Our first full day in Hong Kong brought a chance to sleep in a little, have a fantastic breakfast at our hotel, and visit one of our favorite sites so far: Hong Kong’s Big Buddha. When they hear that we’re studying Buddhism, people often ask if we’ll be seeing any of the massive Buddha statues. In fact, we’re lucky enough to see two: one in Nara and one in Hong Kong. The two statues are similar in size and subject, but are otherwise very different.
Flying through the Mountains
Getting to the Big Buddha is an adventure by itself, as the statue is situated on the top of one of the many mountains surrounding the area. There are two ways to get there: hike the long, winding mountain path or take a cable car high over the trees. We took the cable car and were treated to stunning views of the countryside as we rode along over the path. As we gawked at the view and took as many pictures as we could, we turned a corner and the Buddha came into view, looking majestic on the mountaintop and big enough to make out despite being several minutes away.
Climb Another Mountain? Why Not?
Once we disembarked from the cable car, we headed towards the Buddha statue. To get there we went through a surprisingly Hollywood-like shopping area and, of course, up another set of stairs. The view was certainly worth the climb. The majesty of the Big Buddha is something that really must be seen to be understood. Although the Buddha statue in Nara impressed us without a doubt, the combined effect of the open air and lush green countryside inspired fascination and respect by creating a feeling of a benevolent caretaker looking out over the land and the people.
In addition to the Buddha statue itself, there were numerous walking paths for exploring the mountain. One path, called the Sutra Path or the Wisdom path, followed a figure-eight lined by tall wooden planks with the verses of the Heart Sutra carved into them. Visitors could walk along the path and chant the sutra as many times as they wanted without ever having to change directions. Another path wound up a neighboring mountain offering stunning views of the Buddha statue, the Sutra Path, and the countryside.
Inside the Buddha
Not only is the Big Buddha impressive from the outside, the inside functions as both museum and shrine. All along the inside path are artifacts, paintings, and writings. Some of the most fun artifacts were carvings of different sutras so small the writing could only be seen through a magnifying glass. But the most important artifact is the White Relic: a bone if the original Buddha left behind when he attained Nirvana. The relic is enshrined inside the Buddha statue in a glass case surrounded by carvings of Buddha’s disciples, flowers, and gold decorations.
While not the biggest of its kind in the world, or even close to the oldest, Hong Kong’s Big Buddha statue is nonetheless an amazing work of art. The cable car ride, mountain paths, and picturesque views combined made a truly memorable experience for us all.