Friday, January 2, 2009
I have visited the Chi Lin Nunnery in Diamond Hill, Kowloon a few times before and it's a beautiful contrast to the fast pace of Hong Kong.
Nestled among tall apartment blocks, busy highways and shopping malls is a Buddhist temple built in Tang Dynasty architecture.
It cost billions of Hong Kong dollars to build, mostly raised by the help of Canto-pop stars and not a single nail was used in its construction.
It consists of a series of buildings, and inside are statues of Sakyamuni Buddha, the goddess of Mercy Guanyin and several other bodhisattvas.
We managed to go into the area where Sakyamuni sits in gold leaf before it closed for the day.
And if the statues and buildings can't create a tranquil atmosphere, the surrounding greenery does.
The pine trees and bonsai are lovingly manicured, flowers blooming at their best and not a weed in sight.
But even more impressive is the giant garden north of the nunnery. A winding path leads visitors to a pond with perhaps hundreds of Japanese koi over a foot long each, more pine trees, and flowers coaxed to bloom in Hong Kong's winter.
We all can't help but take lots of pictures. It's the ideal place for wedding pictures, but I was told later that even though the gardens are public land -- the Hong Kong government leases the land to the nunnery for HK$1 per year -- the nunnery runs the gardens and has strict rules when it comes to capturing the gardens on film, or digitally.
No wedding pictures are allowed or posing with toys or signs that may taint the garden's prisitine look. At one point, my cousin was thirsty and drank from a box drink, but was politely warned by a security guy that no eating or drinking was allowed.
In the middle of the park is a teahouse that offers expensive pots of tea (around HK$300) for visitors to sip while savouring the view.
I was told that while the garden was being constructed, trees from parts of China were used, but were taken first to Guangdong for acclimatization before they were planted in Hong Kong.
Despite the garden's stern rules, it's a wonderful, tranquil place in busy Kowloon that makes you stop and appreciate the natural things in life that are, naturally beautiful.