This week”s Travel Photo of the Week takes us to Lantau Island, Hong Kong to visit Tian Tan Buddha. The statue is a model of the Altar of Heaven or Earthly Mount of Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. More commonly referred to as the “Big Buddha” the statue is 112 feet tall and weighs in at 280 tons and was upon it’s completion in 1993 the largest sitting Buddha statue until it was de-throned in 2007. The bronze statue is still one of the top five largest Buddha statues in China and on the rare clear day it can be seen from the island of Macau. The statue, located by the Po Lin Monastery, is the cultural center of Buddhism in Hong Kong, as well as being a popular tourist attraction. You proceed up the 268 steps to the statue which is surrounded by 6 smaller bronze statues representing the “offerings of the six divas.” These symbolize charity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom, all of which are necessary to reach nirvana. Although a typical style with Buddha sitting on a lotus flower bloom with his right hand up removing afflictions and the left on his lap for blessing, this statue is unique in the fact that it faces north as opposed to the traditional direction of south. More than likely the reason it faces north has more to due with the local geography and optimal viewing than some deep seeded Buddhist belief.
After partaking in the culinary delights of Hong Kong, especially the street food of Temple Street, the walk up the steps is an excellent way to work off your previous night’s dinner. The statue can be accessed by Gray Line bus tours, taxi or the scenic cable car to Ngong Ping. Juxtaposed with the serenity of the giant Buddha statue and the active monastery is Ngong Ping a small theme park complete with all of the trappings including gift shops, and yes a Starbucks. Despite the rampant commercialism, the tranquility of the surrounding views and the statue will still cause a moment of pause to reflect.