On a warm Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago I paid a visit to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (萬佛寺) in Shatin, Hong Kong. As you might have imagined there are a lot of Buddhas but the name is somewhat misleading since it’s actually managed by laypeople and there are no resident monks.
To get there simply take the MTR to Sha Tin station then follow the unmistakable signs to the monastery, about a 10-15 minute walk uphill (probably not for the infirm). The path takes you though an old district which is interesting in itself.
You’ll know you’re heading in the right direction once you see concrete stairs lined by endless golden Buddha statues, each one individually crafted and no two the same. Not being able to read Chinese I decided to give each a name of my own choosing – below are some of my favourites…
Golden Fist Buddha – Jiayou (加油)!
Swiss Army Buddha – reminded me of the statues I saw at Sanjūsangen-dō Temple in Kyoto.
Bald Buddha – as a man of little hair myself I’m sympathetic to this one but certainly wouldn’t appreciate all the people who, by the looks of it, had been rubbing his head!
The monastery was founded by the Venerable Yuet Kai in 1951 who, despite his old age, carried the materials up the mountain to construct the buildings and over 12,800 Buddha statues and images. Today, his preserved body is presented in the main hall of the monastery in a glass case (not as grim as it sounds).
Small cardboard plinths with messages honouring the departed.
The monastery is constructed on two levels with a number of halls, pagodas and other structures. On a clear day, a good view of the area below can be seen from its high vantage point.
On the upper level, there was a curious building which was in a considerable state of disrepair. Though the broken windows could be seen rows of fading black and white portraits – perhaps of former disciples who helped build it. Would make a good setting for a horror movie.
To my surprise in the trees above I notice some mischievous-looking monkeys hanging around. I tried to take a photo but one of them looked like it had its eyes on my camera so I bid a hasty retreat! Clearly having a picnic here would be inadvisable.
Three Wise Buddhas
Baby Buddha – mainland Chinese have a thing about baby boys so like to pray to this Buddha in order to conceive a male. Although attitudes are changing I feel a bit sorry for the girls.
Forbidden: 1. Picnic, 2. Sleep, 3. Climb on the Buddhas – I saw people doing all three.
Despite these statues being Buddhist, halos have been used in the iconography of many religions to indicate holy or sacred figures and they somewhat reminded me of Christian saints. I find it fascinating to see how things have been interconnected over the span of time and geography.
Scary Buddha – a nice way to give your kids nightmares.
If anyone knows why this bloke has hands coming out of his eyes I’d love to know (seriously).
Admission to the monastery is free and if you see any men dressed like monks persistently asking for donations outside the entrances they’re probably not the genuine article so do not feel compelled to give (as I was informed by a local).
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those are not prayers but the honors for the deaths
Thanks Chui – I’ve updated the post.
Don’t climb on the Buddhas
The ten-thousand Buddha monastery is much better than the sitting bronze Buddha in Lantau, at least in an artistic point of view. The design and variety of the Buddha are much more diverse and elegant in Sha Tin !
Would have to agree although some of the ones in Sha Tin are in really poor condition, there’s just too many for them to maintain.
Hi, nice collection of buddhas:D , you have made a great list here in you website. i am interested in geetings some pictures on my own site. Can i do that with the source of course?
Hi Dan – yes, you are welcome to use my photos for non-commercial purposes provided you give attribution.
the statue probably has arms coming out of its eyes to represent the greedy way that our vision interacts w the world; naming everything we see and seeking meaning and solace from it. but noticing the position of the hands and the eye in the palm it would be a buddha that has overcome that nature of vision and is utilizing it for the betterment of people
Thanks for taking a great pic.
Thanks Dylan – that’s really interesting.
I don’t know for sure but in pre-Buddhist times the ancient cosmology connected the Arm indicating a warrior and the Hand meaning a steward of the Sun (a kind of Sun priest) with the Eye of the Sun (Venus) arising in the east and west. Buddhism similar to Hinduism incorporated or co-opted the earlier cosmologies. The meaning of the signs was probably given a new interpretation more in line with Buddhist thought.