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Chi Lin Nunnery
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrGetting away from the sometimes maddening hustle of Hong Kong may seem like a challenge at first glance. Even those willing to go to some extra effort, and explore the city at first light, may be dumbfounded to discover the cacophony of sounds, sights and crowds (not to mention smells!) not subdued in the slightest. Yet this most effervescent Asian city does actually boast a few pristine places; where a moment’s quiet contemplation and serene relaxation are just a train ride away.
The Chi Lin Nunnery is a grandiose Buddhist temple found on Hong Kong’s Diamond Hill and is the ideal antidote for anyone suffering from Hong Kong mania. Even just a few days in the city are enough to fray the nerves of even the most temperate traveler. So spend a few hours meandering your way through immaculate gardens brimming with colorful bougainvillea, impossibly perfect bonsai , cypress trees, and ponds of water-lillies, and admire some of the best-kept Buddhist relics in the city. The striking mountainous backdrop does a fine job of enhancing the illusion that you are well and truly a world away from the city.
What it Has to Offer...in ShortThe Chi Lin Nunnery is by far of one of Hong Kong’s most incredible surprises, where grandiose architecture and incredibly soul-soothing setting belies the chaotic reality outside its front gates. Architectural buffs will be impressed to know that the entire complex was rebuilt in the 1990s without the use of a single metal nail, nature lovers will find the pristine gardens delightfully relaxing and the rhythmic chanting of Buddhist disciples will leave all who visit slightly mesmerized. If all this is starting to sound too zen to be true, visit on special holy days or at anytime after lunch and it may well seem like it. If you’re looking for a tranquil place to visit when in Hong Kong, then do make sure you get here early in the morning. The nun’s popularity seems to increase as the day progresses...
History, architecture and moreInitially constructed as a simple monastery in 1934, the Chi Lin Nunnery received a comprehensive facelift in 1998, when building works were aligned with the prominent ‘at one with nature’ dogma of the Tang Dynasty . The interlocking and bracketing system of construction was headed by modern architects working closely with traditional Chinese and even Japanese master builders, to ensure that feng shui principles be satisfied. You’ll find every structure made only of wood, stone and clay.
Although primarily meant to house budding monks, the nunnery quickly took on community projects and, within the first decade, had set up extensive educational projects free of charge for the city’s neediest children. In 1957 it opened an orphanage on-site and, nowadays, houses an elderly care home, primary and high-school, a cultural center, as well as a traditional teahouse and vegetarian restaurant to boot.
The Chi Lin complex also comprises several temple halls and a myriad of gold, clay and wooden religious relics, representing the most revered deities in the Buddhist world. The most impressive by far would have to be the superb seated Buddha statue which you’ll find the Hall of Celestial Kings, the very first courtyard you come across as you enter the complex through the Sam Mum trio of gates. The gates represent compassion, wisdom and skill. The first courtyard is also where you’ll find the Lotus Pond Gardens. The Hall of Celestial Kings is a particular architectural marvel, with its 176-ton roof (comprising over 28,000 clay tiles) being supported by no less than 28 columns carved out of cedar-wood.
Not to be outdone, the Gautama Buddha statue, which you’ll find in the hall directly behind the Celestial King’s, is likewise worthy of a look. To be honest, however, what sets this place apart from all others in Hong Kong is the serenity and the whole crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon feel of the place...so even the most jaded, templed-out wanderer will find it a rewarding place to visit.
The Ins and Outs of Visiting the Chi Lin NunneryVisiting the nunnery is free of charge yet do note that although the complex consists of three extensive courtyards, only two are ever open to the public. The Lotus Pond Gardens are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, while the nunnery itself is free to enter between 9.30 a.m. and 4.30 .pm.
Photography is only allowed in the gardens and strictly prohibited inside any of the halls or, in particular, of any of the Buddha statues. During your visit, you will likely come across nuns and Buddhist arhats (who are the lucky disciples to have achieved mortal salvation) making offerings to Buddha. Taking photos of them is considered inappropriate so do take note. Likewise, conservative clothing and demeanor are much appreciated here as the nunnery is, first and foremost, considered a shrine and place of worship.
Although the peaceful atmosphere is certainly abundant all year long, it is in spring time that Chi Lin truly comes to life. Admiring the stunning gardens is obviously much more rewarding when flowers are in full bloom.
How to Get ThereOnce you are the proud holder of an Octopus Card , head to your nearest MTR station and jump on the Kwun Tong Line headed to Diamond Hill. Once at Diamond Hill Station, alight the MTR and take the C2 (plaza Hollywood) exit. You’ll be greeted with sign-posts which will lead you to Chi Lin Road, merely a 5-minute walk away. Turn right at the exit and follow the road underneath the overpass. You’ll find the nunnery at the end of Chi Lin Drive, which is the first street on the left.
Nearby LandmarksNan Lian Gardens and Diamond Hill.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Jan 22, 2015