A Guide to Lantau Island’s Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha)
Tian Tan Buddha
If you are fortunate enough to visit China, and specifically Hong Kong, then one of the great ‘must sees’ is the Big Buddha (officially known as the Tian Tan Buddha) on Lantau Island—a massive and imposing bronze statue of Buddha Shakyamuni. The Big Buddha is a symbol of stability for Hong Kong, peace on earth and the long-term prosperity of China, and this imposing edifice attracts pilgrims and curious people from all over the world.
Sitting atop a throne of giant lotus leaves, the Big Buddha towers over a majestic landscape of beautiful mountains. As with all Buddhist statues, every gesture has a symbolic meaning; one hand raised represents the removal of afflictions and suffering, whilst the other resting on his lap signifies a blessing to all.
The View From the Top
Standing 112 feet tall and weighing in at 250 metric tons, this imposing construction was the world’s tallest (seated) Buddha until 2000 and can be seen from miles around, sitting as it does atop Mount Muk Yue.
To reach the Buddha, visitors have to ascend 268 steps, so bear this in mind if you visit with small children or you have difficulty walking. The view from the top, however, is well worth the effort, offering magnificent views of the South China Sea and the outlying islands.
The Buddha is encircled by six smaller statues known as “The Offering of the Six Devas” or the Bodhisattvas. These two-ton, stone figures are all offering gifts which symbolise the necessities required to entire nirvana—morality, patience, zeal, meditation, charity and wisdom.
Unlike all the other great Buddha statues, which face the south, the Tian Tan Buddha faces benevolently north, towards the people of China (in the direction of Hong Kong).
The Exhibition Halls
There are three floors nestled beneath the great statue; these comprise of the halls of Universe, Remembrance and Benevolent Merit. Also ensconced under the statue are some of the (alleged) remains of the founder of the Buddhist religion, Gautama Buddha (also known Siddhārtha Gautama), where pilgrims who purchase an offering, to leave with the remains, can gain access. Also in this area is a huge bell featuring inscribed images of the Buddhas.
Building the Big Buddha
In 1974, the Po Lin (meaning "precious lotus") Monastery, which is one of Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist centres, and sits below the statue, was granted the land on which to build the statue.
It was designed by the Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), and during the planning stage of the project over 5000 drawings were produced.
A steel framework was used to support the 202 separate bronze pieces, and 5 kilometres of weld were used to form the statue. Construction began in 1990 and was completed by the end of 1993 on the 29th December which is believed to be the day of the Buddha's enlightenment. Monks and dignitaries from all over the globe attended the opening ceremony. The statue cost HK$60 million in total to construct (around £5,902,000).
How to Get to the Big Buddha
If you are staying in Hong Kong there are several ways to get to Lantau Island and the Tian Tan Buddha:
- Take the ferryboat to Mui Wo at No.6 Wharf of Central District, and then transfer onto bus No.2 to Ngong Ping Village (which takes around 40 minutes).
- Take the subway and get off at Tung Chung Station and leave from Exit B, and then transfer to bus No.23 (usually takes around 45 minutes).
- Or opt for the spectacular 3.3-mile Ngong Ping 360 cable-car ride (which takes around 25 minutes) after arriving at Tung Chung Station.
Making Your Way up to the Big Buddha From Ngong Ping Village
On arriving at Ngong Ping Village, it easy to find your way up to the Buddha by following the path flanked by a dozen imposing statues known as ‘The Twelve Divine Generals’, each one symbolising an animal from the Chinese zodiac. But you won’t really need them to be shown the way by the ’Generals’, as the Big Buddha can be clearly seen from Ngong Ping Village, and you can then join the throng of tourists and pilgrims heading up to the imposing statue.
Please check prices and times locally before making the trip.
- Location: on Ngong Ping Plateau, Lantau Island, Hong Kong.
- Opening times: 10:00–17:30
- Cost: It is free to visit the outside of the Giant Buddha, but there is a small charge to go inside the Buddha (the exhibition hall).
Tips for Visitors to the Big Buddha
- Wear comfortable and practical shoes for the walk up to the Big Buddha.
- Take water bottles with you, especially in summer when it can be hot, you will need it.
- Big Buddha is a tourist hub, so don’t be surprised to find plenty of ‘souvenir’ shops and some places to snack around Ngong Ping Village including a Starbucks, and a Subway. For some peace and tranquillity, however, visit the Po Lin Monastery which has lovely gardens and a vegetarian restaurant.
- Although you are unlikely to need a full day to visit around the Big Buddha, I would allow a good half day in your schedule, unless you are planning to do some (more) walking around the nearby countryside on Lantau Island.
- If you get the opportunity book your Ngong Ping Cable Car ride in advance to bypass the worst of the queues - we didn’t and wished we had. You can book a regular cabin or a ‘Crystal Cabin’ which costs a little more, and features a transparent three-layer 5cm glass floor, definitely not for anyone afraid of heights, but a great way to see this unique landscape. Of all the ways of getting to the Big Buddha, I would recommend the cable car (unless of course you really are afraid of heights).
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Jerry Cornelius