Sunday, April 5: This morning, my plan is to head straightaway to Lantau Island by ferry. Since I have to fly back to Nanning on Monday, I’m afraid I won’t have time to go on Monday, so I must do it today. I have all day, and my hope is to go to Lantau and possibly the fishing village of Tai O, and then to make it to the Peak on Hong Kong Island in the late afternoon. Of course, it’s the Qing Ming holiday in Hong Kong as it is throughout all of China, so the crowds are in force. I take the metro to the Admiralty station on Hong Kong Island, and head straight for the Outlying Islands Ferry Terminal at Pier 6, walking past the Hong Kong Observation Wheel and Two International Finance Center toward Victoria Harbour.
At Pier 6, which is right next to the Star Ferry Pier, I stand in line to get on the ferry to Peng Chau on Lantau Island. Sadly, the next ferry is already full, so I have to stand in line another 30 minutes to get on the following ferry. It’s so frustrating, always having to fight the crowds on these Chinese holidays.
It takes nearly an hour to get to Lantau Island. Once we disembark, we head directly for the bus to Po Lin Monastery, where again we have to wait in a queue until the bus allows us to begin boarding. That takes a while. Finally, we’re on our way, about a 40 minute drive to the Monastery. We get dropped in front of this gate.
The first thing I can see is the famous bronze Tian Tan Buddha, better known as the Big Buddha, a 34-meter-high sculpture erected in 1993 that shows the Sakyamuni Buddha sitting cross-legged on a lotus flower and facing north to look over the Chinese people. He sits prominently on a hill on Ngong Ping Plateau. According to Discover Hong Kong: The Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery: “The eyes, lips, incline of the head and right hand, which is raised to deliver a blessing to all, combine to bring a humbling depth of character and dignity to the massive Buddha, which took 12 years to complete.” I climb up the steps to the Big Buddha along with the crowds of tourists.
Sadly, the sun is behind the Big Buddha so it’s difficult to get a good picture of his serene face.
According to Wikipedia, the statue is named Tian Tan Buddha because its base is a model of the Altar of Heaven or Earthly Mount of Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It sits on a lotus, a symbol of purity in Buddhism, on top of a three-platform altar. Six smaller bronze statues known as “The Offering of the Six Devas” are posed around it, offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music to the Buddha. These symbolize the Six Perfections of generosity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom, all of which are necessary for enlightenment (Wikipedia: Tian Tan Buddha).
I love the statues of the Six Devas, which are quite striking.
From the back side of the Buddha, I have sweeping views of the island, the Zhujiang River Estuary, and the South China Sea.
From one of the tiers of the Buddha, I can also see Po Lin Monastery nestled in the folds of the hills.
Finally, at this angle, I can get a slight view of the Buddha’s face.
After awhile, I climb down from the Big Buddha to the Po Lin Monastery, where incense is burning in large stone and metal sand-filled containers and people are praying to the Buddha holding and prostrating with burning incense sticks.
Before I explore further, I go to a vegetarian restaurant at the monastery where I’ve bought a ticket for lunch. It’s packed with mostly Chinese tourists. I’m seated at a table with a small family of four, a solo Chinese woman traveler, and two Chinese men who seem to be friends. I guess this is the straggler table. I’m served up a bunch of Chinese vegetables which are cooked in tons of oil. I can feel my stomach rumbling as I eat it. From then on, my day is ruined by stomach cramps. I feel miserable the rest of the day. I felt exactly this way in Kunming when Alex and I ate lunch at a vegetarian restaurant in a monastery. Will I never learn? According to Lantau Online: Po Lin Monastery: The Po Lin Monastery can trace its history back to 1904 when three monks built a retreat on the site and named it Da Maopeng (“The Big Hut”). Da Maopeng was renamed Po Lin in 1924 and it has grown in status with halls, gardens, and monuments. The site also hosts a tea garden and two vegetarian restaurants.
The staircase leading up to the main temple, Da Xiong Bao Dian, has an ascending island of yellow flowers and a large incense burner partway up.
Inside are beautiful lotus-shaped chandeliers, extravagantly painted ceilings, and huge rectangular and cylindrical-shaped banners hanging from the ceilings.
Three bronze Buddhas, Sakyamuni, Dipamkarara and Maitreya, are enshrined in this main temple. They represent Buddha’s past, present and future lives. The temple also houses many Buddhist scriptures.
The interior is lavishly but tastefully done. It’s simply stunning.
The outside of the temple is no less impressive, with its colorful painted and intricately carved eaves.
Another temple sits behind the main hall. It holds five seated figures and boasts a gorgeous ceiling.
Again, the outsides of the temples are fabulous.
Finally, I head out of the complex, where I’ve now decided, instead of going to the fishing village of Tai O, I’m going to take the famous Ngong Ping 360 cable-car to the Tung Chung metro line, where I can go directly back into Hong Kong Central, bypassing the ferry completely.