During my temple hopping in Hong Kong which I summarized in my previous post "Temples, Shrines & Monasteries" I mentioned that I will write a separate entry about Chi Lin Nunnery. The massive temple complex made me more excited about planning a visit to mainland China itself, as this place somehow managed to tickle my imagination as a preview to what I will see in the Forbidden City.
Going here, I took the MTR and alighted at Diamond Hill station, I exited from the C2 gate then followed the sign to Nan Lian garden and reached the place after a 5 minute walk. I entered Nan Lian garden and was immediately greeted by a serene atmosphere brought upon by an extensive collection of trees and various plants, deeply rooted in a marvelously landscaped soil.
The sun was blistering hot so I took a short rest under a tree and watched other visitors took turns in taking photographs of themselves. After a while, I continued walking briskly towards the Lotus Pond near the gold colored Perfection Pavilion and the Zi Wu bridge, a few walks further I saw a souvenir shop and a vegetarian restaurant. I took a pee at the clean restroom inside and told myself, "This is it" - I thought that was all, the garden, small pavilions, a rock museum that displays rare forms of rocks.
I was supposed to be on my way out to do more Temple hopping when I saw a group of Caucasian walked on top of the stairs and unto a short bridge that later on I realized was the one connecting the Nan Lian garden to the Chi Lin Nunnery. As I walked towards the entrance I remembered the movie "The Last Emperor" - the Bernardo Bertolluci film about the life of Puyi, China's last emperor and as far as I remember, it was the film that introduced me to temples and the architecture of the Forbidden City in mainland China.
I want to see the real thing someday, to go an a trip to Beijing - but until that time, I've had to immerse myself with Chi Lin Nunnery - which was impressive on its own. This "Tang Dynasty" - inspired architecture sits on top of over 33,000 square meters of land and includes a nunnery, gardens and temples.
Statues of Sakyamuni Buddha, Guanyin - the 'mercy goddess' and other Bodhisattvas adorned the temple complex. Rows of Buddha altars are found on both sides with the bigger one found on the main temple hall. The Chi Lin Nunnery was first established in 1934 and was rebuilt in 1990 using wood frames and without a single nail - echoing the influence of structures built during the Tang Dynasty. The Chi Lin Nunnery is the only temple complex designed in this kind architecture style that remains in modern Hong Kong today.
What was supposed to be quick 'wham bam thank you miss' visit turned into more than an hour as I found myself resting on a seat looking at the temple in front of me, I studied a few people offering their own prayers. I figured I should have my photograph taken in this place so I set up my camera by putting it above my backpack and after a couple of tries I ended up with a few ones to serve as my digital memory of the place.
I went back to walk the winding paths surrounded by trees - some of it I noticed as the Banyan trees, the landscaping done around the Nan Lian Garden, was unique as it conveys a larger space than it has in reality and later on from research I found out that these types of landscapes are called as "borrowing scenes", "sheltering scenes" and "penetrating scenes" techniques to produce that altered state of reality by expressing a much larger realm of land space.
The sun was still up at that point I remember was only nearing lunch time, but the arresting environment of this place proved to be more powerful than the heat offering from the wide open skies. The place was in stark contrast with its surrounding since its easy to notice the towering buildings that surround it.
I finally made my way out of the temple complex back again into the garden and exited back to the road again to continue with my walking tour slash trainspotting tour of Hong Kong. After this I went on to visit the nearby small temples and the Kowloon Food District where I gained a few additional pounds in the aftermath of a food binge.
From the fast paced life in Hong Kong, the lively and colorful streets, high rising apartments and office buildings, the iconic HSBC and Bank of China building, the Victoria Peak, to the small temples scattered around, food market, MTR trains and fast cars, it is a welcome break that I ended up at Nan Lian Garden and was introduced to Chi Lin Nunnery, an experience that might just be a precursor to my planned Beijing trip probably (well hopefully) next year.
As I much as I love the old Spanish colonial churches in the Philippines, I think I might have to dig temples, mosques and other religious structures too. Because of that my list of places to visit has gotten longer, soon there will be Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Israel, Jordan and it goes on and on and on.