A Visit to Lantau’s Giant Buddha Restores Peace in Hong Kong

A Visit to Lantau’s Giant Buddha Restores Peace in Hong Kong

By Simon Marcus Gower on 3:19 pm June 24, 2013.

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A visit to Hong Kong generally involves experiencing intense activity. But Hong Kong is made up of dozens of islands. The largest of these, Lantau Island, is a rather more restful place and is home to a giant Buddha.

Lantau is a big island — it is nearly twice the size of Hong Kong Island. Yet with a population of fewer than 50,000 people Lantau feels practically deserted in comparison.

Hong Kong’s excellent network of trains has a connection from Central Hong Kong to Lantau’s Tung Chung Station. Nearby this station is a new shopping mall and a bus station, from which visitors can catch a bus to Po Lin monastery.The journey is quite long as the bus winds its way through tight country lanes that seem lined by forest. Eventually the bus arrives at its Ngong Ping destination, which provides access to the Buddhist monastery.

The first thing visitors notice upon arriving here is a high gateway fronting a wide avenue of statues that culminate in a circular plaza filled with flags fluttering in the breeze. There is a general stillness here that suggests it is a venerable and venerated place.

A monastery was established here in 1906 by three monks from Jiangsu, just north of Shanghai. The main buildings of the monastery are ahead, to the left of the gathering of flags.

Immediately to the right of the flags and facing them is a more recent addition to the monastery complex. This addition is huge and quite a draw for visitors.

The Tian Tan Buddha, or Big Buddha, looks down from on top of a hill.

This Buddha is made of bronze and was put in its place of prominence in 1993. It is known as the Tian Tan Buddha because the base on which it sits is modeled on the Altar of Heaven and Earthly Mount of Tian Tan at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It is huge but not overpowering despite its size. The seated figure sits on a lotus throne and rises to a height of 34 meters. The height and 250-ton weight of the statue makes this a mighty big Buddha.

The facial expression is one of pervading calm and this seems to exude serenity. The Buddha’s right hand is raised in what could be interpreted as a welcoming gesture but also signifies the removal of affliction.

The left hand rests in his lap, palm up in an expression of giving, generosity and openness. The giant Buddha is a serene, calm and appealing figure but reaching him is not easy.

To approach the Buddha visitors must first buy a ticket that can include lunch at the monastery’s vegetarian restaurant. Attendants offer a small card with some sayings of the Buddha on it and a token for an ice cream when a visitor reaches the foot of the Buddha.

Visitors may also be told to make a wish when they reach the top and a small donation will, apparently, see the wish come true.

Getting to the top though takes a while given the long and steep stairway to climb. There are apparently 240 steps in all but you are liable to lose count as you go up, thankful for intermittent landings where you can take a break. Once at the top you realize that the giant Buddha is not alone up here. In the gallery that surrounds his throne are six other figures.

These female figures are also bronze but are smaller than the Buddha. They are collectively known as “The Offering of the Six Divas” because each of them is offering gifts to the Buddha — flowers, fruit, incense, a lamp, meditation and music are all offered as parts of the process of achieving nirvana.

In the base of the statue is a photographic record of the assembly and erection of the statue and booths selling prayer beads, necklaces and bracelets for good health.

Good health is certainly on the agenda down the hill from the Buddha within the monastery grounds. A small courtyard that benefits from the shade of trees and some careful gardening provides a secluded place for meditation and prayer.

Buddhist monks and nuns evidently travel from far and wide on pilgrimage to visit, among other things, the brilliantly shining bronze Buddha statues. There are also dormitories for accommodation.

The vegetarian restaurant offers welcome healthy food and drink. Nearby is the Ngong Ping Village, a row of shops and cafes that makes this a rather commercial area.

Nonetheless, this does not detract from the feelings of calm and well-being that come from visiting the Po Lin monastery and its giant Buddha.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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