There are a few reasons why Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, also known as Man Fat Tsz, is a favorite attraction for many travelers. For some, it is the challenge of the 430 uphill steps that lead to the main gates. For others, it is the countless (though not quite ten thousand) golden Buddha statues, some in serious poses while others are a bit more fantastic, guiding you along the path and at the monastery at the top. Of course, there are also the amazing views of the city all around due to its high-up setting. Finally, few travelers can resist the vegetarian food served at the humble but well managed restaurant which makes for a tasty snack before the descent back down.
Indeed, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is one of the most infamous Buddhist temples in Hong Kong and yet it remains just slightly off the popular tourist path. This means that many times, you will have the site nearly to yourself.
To be clear, the monastery is non-residential and no monks live on the property.
This temple is rather new by most standards, founded in 1949 and completed in construction in 1957. The man who founded Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery was the Reverend Yuet Kai who hailed from a wealthy family in southern China in the late 1880s. He dedicated his life to Buddhism at the early age of 19 and later arrived to Hong Kong to preach. Eventually, he decided to start his own monastery in 1949 and even helped with some of the manual labor despite being quite a bit older by that time. Although the building was eventually finished in 8 years, it took another 10 years to finish the iconic collection of golden Buddha statues seen today at Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. The Reverend Yuet Kai passed away on April 24, 1965 and his body is now on display in front of the main altar as he wished.
The grand greeting to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is the golden Buddha statues that line the walkway up to the main entrance. There are 430 steps along this route, with about 32 unique Buddha statues greeting you on each step taken. That’s right, each of the Buddhas have a different pose, facial expression, and props and accessories. On the way, you might even see some of the famous Sha Tin monkeys taking as much delight in your presence as you do theirs!
Overall, the monastery property is situated in a bamboo forest hillside over about 8 acres. There are 5 temples, 4 pavilions, 1 veranda, and a grand pagoda.
The main highlights of the complex are the main temple (also known as Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall) and the 9 story pagoda which stands prominently atop this part of the hill. The main temple is home to 12,800 golden Buddha statues, each with distinctive features, 12 inches high and bearing the name of its donor. The statues themselves were crafted in Shanghai by expert artists. In its entirety, it is a stunning sight to behold all the statues at once. The pagoda, on the other hand, has an internal spiral staircase which visitors can ascend to gain beautiful views of the Sha Tin surroundings.
Before you leave, be sure to visit the lower level terrace which has a vegetarian restaurant with classic Buddhist dishes. Don’t hesitate to inquire for recommendations! On the menu are smaller snacks and plates as well as larger a la carte meals.
Do bring your walking shoes and active heart to embark on the 430 uphill steps that lead to the formal entrance of Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. The route is handicap accessible. As well, you may come across some curious monkeys who call the Sha Tin area their home; it is not recommended to feed or interact with the monkeys since they may get aggressive. On average, it takes about 20 minutes to make the inbound walk, going at a moderate pace. With this said, it is also helpful to bring extra water, insect repellent, and sun and rain protection against the elements which can be quite unpredictable due to its location so close to the mountains.