After I visited Japan, I realized I developed a big obsession with temples, shrines and such, especially Shinto shrines, so I was hoping to find some in Hong Kong even though the city is more renowned for shopping and citylife than old buildings – if you want ancient stuff, simply go to China but unfortunately, I could not go so I had to find at all cost some nice temples in Hong Kong and my wishes did not go unheeded.
Wong Tai Sin – 黃大仙祠
This temple was a total surprise for me! I did not expect to find such architecture masterpiece in the urban heart of Hong Kong; it is, indeed, located in Kowloon peninsula. It is home to three religions: Buddhism, Chinese folk religion and Confucianism – this is the example of religion coexistence that is strongly present in Asian countries, as I came across the same practice in Japan. Its location, in the midst of skyscrapers, and its finely and colorfully decorated structure make it a special place to visit to experience a truly Hong Kong slice of life.
The temple, as many others in Hong Kong, dates back to 20th century when a Taoist monk brought from Guangdong to Hong Kong a portrait of the famous monk Wong Tai Sin (Huang Chu Ping) explaining the origins of the name. According to the legend, this famous monk was born in the fourth century and became a deity. Now worshippers come here in order to pray him and other deities hoping that all their wishes will come true one day.
The entrance to the temple is highlighted by a huge chinese-style gate and a set of secondary chinese folk religion deities, as my my boyfriend pointed it out, such as an elephant-shaped god and other bizzare ones. The temple is not just limited to this but has different halls on the right side and a chinese-style garden whose name is Good Wish Garden. Every religious building is colorfully decorated by traditional chinese symbols like dragons, I loved it! I really enjoyed exploring that garden enriched with colorful chinese architecture like a picturesque bridge and a waterfall with a small hall located on the top of a rock. Outside the entrance, you will also find a few stands selling religious items and incense to burn.
How To Reach:
It is very easy, just get off at the metro stop that carries the same name, Wong Tai Sin, and you will find yourself in front of the religious complex. There is also a big mall nearby where you can stop there in order to eat something after the visit to the temple.
Nan Lian Garden – 南蓮園池
This is really an urban oasis! You just need to rise up your head to see that all around you, there are myriad of skyscrapers towering above the tranquil garden. The garden is not too big but it is very well planned and preserved. Everywhere you can spot workers looking after plants, watering them and fixing them. By wandering through the sinous paths, you will come across chinese architecture expositions as well as a souvenir shop, a vegetarian restaurant and a teahouse.
The park was established in 1934 built in Tang dynasty style, for instance the beautiful golden Pavilion of Absolute Perfection points out this particular style. It is beautified with a red bridge leading to the entrance of the building but unfortunately it is not open to public. This is the most famous landmark of the garden and the most appreciated as the crowd of people taking photos in front of it show.
Another beautiful sight is the wooden tea house, which is closed to the public unless you are the vegetarian restaurant’s customer, and the nice balcony overlooking the big pond. The pond is special because it is nestled between the park’s green scenery and the sight of the tall skyscrapers in the distance, giving old and modern vibes altogether. It is also a perfect spot for taking picturesque photos.
Chi Lin Nunnery – 志蓮淨苑
At first I thought Chi Lin Nunnery was the golden pavillion I have just mentioned in the pragraph above because every time I searched for this place on internet, those photos popped up. On the contrary Chi Lin is a buddhist wooden complex built inside Nan Lian Garden made up by various halls, a library, a pagoda and many ponds.
While gathering some info about this landmark, I pleasantly found out that it has been entirely built with wood, this made Chi Lin Nunnery the biggest wooden complex in the world. The construction was based on the chinese architecture used during Tang Dynasty. The halls inside the temple might be closed if you visit this place too late in the afternoon as the opening times are very tight: until four o’clock thus go earlier to enjoy more.
Some buddhist chanting are being played in the background; at first I thought some monks gathered to pray but later I realized it was just music. It is, indeed, very relaxing and make you enjoy more your tour. It is like strolling in a remote temple located somewhere inside chinese countryside until you look up and realize you are surrounded by innumerable skyscrapers that make you come back to the reality.
How To Reach:
Taking the metro is the easiest way to reach Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery. You just need to get off at Diamond Hill metro station and use the exit C2.