Billionaire Li Ka-Shing first conceived the idea of building a Buddhist monastery for a quiet place to purify your mind. It took over 10 years to build and opened in 2015 with funding from his charity foundation.
The architecture is inspired by ancient Chinese styles from the Tang, Song, Liao, and Jin Dynasties, with 3 main buildings placed on a central axis rising uphill. A 76m statue of Guan Yin coated in white fluorocarbon paint sits at the back of the complex, looking over Tolo Harbour.
Visits need to be pre-booked online with strict quotas to keep the number of visitors manageable. While the booking engine is intuitive and easy to use, it is notoriously hard to get tickets. Coupled with COVID restrictions, it took me almost a year of constantly searching to get inside for a look.
The main "triple gate" symbolizes the three methods of liberation - wisdom, compassion, and expediency. Two large statues on either side protect the monastery. Enter and start your journey to calm your mind.
The next set of buildings consists of the Maitreya Hall with the Bell and Drum Towers on either side.
The Grand Buddha Hall has 3 Buddha statues inside with a reproduced illustration of a painting from Dunhuang's Mogao Grottoes at the back.
The President of Sri Lanka gifted a bodhi tree branch to the monastery in 2012. The tree symbolizes wisdom, and the branch has turned into this tree.
18 pines adorn the Compassion Path that leads up to the Guan Yin statue. At the centre is the Thousand Wishes Pond, a bronze vessel used to make water offerings. Guan Yin is a compassionate figure, leaning down to guide us to enlightenment. She holds a mani pearl on her right hand, symbolizing wisdom. On her left hand she is pouring water out of a vase to cleanse the world.
Beneath the statue is a Buddhist art museum, a well-earned air-conditioning break amidst the intense summer heat.
A visit to a Buddhist monastery is not complete unless you try some vegetarian food on-site. However, due to the pandemic, lunch here was not possible.