In Hong Kong there is the Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha, situated on the peaceful Lantau Island. It is the largest bronze seated Buddha statue in the world.
Seated peacefully atop a lotus flower at its base, it overlooks the Lantau Valley and adds a serene touch to the setting. People come to visit from all over the world and from the base of the statue there are magnificent views of the valley and surrounding mountains. On a clear day it can be seen from as far away as Macau.
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Built in the Buddhist Art Tradition
Tian Tan Buddha was built by the Po Lin Monastery which sits nearby in the Lantau Valley. They did a wonderful job and it took 12 years to construct it.
The Buddha was completed in 1993 but it took very much work to get to that.
It all started in in 1979, when the Po Lin Monastery was granted land on which to build a statue of their own.
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The monks at Po Lin had visited Japan and Taiwan to see the great Buddha statues there and got some good ideas about what they wanted to build on the Tian Tan site.
Then they were invited to visit mainland China where they were inspired by the statues and sculptures they saw there, ultimately deciding how they wanted the Hong Kong Buddha to look.
Finally the monks went to the famous Tian Tan Temple (Altar of Heaven) in Beijing where they saw the temple and got their final ideas on how they wanted the Hong Kong Tian Tan (same name as China Temple) Buddha statue to look.
The Beijing Altar of Heaven Temple (Tian Tan) is an ancient temple and is considered to be a Taoist temple. After seeing it the monks Hong Kong temple conception came to life.
The Ancient and the New
The monks had their ideas for the Buddha statue and were going to use images they saw in Japan and China for the face of the Buddha. Since no man had ever achieved enlightenment like the Buddha’s, no human image could be used to represent Him.
They wanted to keep with the Buddhist traditions and prepare a classic Buddha yet would use modern methods for its construction, thus a blend between the old and the new. There has been a long and rich tradition of Buddhist art over history and there have been many beautiful Buddhist statues.
The Construction of the Buddha Statue
On December 26, 1981 the monks at Po Lin Monastery started work on the project by formally establishing The Committee for the Construction of the Tian Tan Buddha Statue. This committee would be responsible for developing the project, coordinating the artistic design, and overseeing the construction. As we can see by the finished Buddha they did a great job.
In this setting of splendor where the Buddha sits now, He is cross-legged on a lotus throne, with a commanding view of the area. The statue is full bodied, peaceful, majestic and refined.
Construction of the Buddha’s Face
Maybe the hardest part of the Buddha project was the construction of the Buddha’s face. In order for it to look like the great Buddha, the face was to be cast in a single piece of bronze. It came out weighing 5 tons.
The face was not constructed at the site so it had to be transported to there after its construction. It was so large and heavy that it was a big task to transport since the roads on Lantau Island were simple roads and winding. After much effort it was accomplished and installed.
As the Buddha sits atop the hill His eyes are ‘Buddha eyes’, seeming half opened and half closed, trance-like and peaceful eyes of meditation. With His pretty eyes and right hand raised, the Buddha’s calm and wise appearance seems to dominate the energy of the valley.
The 268 Steps
Although it is not the tallest sitting Buddha, the Tian Tan statue does come in at an impressive 112 feet in height. It has a long, large staircase leading up to it which is 268 steps.
The staircase is quite steep and is a good workout to climb. There are several areas along the climb where you can stop for a rest, take pictures, and just enjoy the views.
Also there is a ramped path alternative route which makes the trip up to Buddha’s pedestal accessible for the weak, families and the handicapped.
The Nearby Ngong Ping Village
Right near the Buddha statue is the Ngong Ping Village. It was created at the top of the Ngong Ping plateau to accommodate the influx of tourists that flock to the Big Buddha.
Since it is recently built it is not an old village, although it was constructed in the old traditional style. Many of the visitors are surprised and even disappointed that it is rather modern in appearance, having expected something older.
It has tea houses, souvenir shops and fast food outlets, featuring both Eastern and Western cuisine.
The Ngong Ping Cable Car
The Ngong Ping Cable Car is a local transport system with spectacular views of the whole Lantau area. It starts from Tung Chung town and climbs up to land at Ngong Ping Village, near the Big Buddha.
The Path to the Buddha
The Big Buddha statue is one of Hong Kong’s most popular sights, and is not a “piece of history” but rather a fairly recent endeavor.
Along the path from Ngong Ping Village to the Buddha are a series of lovely sites to see. One is that the path is flanked on both sides by the Twelve Divine Generals.
The Buddha’s 3 Level Stand
At the top of the staircase, the Buddha rests on a three-tier podium. At the first level of the podium there are six statues of Bodhisattvas, three on each side of the staircase.
These Bodhisattvas are beautiful additions to the Big Buddha setting. They are Buddhist deities which are venerated and are said to help seekers reach enlightenment. The statues are made of stone and weigh about two tons each.
On the second level is a small museum with paintings and articles that tell about the Buddha’s life and teachings.
Then, the third level is the Lotus pedestal that the Buddha sits on. The Lotus has special significance in Buddhism, and is a symbol of purity of the body, speech, and mind. It is symbolic of detachment from attachment and desire.
More to Know About Big Buddha
On the chest of the Buddha himself is a reverse swastika, a symbol for Buddha used in china. It is a pretty symbol and gets used in temples and even some schools.
The final creation faces the north, overlooking the Chinese people. It has characteristics of the Buddha’s serene beauty, with soft, flowing lines which depict its ultimate tranquility.
Places to See Near Tian Tan Buddha
Visiting Tian Tan site is a popular trip year-round. It’s best to avoid weekends and public holidays since locals may go to the statue in force. You can check the Hong Kong weather for your preferred visiting conditions and overall it’s best to avoid summer as the humidity will be quite hot.
Another must see site is the Po Lin Monastery itself. They are warm to visitors and the lunch at Po Lin Monastery restaurant is said to be very good. It’s a monastery so the food is fully vegetarian.
The Big Buddha Statue is a fantastic accomplishment by the Po Lin monks and is a superb blend of Buddhist art of the old and of the contemporary.
It is traditional bronze art merged with modern science and technology giving us harmonious presence of Buddha’s spirit and beauty.
It remains a wonderful accomplishment and has been a major tourist attraction ever since its completion in 1993.
Remember the many beauties of Tian Tan site and the Lantau area and know that if you visit you will be among avid tourists and beauty seekers all enjoying the great beauty of the Big Buddha and surrounding area!
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