Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery
Every year a part of the educational journey is dedicated to take some time to appreciate and profit from the cultural highlights of the respective host country. More specifically, for this year's travel this meant diving into the rich cultural heritage of Hong Kong. In this context, part of our travel group chose to visit the famous Tian Tan Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. Located outside of the main touristic areas of Kowloon and Hong-Kong Island, these sites are on the island of Lantau. Both places are popular tourist attractions as well as important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists.
In order to reach the Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery, we took the so-called Ngong Ping 360 cable car uphill which provided us with a magnificent view displaying green hills, dense forests and sandy beaches. The stunning view made us realize how diverse Hong Kong actually is, and how much more it has to offer next to the "urban jungle" of flashy lights, sky-scrappers and concrete.
Unfortunately, we didn’t take the time to take the beautiful walking trail that leads all the way up to the statue and monastery by foot, as we had many more appointments on our tight travel schedule. Nevertheless, the view from the cable car was stunning and as the gondolas of the aerial lift are mostly glass, we had a great perspective floating over the water and trees.
The Tian Tan Buddha was, contrary to common believe, opened in 1993 and is thus not an ancient monument. Nevertheless, it's a popular site for pilgrimages because it is the second biggest sitting Buddha in the open air, measuring a total of 34 meters. Additionally, it is thought to be a symbol for the balance between human kind, nature, society and faith. We were extremely impressed with the Buddha statue and the amounts of people who were present for a pilgrimage. Naturally, we decided to walk all the 268 steps up to the statue where we discovered some smaller statues displaying gods and/or immortals. After having arrived at the top, we were surrounded by praying people which created an awe-inspiring atmosphere.
Besides the Tian Tan Buddha, there is also the Po Lin Monastery located on Lantau island in the hills surrounding the monumental statue. The monastery is famous for its big statues representing the past, present and future, its ancient Buddhist writings, and the "hall of a hundred Buddhas". This part of Hong Kong’s cultural heritage gave as the interesting opportunity to learn more about the ancient traditions and beliefs of the local people as we haven't been familiar with them prior to our travel.
Overall, we were very impressed with the newly discovered part of Hong Kong’s culture. Prior to our visit, we only thought of Hong Kong as a fast-moving and modern financial center, but we realized that despite the fast-paced environment, recent technological advancements and economic boom, traditional values and spirituality still play an important role in the every-day lives of the people of Hong Kong.
Blog entry written by Sem te Riele.