The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is an impressive complex nested in the Po Fook Hill mountains in Sha Tin, the New Territories, composed of one main temple hall, a nine-storey pagoda and several shrines, halls and pavillions spread in two main levels on the side of the moountain.
Visiting the Monastery however is not recommended for people with mobility issues as there is quite a steep hike up the hill before you get to the higher levels where the complex is located...
And this is where you can start counting the buddhas as the path is flanked on both sides with life-size images of the Buddha, all different and in all types of poses and depicting all sorts of facets of daily life... There are actually over ten thousand figurines, more like 13,000 Buddha statues in the entire complex.
The path itself is a paved road with stairs on the one side, there are over 400 stairs before you reach the top. The stairs are level and easy to climb and both the path and stairs run parallel up until the very last part where it is only stairs.
There are a few rest stops along the path with small benches so you can catch your breath or simply admire all the little details on each of the gilded statues... It takes about 15-20 minutes at a leisurely pace.
Once at the top you reach the first terrace which is dominated by a lavishly decorated red and gold building, this is the main temple.
Inside the main temple hall you find the thousands of miniature Buddha statues covering every inch of the walls, as well as the many displays throughout. (Sorry no photography allowed inside)
The main altar contains three large Buddha statues and the embalmed remains of the Reverend Yuet Kai, the founder of the Monastery.
Reverend Yuet Kai, originally from Kunming China, came to Hong Kong in 1933 to preach Buddhism and started construction of the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in 1949.
It took about eight years to complete the buildings and another ten years to finish the miniature statues.
Subsequently, the Monastery
structures and statues have been under renovation through the years, specially after the floods of 1997 which forced
closure of the Monastery for a couple of years. Construction works are still ongoing in the upper levels.
Stepping out of the main temple, you find yourself in the terrace dotted with incense urns, colorful pavillions and yes, more Buddha statues...
The center pavillion has a statue of Kuan Yin "Goddess of Mercy" (in the back) and the temple guardians...
There are galleries and chambers for worship, offerings, burial urns...
A nine-storey Pagoda which you can climb and be rewarded with spectacular views... This is the pagoda in the HK$100 Note.
It is a beautiful and compact space, certainly more quiet and peaceful than other temples or the Big Buddha in Lantau.
From this level you can continue going up to the upper level of the complex. Be mindful that construction works are ongoing.
You find more shrines and temples, pavillions, a waterfall and rock garden, and of course, more Buddha statues...
Because of the ongoing construction, the Monastery is keeping a low profile and not being promoted to visitors, therefore there are few signs to guide you and the way is not well-marked but getting there is not difficult and it is convenient with the MTR.
Take the MTR to Sha Tin Station on the East Rail Line (Light Blue Line). It is about 30 minutes from Tsim Sha Tsui, a few minutes more from Central.
From Sha Tin Station is only a 5 minute walk to the entrance of the path but the way is not well-marked. The path up the hill starts behind the Government building, so the easiest way to find it is by:
Just follow this path and within a minute or so you will see the start of the stairs that lead you up the hill for the Monastery, it is hard to describe but this will definitely make sense when you're there.
Right around this entrance path you might encounter some monks in their saffron or orange colored robes, they will try to get your attention and start some "blessing charade", tie a bracelet or necklace or something and try to urge you out of some money. Beware of these scam artists, they are not real monks, real monks don't harrass tourists looking for hand outs!
By the way, there are no resident monks at the Monastery, the Ten Thousand Buddhas is mainly a place where Buddhists can gather, make offerings and pray. It is particularly busy during major Chinese holidays like Chinese New Year or Cheung Yeung Festival (Autumn Remembrance) when everybody gathers to pay their respects. And of course, the Monastery goes all out for the Buddha Birthday Celebrations on the 8th day of the 4th moon in the Lunar calendar, normally in April or May.
Another kind of scam artist to beware of are the resident monkeys, watch out they will be looking for "unattended items" to help themselves...
What to bring? Comfortable shoes, water for the climb. There is a small vegetarian restaurant at the top where you can get refreshments.
The Monastery complex is quite compact and a visit can be done in half a day. While you are in the neighborhood you can combine a visit to the nearby Hong Kong Heritage Museum or if you are into horses, check if there are races going on at the Sha Tin Race Course.
Needless to say, it is not a good idea to climb up to the Monastery during rainy weather when the steps and the path will be slippery.
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