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Jasmine Dispatch

Living Large: The World's Largest Seated Buddha Statue!
July 1, 2000

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Up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane... it's a Buddha!!!
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On the way to Po Lin Monastery on Lantau one of Hong Kong's outer islands, we passed the new International Airport which boasts some of Hong Kong's latest technological achievements. The state-of-the-art complex is one of the world's largest civil engineering projects, weighing in at 155.3 billion Hong Kong dollars. (Do the math to calculate the cost in US Dollars. Seven Hong Kong dollars is worth one US dollar. Email me to check your answer!) One of the ten projects that make up the Airport Core Program, as it is called, is the new high-speed Airport Express rail link and the graceful Tsing Ma Bridge, the world's longest road-and-rail suspension bridges.

As you may have noticed Hong Kong is familiar with great achievement. As a matter of fact Hong Kong is, as the saying goes, living large. I mean that literally! The next great achievement that I'm going to tell you about stands in a class alone. Or should I say sits in a class alone. The seated Buddha on Lantau Island is the world's largest seated bronze statue of Buddha and is so big it can actually be seen from the air. All those who land or depart from the new airport on the north side of the island are blessed by this phenomenal monument.

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The Po Lin Monastery in the remote mountains of the Lantau Islands is as peaceful and pristine as it was almost a century ago
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After the forty-five minute ride which came complete with air conditioning (a welcome relief from the wet-hot air outside) and a beautiful ocean-view, Hong Kong's speedy metro dropped me off in the foothills of Lantau Island. After another half hour swooping around the island slopes, the bus brought me to a place I didn't imagine could still exist in Hong Kong. This was a place untouched by the sprawling shopping mall that is Hong Kong. There was a quiet peace in the breeze again and a soothing calmness that made one suspect that spirits dwelled in this mystical land.

Vocabulary

phenomena - incredible
mystical - having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses or intelligence
contemplation - considering with thought
enraptured - filled with delight
refuge - a place that provides shelter or protection

This amazing vision is one of the most popular attractions in Hong Kong. Surrounded by lush green hills it is perfect for deep contemplation and prayer. The Buddhist monastery next to the temple, the Po Lin Monastery, is Hong Kong's largest Buddhist complex. Named "Precious Lotus," it grew from a humble monastic retreat of stone huts built in 1905. Today, a 22 ton bronze statue of Lord Buddha seated on a lotus flower is the monastery's star attraction.

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Jasmine gazes at the Po Lin Monastery, hidden in green folds beneath low white clouds
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Such tranquility is a rarity in bustling Hong Kong. Lantau seemed a world away from the fast rising skyscrapers of the big city. The serenity quickly enraptured all who arrived into a peaceful lull as the magnificent Buddha seemed to pull us toward him with a welcoming glow. One hand waving and the other in his lap, his pose was one of teaching. This serene 26 meter figure brought followers to their knees before him. In awe, visitors quietly climbed the 268 stairs for a close-up view of the Buddha and the panoramic view of Lantau.

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The monks of the Po Lin Monastery have dedicated their lives by solemn oath to the Buddhist faith
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Just beyond the monastery is the place where this region was first settled seven centuries ago. The last emperors of the Song Dynasty -- two young brothers -- in an attempt to flee invading forces in China found temporary refuge in a small port on the Lantau Channel. The only memorials of their stay are the Tung Chung Fort, whose cannons no longer face the sea, and the Hau Wong Temple, a Taoist shrine dedicated to a loyal Song courier who tried unsuccessfully to save the life of the last "boy emperor." In more recent days monks founded the Po Lin Monastery which has become one of the most respected institutions in all of China.

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Magical, mystical, spiritual, it's all right here
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As I'm sure you can imagine, I was in no hurry to get back to the traffic, pollution and crowded streets of the city. So I lingered for a while, appreciating the ocean view from the top of the island as the clouds, which occasionally covered the top of the mountain, melted away in my fingers. Many Buddhist pilgrims did the same, often lighting small ceremonial fires, burning paper offerings representative of cars, houses, even mahjong (the popular Chinese game). Unlike most Western tradition, which doesn't really believe that spirits are still among the living and nothing to be fearful of, Buddhist tradition says that ancestral spirits deserve respect. This temple is a place many come to show their devotion.

It was nice to see the spiritual side of Hong Kong, which is better known as a commercial paradise. We'll have to go on a little shopping spree next time so stay tuned!

Jasmine

p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...jasminehamlett@bigfoot.com

Related Links
Pictures of Lantau Island and Buddha:
http://metalab.unc.edu/hkpa/scenic/by-district/en/lantau.html

Pictures of HK International Airport:
http://www.hkairport.com/english/photogallery_o.htm

Travel site about Hong Kong:
http://wwwforum.inet.fi/yritykset/m2meklarit/hongkong.html

Picture of Tsing Ma bridge:
http://www.info.gov.hk/mardep/portphoto/tmbrdg.htm


 

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