Tess Bradshaw: The Big Buddha

Information on the Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery:
1.Once a remote monastery hidden by lush, mountain scenery, the Po Lin Monastery made it to the world map when the Tian Tan Buddha statue (informally known as the Big Buddha). This monastery is opposite the statue, and is one of Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist sanctums and has been dubbed ‘the Buddhist World in the South’.  was constructed beginning in 1990, and was finished on December 29, 1993, the day of the enlightenment of Gautama Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist religion.

2. The big buddha sits 34 metres high and faces north to look over the Chinese people, which is unique among the great Buddha statues, as all others face south.

3. The eyes, lips, incline of the head and right hand, which is raised and represents delivering a blessing to all and/or the removal of affliction, these combine to bring a humbling depth of character and dignity to the massive Buddha. The Buddha's left hand rests on his lap in a gesture of giving dhana (wealth).


4.The statue was formed out of 202 separate pieces of bronze.

5. If you climb the 268 steps for a closer look at this statue.

6. You can also enlighten your appetite at their popular vegetarian restaurant.

7. The statue is named Tian Tan Buddha because its base is a model of the Altar of Heaven or Earthly Mount of Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

8. The large bell within the Buddha is controlled by computer and rings 108 times during the day to symbolize escape from what Buddhism terms the '108 troubles of mankind'

9. The podium is composed of separate chambers on three different levels. On the first level are six statues of bodhisattvas (a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so out of compassion in order to save suffering beings), each of these weighs around two tonnes. These are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music to the Buddha. These offerings symbolize charity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom, all of which are necessary to enter into nirvana. On the second level is a small museum containing oil paintings and ceramic plaques of the Buddha's life and teachings. 

The Bodhisattvas:











Nirvana: a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism.

10. One of the most renowned features inside is a relic of Gautama Buddha, (the founder of the Buddhist religion) consisting of some of his alleged cremated remains. Only visitors who purchase an offering for the Buddha are allowed to see the relic

11. Forbidden: to bring meat or alcohol into the grounds

12. Cost: $60 million HK dollars to build.


• How is understanding this going to help you better understand China and its people?
Understanding the history and the beliefs of a country is crucial in understanding its people.
Chinese Buddhism has played a prominent, dynamic role in Buddhist history, particularly in East Asia. Over the course of approximately two thousand years, Buddhist ideas and practices have shaped Chinese culture in a wide variety of areas, including art, politics, literature2, philosophy, medicine, and material culture.

Appreciating the complexity of Chinese belief systems is crucial to understanding the forces that helped shape China.

Information about the history of Buddhism and its influence in China:

Buddhism, a cultural system of beliefs and practices based on principles of compassion and non-attachment, originated in the sixth century BCE in what is today Nepal. It was brought to China by Buddhist monks from India during the latter part of the Han dynasty (ca. 150 CE) and took over a century to become assimilated into Chinese culture.

One of the key forces of Buddhism’s success was Daoism. To help the Chinese comprehend Buddhist concepts, Buddhists borrowed ideas from Daoism via the Chinese language. Both Buddhism and Daoism benefited from this exchange. Daoists expanded their ideas about the cosmos and ways to structure their monastic orders. Buddhists gained a lexicon that made it easier to teach their tradition.

Over time Buddhism became a popular force in the lives of the Chinese, from the common people to the emperor himself. In fact, by the sixth century, Buddhism rivaled Daoism in popularity and political influence. It was during this time, and over the course of the next three centuries, that major schools of Chinese Buddhism formed. Two schools that retain their influence today are Pure Land Buddhism and Chan (Zen) Buddhism. Even in mainland China, where religion is often suppressed by the government, there are practitioners of these two schools of Chinese Buddhism.

Getting there:

MTR Tung Chung Station Exit B, then take Ngong Ping Cable Car, which takes around 25 minutes. Then walk for around 10 minutes to the Monastery.

MTR Tung Chung Station Exit B, then take New Lantao Bus 23 from Tung Chung Town Centre, which takes around 45 minutes. Then walk for eight minutes.

What we did:
Today is our last day in Hong Kong. After the weather we’d experienced the last couple days we were very excited to wake up to sunshine! We all met in the Lobby of the Dorsett Hotel at 10:30 and departed on time to the Big Buddha. We took the orange line to Tung Chung, exit B. Upon arrival we all lined up to take the Gondola up. It’s a 25 minute ride and the views were going to be exceptional with the clear skies.


 
 
 

About half way up the wind started to pick up and the clouds began to roll in. At this point our Gondola stopped. We sat there for about 10 minutes before it picked up again. This was a bit of a scary moment for some.
 

Once we arrived at the base of the Big Buddha a full blown storm had formed. The fog rolled in and the Buddha was barely visible. Once we took the 268 steps up to the Buddha you were able to see it, but visibility was poor.
 
 
After experiencing the Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery we met for a delicious Vegetarian lunch. After lunch everyone was given free time for the remainder of the day. Some went shopping, others visited an original fishing village, and some remained at the Big Buddha to explore further.
 
Despite the weather it was an amazing day, our group had the ability to make the best of every situation,  and today was no exception.
 
Tess is a second year Bachelor of Business Administration student.  This is Tess' first time in China.
 

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