Also known as Man Fat Tsz, this is one of the more intimate cultural areas in Hong Kong containing a Buddhist temple. The Reverend Yuet Kai — lyre player and poet — dedicated his life to Buddhism from the age of 19 and founded the the temple. He is known for a resounding commitment to his faith. It is said that he cut the flesh from two of his fingers to set 48 oil lamps alight. His dedication never wavered, even in his old age, when he personally helped his followers drag construction material from the foot of the hill to where the monastery now lies.
Although the monastery took just under a decade to complete, the ornate miniature Buddhas — which this monastery is famous for — took an additional ten years of work. Despite the name, it is said that the number of statues is actually closer to the remarkable number of 13,000. Each individual Buddha is 12 inches high, adopts an individual pose, and is adorned with an inscription naming each donor. The Buddhas make an exquisite focal point within the main temple.
Following the death of Rev. Yuet Kai, his body (still in good condition post-burial) was embalmed, painted gold, draped in robes, and placed within a glass display in front of the main altar. It is still possible to see the corpse in person today: ‘The Diamond Indestructible Body of Yuexi.’
The monastery was built over two levels and comprises five temples, four pavilions, and a gorgeous solitary pagoda. Before the main complex there is a long pathway lined with yet more Buddha statues (albeit plastic). Each of these holds a different pose or expression, ranging from happy to sad, angry to sassy. The expressions add an unsettling perception of life to the otherwise inert state of the statues but certainly make great entertainment as you proceed towards the main temple.
Weather permitting, you can also ascend the pagoda’s nine floors and take in the panoramic view of Shatin.
Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, Monday – Sunday: 9am – 5:30pm
By Michaela Fulton