Have you ever wanted to see ten thousand Buddhas in one day? Sure you could go to the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island and peek into the ten thousand Buddhas Hall, but you can’t get up close to them and there are SO many tourists.
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Enter the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery (Man Fat Tsz 萬佛寺) in Sha Tin.
I first heard of this monastery combing through the list of things to do in Hong Kong on TripAdvisor and was immediately intrigued. This definitely sounded like something the average visitor wouldn’t see and I wondered what ten thousand Buddhas would actually look like.
Getting there was a bit of an adventure as there are no clear route markers. We followed directions given by previous visitors on Tripadvisor which lead us through the backyards of houses in the area. It definitely didn’t look right, but we kept on going, eventually coming out onto a main road. Following the dot on Google Maps we finally managed to find the start of the trail which surprisingly was very clearly marked.
Over 500 gold Arhan statues and 430+ steps lead the way to the monastery complex. Despite it being overcast, it was a really hot and muggy day. Not ideal for scrambling up the mountain. The incline, while not steep, was definitely steady and before long I was quite winded.
At least along the way I could stop and admire the statues. Though to be fair, looking at the statues for too long gave me a bit of the creeps. It doesn’t help that they all lean slightly into the pathway that you’re walking on, making them loom above you almost.
Each one looked very different from the ones sitting next to him. Some were tall, others short, some skinny, some on the chubbier side. Some were sitting, others standing. Each had their own characteristics, and accessories.
Some looked hilarious, other made you go WTF and others were relatively normal. They all had a touch of fakeness to them though. Like they were made of plastic and mass produced.
Built in the 1950s, the complex consists of 5 temples, 4 pavilions and a pagoda. I was a bit disappointed to find out how recent the complex was constructed given my affinity for old things. Regardless, it didn’t detract from the huge amount of gold Buddhas everywhere you looked.
At the top of the path is the lower level terrace where the main temple (Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall), a few other halls and a 9-storey pagoda are located.
The monastery gets its name from the main temple where over ten thousand gold Buddhas line the walls, not from the massive ones that lined the walkway as we wandered around. Also in the main temple is the embalmed body of the monk who founded the monastery.
Opposite the main temple, is the pagoda overlooking the valley below. Not surprisingly, it is surrounded by gold painted Buddha statues. You can walk up it, but after climbing all those steps, I was in no shape to keep going. My friend who decided to walk up said there wasn’t anything too spectacular.
There are some brightly painted concrete statues of Chinese deities throughout the area. For those who get peckish, there is also a vegetarian restaurant.
But it doesn’t stop there. You can keep going up. Another 69 steps lead to the upper terrace which contains a number of other halls and houses with various shrines to Buddhas.
At the very end of this upper level is a huge statue of Kwun Yam, the goddess of mercy. Surrounding her on the nearby hill are gold statues which seemed to be playing in the grass.
Nearby was a pond full of turtles. I spent way too long trying to see if a motionless turtle was asleep or met a more permanent fate. It started moving after a while much to my relief.
Getting higher up also means getting a fabulous view of the surrounding areas.
There are signs posted warning you of fake monks posing in the area asking for money and telling you to call police if it happens. The Hong Kong Buddhist Association says that genuine devotees are not allowed to beg in Hong Kong. While on our way up we spotted nothing, but on the way down, there was one individual outfitted in monk like clothing standing near the exit. One of my friends (he’s of Chinese but can’t speak much Cantonese), passed without incident. Another friend (who is white), got stopped and the monk imposter, grabbed his hand and it looked like he was trying to offer him a blessing. Me being the only one who can speak Cantonese, brought up the back and saw all this unfolding. The moment I opened my mouth and said something (I think it was something along the lines of “don’t let him put stuff on you” and very much in English), the guy dropped my friends arm.
I had seen this particular scheme before. On the steps of the Sacre Coeur in Paris where someone would put a bracelet on you and then try to extort you for a large sum of money. But here, it was different. Yes, a very similar scam, but this was clearly an issue of race. Just because of the colour of his skin he was singled out.
I so desperately wanted to pull out my phone and call the police, but I didn’t have the energy or the Chinese vocabulary to sustain the whole conversation. I really hope he didn’t scam anyone that day, but it can be really easy to get caught in it.
Despite the rather sour end to our visit, I had an enjoyable time at the monastery. It’s huge and definitely had a lot of quirky features. It was fun to explore and to see all the different expressions on the statues along the way. Because it’s on a hillside, you get a great view of the surrounding areas. Hong Kong is constantly busy with people rushing place to place so it was a refreshing change to visit the monastery which was relatively quiet and we only saw a handful of people the whole time we were there. If you have extra time in Hong Kong, I definitely recommend making the trek out to see something a little different and.
Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery (Man Fat Tsz 萬佛寺)
221 Pai Tau Village
Sha Tin, New Territories
Website (Chinese only)
Good to Know
The monastery is open 9am to 5:30pm daily, but may close during heavy rain or when typhoon signal 8 or above is issued. Vegetarian Restaurant open 10-30am to 4pm or 5pm, closed Thursdays.
As mentioned above, getting there can be tricky. Take the MTR to Sha Tin station on the East Rail Line, take exit B and keep walking until you see the IKEA. Behind this building is the very hidden start upwards to the monastery. This website has a great explanation (scroll down) complete with photos of what landmarks you should be looking for along the way.
The nearby Po Fook Ancestral Halls can be easily confused with the entrance to the monastery. If you see an escalator, you’re at the wrong place.
People reported seeing monkeys in the area, but I saw none. Just be careful if you do.
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