Some of these photos were on the very old blog format but never carried over to this one while some are shots I’ve never released before. An absolutely wonderful escape and it was a splendid way to begin the 2008 Hong Kong Excursion. This is the complete collection of the Tian Tan Photos.
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From “Hong Kong” by Francis Yap M.
September 2008. In the hills of Lantau Island, west of metropolitan Hong Kong sits the imposing Tian Tan Buddha. I had seen many photos but had never made the pilgrimage myself. We travelled from the skyscrapers of Central Hong Kong to Mui Wo pier on Lantau Island by steam ferry. Upon arriving, the search for the bus to our next leg proved to be a long wait. 45 minute intervals and we’d just missed the last one. A little wandering around the pier and town area found a McDonalds, 7-11 and the largest parking lot of pedal bikes either one of us had ever set our sights on. Was this going to be a spiritual journey to a serene and calm monastery or was it going to be a tourist trap? Time went by, we lined up at the bus stop, the other tourists began to shuffle over and soon enough, our number came into view. A quick swipe of the Octopus cards and we took a seat at the front so as to best take in the scenery. Well that turned out to be a mistake.
The eager driver donned a pair of nomex driving gloves. The same pair I had at home, the difference being I used mine on a race track. Well, apparently he thought the winding mountain road was good practice for one. In a bus. A cliff to one side, the ocean on the other, 80km per hour without a bead of sweat (for him anyways). That 15 minute journey felt like an hour. An hour of clutching the hand rest and praying for my life. Thankfully, it came to an uneventful end as we rounded the final corner and glimpsed the Ngong Ping Village, the colorful rooftops of the Po Lin Monastery and finally, the first of 268 steps to the base of Tina Tan, the Giant Seated Buddha.
Nothing quite prepares you for the image. Even in the rising heat of the noon sun and thickness of the humidity, there exists a sudden calm and peace. Gone are the sounds of the tourists and buses around you. We simple stood there in awe and a quiet amazement at what stood high above us. He is the largest seated Buddha in the world at over 110ft and weighing in over 250 metric tons. Imposing, but at the same time calming. His right hand is raised representing the removal of affliction. The left rests with the palm facing up, a symbol of dhana, or generosity.
We ascended the steep steps to the summit. The incense altars along the way setting the stage for a peaceful and calm climb, building upon the initial feeling when we arrived. By the time we reached the perch of Buddha, we looked around, high above the surrounding hills and found a tranquility and silence. Ocean to the south, tall mountain ranges to the east and not a hint of the bustling metropolis just beyond them. Tian Tan derives its name from the lotus throne on which Buddha sits. It is finished in the same design as the temple of the Earthly Mount of Tian Tan in Beijing which the statue faces. Under the Buddha are three floors containing the Hall of the Universe, the Hall of Benevolent Merit and the Hall of Remembrance. It is claimed that some of the cremated remains of Buddha are located here. Surrounding the seated Buddha are six statues of other Gods, giving praise to Buddha.
We made our way down to Po Lin Monastery to pay our tributes and give our prayers of thanks. A quick ceremony at the incense bowl asking for health prosperity and good luck to top it all off. The odd monk seen wandering and quietly going about their business. We pay a final respect at the main temple and walk back towards Ngong Ping Village. Time was well spent for a quick lunch, a wander through the shops, and finally, a ride on the Ngong Ping 360 gondola back to the city.
We weren’t quite prepared for the humidity and exercise required for this initial climb to the top, but here’s the obligatory tourist shot