Day One Hundred and Twenty Six - Tian Tan Buddha
Ngong Ping, Hong Kong
It's here, our final full day of travel and adventure and it's going to be capped off with a trip to Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha as the tourists call it).
Big Buddha is located on Lantau Island, in the Ngong Ping region of Hong Kong. Unfortunately it required a bus as the touristic cable car was shut due to some festival that was being celebrated in China. After a brief stint on the MTR that took us to Tung Chung station we joined the back of a very long queue of disgruntled and hot looking tourists to get onto our bus. The queue went down quickly though as extra buses had been put on to accommodate the cable car's closure and before we knew it we were in our way.
It was a sweltering day, but mercifully the bus journey was only twenty minutes long. We disembarked at an avenue that led up to the Big Buddha which was flanked by the Twelve Divine Generals that guard the statue, each representing a different animal from the Chinese zodiac. Each general also has his own specific weapon and represents two precise times of day, for example, General Pajra represents 7-9am and the dragon of the zodiac while he is armed with a bow and arrow. It is easy to tell which zodiac animals they represent as a totem of the animal is carved above each of their helmets.
Casting its shadow over the whole scene was the immense vision of the Tian Tan Buddha. This colossal structure is over 34 metres tall and is built using 250 tones of bronze! Interestingly it differs from the other four large statues of Buddha in China as is faces north while all the others face south.
When you have scaled the 268 steps to its base you can appreciate the serene but extensive detail used in its making, not just its gargantuan size. The Buddha is enthroned upon a lotus leaf with its right hand raised as a symbol of removing affliction whilst its left hand lies open in its lap, representing generosity. The three tier platform on which the whole thing sits is modelled on the 'Alter of Heaven' or 'Earthly Mount' in Beijing which translates to Tian Tan, giving the site its name.
Kneeling around Buddha on the lower platform are the Six Devas, between them they offer Buddha: music, fruit, incense, flowers, ointment and a lamp. These offerings portray the Six Perfections: generosity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation and wisdom - all of which are required to reach enlightenment.
Across the valley from the statue is the Po Lin monastery which the statue itself is actually an extension off. The statue cannot quite be classed as a piece of history just yet as it was only opened in 1993, the monastery however has been here since 1906 and boasts a breathtaking interior that is full of celestial lights and lanterns. Thankfully, it's original name 'The Big Hut' was updated in 1924 to pay homage to this exquisite building.
Nudging the deliberately ignorant cows that littered the avenue out of our way, we made our way back to the bus station and attempted to find a slither of shadow to take refuge in until our bus came.
We are going home tomorrow, I can't believe it! We are eating at the Argentinian restaurant Tango tonight for a thick steak as a last salute to a fantastic experience!