Tsz Shan Monastery

New Territories

Spanning 46,000 sq metres, Tsz Shan is state-of-the-art antiquity that cost HK$1.5 billion and took 12 years to build. At a glance, it's a graceful Tang dynasty complex. But inside the shell of precious zitan wood is a steel structure that does away with the need for the pillars and interlocking eave brackets found in ancient architecture. This gives the monastery a more modern look. Tsz Shan does not entertain walk-ins. Book online up to a month ahead. Tsz Shan also runs meditation retreats, as well as tea and zen calligraphy workshops. See the website for details.

Literally meaning the 'Monastery of the Benevolent Hill', Tsz Shan's most prominent feature is a 76m-tall statue of the Goddess of Compassion (Guanyin). The goddess, robed in white, holds the Pearl of Wisdom in one hand and a vase of sacred water in the other as she gazes kindly at the sentient beings (and the traffic) below her. At twice the height of the Big Buddha on Lantau Island, she can be glimpsed from miles away.

The monastery's Main Hall contains three gigantic gold statues with canopies above their heads. They are the Great Medicine Master of the East, Amitābha Buddha of the West, and the founder of Buddhism, Śākyamuni Buddha, and together they embody the ideal of harmonious consolidation. The patterns on the canopies are inspired by carvings found in temple caves in the historical Chinese town of Dunhuang. On the back wall of the Main Hall is a replica of a mural in the famous Yulin Caves. It's produced by digitally outputting images of the original on silk. If you scrutinise the high-resolution images, you can still see the pixels.

The smaller Maitreya Hall has a golden statue of the Buddha Maitreya and icons of the Four Heavenly Kings. The latter are sculpted on camphor and decoratively painted. The monastery also features a Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Hall, a Bell Tower, a Drum Tower, and a Library of Buddhist Texts.

A taxi from Tai Po Market or Tai Wo MTR station costs about HK$70. Minibus routes 20B and 20C, and bus routes 75K and 275R, all from Tai Po Market MTR station, stop near Universal Gate Rd.

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