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Po Lin Monastery – Buddhist Sanctuary on Lantau Island

January 16, 2021

Name(English): Po Lin Monastery
Name(Chinese): 寶蓮禪寺
Category: Major Attractions, Religion & Belief
Phone Number: +852 2985 5248
Address(English): Ngong Ping Plateau, Lantau Island Hong Kong
Address(Chinese): 香港大嶼山昂坪
Address Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/s7CC9BUMS5Tw9auw7
Address longitude and latitude: 22.255719049261366, 113.9082242435634
Nearest MTR Station: Tung Chung Exit B
Nearest MTR Station Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/q992R28iNAhyktPA6
Nearest MTR Station longitude and latitude: 22.289007076509407, 113.94095452933634
How far from the nearest MTR Station: 25 minutes by Ngong Ping cable car
Opening Hours:
MON 10:00 – 18:00
TUE 10:00 – 18:00
WED 10:00 – 18:00
THU 10:00 – 18:00
FRI 10:00 – 18:00
SAT 10:00 – 18:00
SUN 10:00 – 18:00
Recommended Time to Visit: 10:00
Accessibility Note: Need to walk up staircases
Reminder: Walk 5 minutes to Ngong Ping Cable Car Terminal after getting out of Tung Chung station exit B

You may read about The Big Buddha in your travel research, but probably not Po Lin Monastery, the temple complex adjacent to the Buddha which is of paramount importance. Let’s zoom in on these splendid structures!

Entrance to Po Lin Monastery

The Beginning of Po Lin Monastery

The story of the legendary shrine began with a small hut. Nearly a century ago, three monks were enchanted by the fresh air and serenity in Ngong Ping, decided to practise and meditate here. They started cutting grass, farming and building a stone house so-called “Big Thatched Hut”, known as the origin of Po Lin Monastery.

Their way of life continued over a decade until 1924. Another monk from China planned to visit a different temple in Tung Chung, only to take the wrong boat and reached Tai O. He did not return but spontaneously went for a hike and the coincidence happened. He stumbled upon the three monks that resided in the enclosed mountain. They hit it off at first sight and thought it was fate that brought them together. So the three monks asked the Chinese monk to stay and take charge of the temple…

From 22.4 HKD to 1.4 billion

Nonetheless, the temple was very poor in the beginning. The abbot in 1950s reminisced that there was only as little as 22.4 HKD in the temple’s bank account. Combining insufficient capitals with a rising number of monks, the abbot decided to carry out a few reforms (one of which was tourism) to turn around the temple’s finance.

It came as a big success, especially after the erection of The Big Buddha & Ngong Ping 360 cable car. As of 2016, Po Lin Monastery has about HKD 1.4 billion worth of assets and annual income of HKD 140 million. The story gets better – the last abbot was a nephew of the original abbot. He took the abbot job after he failed both in becoming an actor and his marriage…… go figure!

Traditional Chinese Design

Fascinating is the temple’s design. Ranging from the entrance of San Men (Mountain Gate or phonetically “Three Gates”), to Bell Tower, Drum tower and Meditation Hall, the entire complex consists of tradition and wisdom. Passing through the courtyards is the Main Shrine Hall of Buddha where the dragon sculptures are worth an admiration. (This is very weird if you know anything about Chinese architecture: dragon & yellow is reserved ONLY for the emperor, using these combinations means the owner of the building wants to……)

San Men
Grand Buddha Hall

The newest building, Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, is also a highlight. Completed in 2014, the temple follows the design of the palace in Ming/Qing dynasty, which also showcases the ancient magnificence and simultaneously the classical art sense. Needless to say, more than 12,800 Buddha statues in different sizes displayed in the main hall have created a spiritual and ineffable ambiance.

Exterior of the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas

As flamboyant as it is, we do not think the Po Lin Monastery stays true to a Buddhist temple. From dragon column to palace liked design, it reflects much more of a major attraction than a place of tranquility. We recommend a visit to Chi Lin Nunnary should you want to visit a proper Buddhist Temple in Hong Kong.

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Eric Wong

A HONGKONGER named Eric, is a writer and traveler, but simultaneously the clairvoyant in the city discovering its beauty people barely know.

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