Most people think the only temples in Hong Kong are shopping malls. But spend a little time in the city and you’ll notice real temples, tucked away alongside high-rise buildings and full-blown sprawling religious complexes.
Many temples are more than a hundred years old — ancient in Hong Kong terms. They are open to everybody and quite relaxed, and relaxing. During a visit, you will often find locals offering gifts to the gods.
Man Mo Temple’s incense smoke filled interior pays tribute to both the civil god and martial god. This temple is a beautiful space not far from the manic CBD in Sheung Wan. It sits quietly and unassumingly in the midst of skyscrapers of the island. Amidst the riot of colour, you are enveloped by the thick incense haze from the giant hanging incense coils. This place is a reflective sanctuary with its altars and images of worship. There is a lot of red and gold colour in this temple. I recall that these are lucky colours in Chinese culture and bring good fortune and happiness. Temples are a place to see old traditions at play with locals coming to worship as part of their daily life in Hong Kong.
Lantau Island is worth persevering with the crowds and making the effort to get to Ngong Ping village. It is here that you will ‘experience’ the Giant Buddha, which contrasts sharply with Hong Kong city. I am told that the cable car ride to the Buddha from Tung Chung is a wonderful experience…however this was closed for maintenance on our visit. Tian Tan Buddha, as it is known, stands over 30m tall, sitting atop the hill ‘gazing’ serenely over the South China Sea. This is a sacred place, located next door to the Po Lin Monastery.
The Tin Hau Temple Complex is one of the largest in Hong Kong. Tin Hau, Goddess of the Sea, is revered by fishermen and anyone whose life and destiny is tied to the sea. But the location of this Tin Hau Temple, in the middle of urban Yau Ma Tei, is rather odd. This temple was on the harbour front until land reclamation resulted in the temple being land locked. People still come to worship the goddess here, regardless of the lack of immediate access to the waterfront.
Diamond Hill reveals itself as a myriad of high-rise apartments, much like many other parts of Hong Kong. But what makes this place stand out from the ordinary is the impressive Chi Lin Monastery and the tranquillity of Nan Lian Garden, a public park like no other. The Chi Lin Monastery is a large temple complex with stunningly detailed architecture on its temple halls surrounding a central courtyard containing lotus ponds and manicured trees.
The Nan Lian Garden is adjacent to the monastery. Sure, there are other parks but this presents itself with meticulously landscaped gardens where the rocks, hillocks, water, plants and structures have been carefully placed. It works beautifully, to give a sense of calmness that you do not experience elsewhere in Hong Kong.
How’s the serenity?