Once merely a remote monastery hidden by lush, mountain scenery, the Po Lin Monastery made it to the world map when the extraordinary Tian Tan Buddha statue (so named because the three-storey altar the Buddha sits on is modelled after the base structure found in the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at the Tian Tan Temple or Temple of Heaven in Beijing, but informally known as the Big Buddha) was erected in 1993. Having been to Thailand, V and I are no strangers to big Buddha statues, but sitting 26.4 metres high atop a lotus throne (making it 34 metres high altogether with the base) and facing north towards Mainland China to look over the Chinese people, this majestic sitting Buddha, forged using bronze and gold, still inspires awe and draws pilgrims from all over Asia. The statue costs Hong Kong 60 million Hong Kong dollars.
The Tian Tan Buddha sits in the same position assumed by Sakyamuni Buddha when he attained enlightenment under the famous bodhi tree. 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. There are 268 steps to climb to take a closer look at this remarkable statue and enjoy the sweeping mountain and sea views that can be seen from its base. Also on its base are six smaller bronze statues surrounding the Buddha known as “The Offering of the Six Devas”. They are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music to the Buddha, symbolising charity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom, all of which are necessary to enter nirvana. V and I didn’t stay until late, but I imagine it would be a magical sight, the Buddha glowing and glittering under the setting sun.
Photos by Arnold Hozana