As you travel throughout Asia you’ll find yourself surrounded by statues of the great Buddha. Some are seated, some are standing, some are bronze, and some are stone. They vary in shape and design, for sure, but none are quite as ominous as the great Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong.
Completed in 1993, the Tian Tan Buddha is located outside the village of Ngong Ping on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. Its position near the Po Lin Monastery places it in one of the most active religious centers for Buddhists in the country. Symbolizing the relationship between man, religion, and nature, the statue is one of the most popular attractions amongst pilgrims and tourists in Hong Kong.
The History of the Tian Tan Buddha
Compared to many other historic and religious attractions throughout Asia, the Tian Tan Buddha is actually very modern. The construction of the statue began in 1990 and was completed on the birthday of Guatama Buddha in December of 1993.
The name Tian Tan came from the Temple of Heaven, having been named after the famous temple in Beijing. It is also commonly referred to as the Po Lin Buddha because of its proximity to the Po Lin Monastery. The monastery itself, formerly known as the Big Hut, was formed in 1906. It has always been a major religious site in Hong Kong but its popularity grew exponentially once the Buddha statue was added.
A Bird’s Eye View of Tian Tan
Tian Tan was, until 2007, the largest seated statue of Buddha in the world. The statue weighs 280 tons and stands (250 metric tons) and stands 110 feet tall (or 34 meters). Visitors to the statue must first climb 268 steps to reach his feet, although there is a road so that handicapped vehicles can reach the statue by vehicle.
The inside framework of Tian Tan was constructed out of a very strong steel in order to support both the bronze exterior load and the frequent winds at the statue’s high elevation. The exterior of the statue was created out of 202 individual pieces of bronze, later welded together to form the statue you see today. Tian Tan’s right hand is raised (to remove affliction from society) and his left hand rests calmly on his knee (symbolizing a happy human race).
At the base of the statue, upon which Tian Tan sit, visitors will find three floors of rooms and hallways. The three floors are The Hall of Remembrance, The Hall of Universe, and The Hall of Benevolent Merit. It is believed that the cremated remains of Gautama Buddha are stored within the base beneath Tian Tan.
Tian Tan is surrounded by a group of eight smaller bronze statues. It is believed that these statues represent Gods. Tian Tan is unique in that he faces north, whereas most other large Buddha statues face south.
Inside the main show room visitors will also find a large bell. The bell is inscribed with images of several different Buddhas and rings 108 times each day (every 7 minutes).
Visiting Tian Tan
More than 1 million people visit Tain Tan each year. Those who wish to visit Tian Tan must start with a visit to the Po Lin Monastery. Climbing the stairs to circle the base of the statue is free of charge but if you wish to enter the base and see the remains of Gautama Buddha you must purchase an offering so that you can leave it behind when you visit.
A visit to Tian Tan during your trip to Hong Kong is one you’ll never regret. Pack some comfortable shoes, prepare for the climb, and prepare to be amazed!