There is much more to Hong Kong than just shopping and eating! Chi Lin Nunnery makes for an ideal break from the hustle and experience a calmer side of the metropolis. Altogether, this Buddhist temple covers an impressive 33,000 square meters (360,000 square feet) and is an all-encompassing complex replete with temple halls, classic Chinese gardens, a vegetarian restaurant (as customary in Buddhist diets), and of course a full nunnery.
As part of your brief retreat, be sure to fill your mind and soul with the calmness of the immense lotus pond fed by water falling out of lions’ heads, bougainvillea and bonsai tea garden layouts, and grand statues made of gold and other previous materials of Sakyamuni Buddha and various bodhisattvas before you venture back to modern Hong Kong beyond the walls. Don’t miss the stunning Nan Lian Garden across the street either!
The Tang dynasty style and structured wood building you see today was completed in 1990, although the original construction was founded in the 1930s. It is still a shining example of Tang construction in Hong Kong.
Chi Lin Nunnery’s unique Tang dynasty construction continues to prove the architectural mastery of the ancient Chinese. Although modern elements now support the building, the core of the nunnery is fashioned after Tang techniques such as the lack of even a single nail used throughout the property. The Chi Lin Nunnery buildings are the only buildings left in Hong Kong of its kind. This is especially jarring to think about as you see the modern skyscrapers just behind the nunnery’s views!
When you need a snack or refreshment, take a peek into the on-site vegetarian restaurant or teahouse to see what might excite your palate. Vegetarian meals are a vital element of Buddhism, and tea is of course a Chinese staple drink and custom. The average cost is about $14 to $25 HKD per order.
Another wonderful reason to enjoy your time slowly at Chi Lin Nunnery is to people watch. Take a few minutes to respectfully observe the way the local people continue to arrive here to pray and pay their respects and how the 60 silent nuns present their offers of fresh fruit and rice to Buddha and his disciples all the while chanting. With incense sticks in hand and good intentions on the mind, Hong Kong dwellers still come here every day to practice Buddhism.
Finally, it can even be said that half the reason for visiting Chi Lin Nunnery is to also patron Nan Lian Garden across the street. The garden is a masterpiece of Tang Dynasty traditional Chinese garden design and, today, makes for an interesting green break in the sea of concrete and apartments of Hong Kong. The garden is a total of 3.5 hectares, over which each and every rock, body of water, plant, and decorative element was meticulously planned and laid out according to specific rules and methods.
At least 1 hour is recommended to best enjoy the sights and atmosphere of Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden, with 2 hours being ideal. During this time, be sure to stop by the hall left of the Main Hall which is dedicated to Avalokitesvra, also known as Kwun Yum, goddess of mercy and childbearing. From Chi Lin Nunnery, it is a very quick MTR metro ride to its complimentary Wong Tai Sin Temple found at the Wong Tai Sin station. Otherwise, the area is mostly residential and thus provides a great glimpse into daily life as it hums along around you.