stones were formed from lava thrown up by the ocean volcanoes many, many years ago.

Alongside the Rockery hall is the Penjing (bonsai) Garden.

Red Pagoda with Miniature Buddhas and Arahats

Red Pagoda with Miniature Buddhas and Arahats

The Chinese Timber Architecture Gallery contains miniature wooden replicas of some monasteries – the Pagoda of Sakyamuni Buddha, East Main Hall of the Foguange Monastery (Shanxi province) and the main hall of Chi Lin Nunnery (Hong Kong).

There are restaurants and a Chinese tea house as well as a souvenir shop for the garden walkers. There is also a wooden structure for art exhibitions, musical performances, seminars and other cultural shows.

Arrows point the way to walk through the park. This helps one to understand the ‘dynamics’ of this park. No one is allowed to feed the birds or the fishes. No one is allowed to bring food into the park. You are strictly prohibited from feeding the fish or releasing a fish or terrapin into the ponds. There are many more don’ts. No complaints! These are needed to ensure that an atmosphere of peaceful tranquility prevails in this beautiful garden.

Nan Lian Garden is maintained by the Chi Lin Nunnery. This wooden nunnery is adjacent to the park and is open to the public. Chi Lin Nunnery is the biggest wooden structure in the world to have been built without any nails being hammered into the wood! It is built on a 30,000 sq. m. site at the foot of Diamond Hill. The Nunnery was founded in the 1930’s.

A Buddhist Monastery was set up here in the late nineties. This Tang dynasty style monastery has a Buddhist temple with a huge statue of Sakyamuni Buddha in the center of the main hall. On his extreme left is Bodhisattva Manjusri and on his extreme right, Bodhisattva Samantabhadra. Two disciples, Mahakasyapa and Ananda, stand near Buddha.

Today, monks and nuns together practice the teachings of Buddha and provide services to the general public including care to the elderly.

Man Fat TSZ Temple (Sha Tin)

The temple of the ten thousand Buddhas (Man Fat Tsz) is located on the lush green foothills of Sha Tin, Hong Kong (New Territories). You are not alone as you climb up more than 400 steps to reach the temple complex. On either side of the steps going up the hill are gold-painted statues of Buddhist monks, each very different from the other. On a misty, dark, cloudy day, the fainthearted would get a nasty bout of goose-bumps while walking up the steps with so many pairs of eyes peering at them in the gloom!

The Buddhist monk statues have been carved in all sorts of postures and moods. One figurine is laughing while another is explaining something to a listener. A monk has long, dangling white eyebrows! Some monks have white hair. Some have thick mustaches while others sport black/white beards. A few gaze meditatively at the onlooker while a few have their eyes focused firmly on a book. Elderly monks have walking sticks. Tall, thin, fat, short, bald, happy, cheerful, benign, standing, sitting, old, young, male, female – every type of monk can be seen as one walks up to the main temple complex.

Buddhist monks meditating on the steps up the hill

Buddhist monks meditating on the steps up the hill

While huffing and puffing up the steps, a common thought flits through the mind of every climber. How many more steps are there to climb?

Close to the main temple courtyard, statues of fierce Buddhist warriors line the steps. Each warrior looks down on the climbers with a grim, hostile look on his face. To denote the courage of each protector of Lord Buddha, some warrior statues have a snarling tiger engraved in their belly. Anyone harming the Enlightened One will be pounced upon with the tenacity and ferocity of a wild jungle tiger.

One odd statue has arms coming out of the eye sockets. The eyes are painted in the palms of the hands! Another statue firmly grips a wriggling dragon in its hands.

In the temple courtyard, more disciples can be seen. A monk is lifting his robes as water touches his feet while another points at the sky with a very, very long arm. Then there is a monk who has intense concentration etched on his face as he cleans his ear with an ear-bud!

The main temple hall has the statue of Lord Buddha. In front of this statue, in a cross-legged posture, sits the embalmed body of the Venerable Yuet Kai, a Buddhist preacher and the ‘architect’ of this temple. The land on which the temple and monastery is built was donated to him by a wealthy, devout Buddhist merchant. Temple construction began in1949. Yuet Kai and his disciples carried material for temple construction from the base of the steep hill to the building site atop the hill.

Today more features are being added to this temple of many Buddhas.

Lining the inner walls of the main hall of the temple are nearly 12, 800 gold plated small- sized Buddhas. More Buddhas are being added to this temple complex. An electric bulb glows in front of each statuette casting a golden hazy glow inside the hall.

In the temple courtyard, there is a red-yellow nine-storey pagoda with a winding staircase inside. Small Buddha statues can be seen in the window-gaps of the pagoda.

Two favorite disciples of Lord Buddha, Bodhisattva Manjushri and Samantabhadra, can be seen near the pagoda. The former is astride a blue lion and the latter is seated on a white elephant.

There is also a statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Kwun Yam. There are many more statues of her. She assumes different forms depending on what type of aid is prayed for by the devotee.

Goddess astride a lion

Goddess astride a lion

There are gold painted statues of Arhats at the base of the pagoda. Arhats are disciples who have attained a high level of spiritual enlightenment. In the courtyard are statues of 18 special Arhats – enlightened disciples of Lord Buddha who attained final nirvana or the state of enlightened bliss by completely freeing themselves of the burden of greed, hatred, delusions, cravings and ignorance.

The ten thousand Buddhas monastery has the Po Fook Ancestral Worship Hall. It contains the ashes of the departed loved ones. People come here to make offerings to the souls of their dear ancestors and to seek their blessings for a fruitful life.

 

 

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Hema is a freelance children's story/content writer and copy-editor. She is currently based in Bangalore (India).
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