The original plan for the day was to go for a long hike in Lantau. However, after many failed attempts to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning, we had to come up with Plan B. We wanted to do something cultural that was out of town, free and that could potentially incorporate some sort of exercise (cue in the guilt for not pushing oneself out of bed early enough). After a quick yet thorough secondary research, thanks to the power of digital web, we found the perfect Plan B – Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin.
Now, before I go anywhere, I always make sure to Google map and Google image the location so I know exactly what I’m doing, where I’m going, what building looks like or even get a feel of what the journey will look like. I then have the Google Maps mobile phone app open until I reach the final destination. Call me a geek but this has been a winning method for me and this is definitely something you’d need to do before visiting this place. But more on that later…
This place is one of many Hong Kong’s best kept secrets. With so many tourists heading over to sites that have had the pleasure of being part of touristic marketing campaigns, places like the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery enables you to retreat from your hectic daily life and gives you a more intimate cultural outing.
If you’re thinking of visiting this place, you should definitely think about wearing comfortable clothing and be ready to walk! To be more specific, you need to walk up a steep concrete path that consists of 431 steps. So if you’re not the exercising type, be prepared and bring a bottle of water – especially if you are planning a visit during the hot and humid summer months! The upwards path is lined with 500 life-size gilded Arhan statues. Make sure you take some time to look at each of the statues as they are all different!
Once you’ve reached the top of the path, you will find the lower level terrace and main complex where the main temple (Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall), Kwun Yam Pavilion, Samantabhadra Pavilion, Manjusri Pavilion, 18-Arhat Gallery, Naga-puspa Hall and 9-storey pagoda are located. The walls of the main temple are lined with almost 13,000 miniature gold ceramic Buddha statues that are all stacked on shelves. Each statue is about twelve inches high and adopts a different pose and expression and contains an inscription bearing the name of its donor. Interestingly, the name Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (Man Fat Tsz), does not actually refer to the variety of golden statues that you pass along the climb and the ones you find all around the monastery. It is in fact referring to the dinky little statues that sit inside the main temple. In Cantonese, the term ‘ten thousand’ simply refers to a very large number.
Tired from the climb and in need of refreshment? Sounds like you need to go to the vegetarian restaurant that is located at the entrance of this lower level complex. They serve drinks, snacks and also a la carte meals – perfect spot to hide away from the sun and heat, to replenish after the steep climb and to re-energise before the final climb. Now, don’t start panicking when you read that latter part, you will only need to do a further 69 steps to reach the top. These steps will lead you to the upper terrace which contains the Amitabha Hall, Kwun Yam House, Cundi House, Ksitigarbha House, Jade Emperor Hall, Sprinkler Guanyin, YueXi Pavilion and Naga-puspa Court.
This is actually the best and my favourite part of the trip! Besides the beautiful panoramic view looking over the city, you will find a huge gleaming white Kwun Yam statue in front of a waterfall overlooking a pond with miniature gold statues perched on surrounding rocks – Unfortunately, due to ongoing repair work, there was no water flowing when I visited.
Now, remember when I said that you need to plan your way before a trip to this monastery? Here is a great website that will tell you in detail about the history of this place, how to get there (the bit that you need to pay super close attention to as so many tourists have gotten lost and ended up at the wrong place) and warns you about fake monks lurking around the place asking for money. Luckily, I was not faced with any fake monks when I was there but it is good to take note of this so you are aware of them and can look out for them during your visit. Want more help on how to get there? Clink on this link to find my secret weapon – a filmed walking guide that takes you from the MTR station right to the entrance of the monastery. To whoever made this video, you are a genius!
Jeans – TOPSHOP
Trainers – NIKE
Vest top & Bag- ASOS
Sunnies – RAY-BAN
Shawl scarf – Bought from a textile market in Jakarta, Indonesia
All my ♥,