Hong Kong is internationally acclaimed for its skyscrapers and bustling city life, however, it is also home to distinguishable centuries-old Chinese temples and monasteries that are heavily trafficked by the city’s seven million residents and passing tourists. Not only do these temples hold religious values but they are also beautifully structured. Whether or not you are an avid believer in the many Chinese gods that these temples are dedicated to, these scenic and tranquil grounds are still worth visiting for a respite from the city’s notoriously hectic lifestyle. Here are six unique and beautiful temples to visit:
Wong Tai Sin Temple
Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, or to many, simply Wong Tai Sin Temple is one of the most famous, and perhaps luckiest, tourist attractions in the city. It is an important religious centre dedicated to the Taoist deity Wong Tai Sin, who is said to have divine healing powers. It is believed that whatever worshippers request within the temple will come true. Featuring traditional structures of red pillars, gold roofs, intricate yellow latticework and multi-coloured carvings, it offers a picturesque view at any angle and change of scenery from city’s concrete jungle.
Chi Lin Nunnery
Just a stone throw’s away from the high-rise residential buildings and busy highways of Diamond Hill is the serene Chi Lin Nunnery. It is one of the largest Buddhist temples in the city and the largest handmade wooden building in the world. It was established in 1934 and is impressively structured in an interlocking system that eschews the use of nails. The complex houses 16 halls that not only comprises different statues of Buddha but also houses a school, library, dentist and multiple residences for the elderly. Adjacent to the temple, the Tang style Nan Lian Garden offers tranquillity from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Man Mo Temple
Dedicated to the God of Literature and War, Man Mo, this place of worship is the largest Man Mo temple in the city, stretching three blocks along the route of the Central and Western heritage trail. Built between 1847 and 1862, it had undergone numerous renovations and is categorised as a Grade I Historic Building and officially declared a sacred monument in 2010. Perhaps familiar to Instagram surfers, this temple was made ‘social media-famous’ for its large over-hanging incense coils that create a vibrant and Zen-like mood for visitors and worshippers of this sanctum.
Tsz Shan Monastery
This Buddhist monastery located in the rural hillside village of Tung Tsz in Tai Po spans 500,000sq.ft wide. Towering over the temple, is a statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin — the world’s second tallest bronze statue of the deity. She is said to be a divine being of sympathy, compassion and mercy and it is believed that worshippers within her temple, especially those who are suffering or seeking refuge would be protected and kept safe. Those seeking a beautiful and quiet space to escape to can find calm here. Especially since an advanced online booking is required as a means to control and prevent over-crowding.
Po Lin Monastery
Atop the scenic Nong Ping plateau on Lantau Island is the Po Lin Monastery founded in 1906 by three monks which are attributed in bronze statue within the main house of the temple. They supposedly symbolise the present, past and future of Buddha. It is a significant sanctuary for Buddhist pilgrims and is of walking distance from the Chi Chuk Lam nunnery dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin and the spiritual paved Wisdom Path. It also stands just opposite of the iconic Tian Tian Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha, where climbing the 268 step pedestal will treat you to a breathtaking view of Lantau Island and the South China Sea.
Tin Hau Temple
There are over 100 temples in Hong Kong dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea, Tin Hau. The oldest and largest in the city is located in Sai Kung. Built in 1266 and categorised as a Grade I Historic Building, it is considered the most sacred Tin Hau Temple. Fishermen and those who live by the sea are frequent worshippers at this ground — praying for protection and safety. The centuries-old sanctum is also a sea-facing landmark that offers a sweeping panoramic view of Joss House Bay.