The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is an amazingly beautiful place in Hong Kong that – despite being only a short walk from an MTR station and a busy mall – is surprisingly tranquil. This is probably because it’s not actively advertised, unlike the Big Buddha on Lantau Island where every single tourist ends up buying Buddha trinkets at some point.
The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery was completed in 1957, founded by the devoted Buddhist Reverend Yuet Kai, who was nearly 80 years old by then. Despite his old age, he personally helped build the monastery by carrying materials up from the foot of the mountain. It took another ten years to finish all the miniature Buddha statues. You might think the name “Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery” is an exaggeration that simply means there are a lot of statues (who’s going to count them anyway), but it is in fact an understatement – there are almost 13.000 Buddha statues displayed in the main temple, and this is not even counting the hundreds of life-sized statues along the path up to the monastery.
The path up the mountain to the main temple is decorated with 500 life-sized statues of arhats, people who have achieved full enlightenment in Buddhism. Though the path is 431 steps up (which is quite the hike in the summer heat), not a single moment is boring. Every single arhat statue is unique and expressive, some of them stranger than others.
When you reach the lower terrace, you’ll find the main temple, as well as the nine-storey pagoda that you can climb if it’s open and if you feel like climbing even more stairs. There’s a vegetarian restaurant as well, where you can sit down to have a nice cold drink to cool off (mind you, there is no air conditioning anywhere in the monastery).
The interior walls of the main temple are decorated with the nearly 13.000 Buddha statues, but there’s another interesting sight in the temple: the embalmed body of Reverend Yuet Kai is displayed in front of the main altar.
After this you can go up even higher to the upper terrace, where you’ll find another pavilion and houses with elaborate statues. At the very top, you’ll find the statue of Kwun Yam, the goddess of mercy.
The statue of Kwun Yam looks over the city, which showcases the unique Hong Kong blend of nature and city life.
How to get there
As I mentioned, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery isn’t actively advertised. There aren’t any street signs to lead you to it, but the entrance is less about a ten minute walk from Sha Tin MTR Station.
Take exit B from the station, turn left and follow the signs in the direction of HomeSquare, a mall you’ll be able to see from a distance. When you reach HomeSquare, turn left and head into the first street to the right (Sheung Wo Che Road). The street has a car park and government offices and it looks like a dead end, but there’s a small path entry at the end that leads to the monastery.
Admission is free, and do not give money to begging monks – no monks live at the monastery, and genuine monks do not (and are not allowed to) beg for money in Hong Kong. The monastery is open from 9 AM until 5:30 PM, but might be closed in heavy rain.