Hong Kong's Most Beautiful Temple: Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden
Chi Lin Nunnery, though only dating back to the 1930s, looks like it comes out of China’s imperial past. The temple was designed in the architectural style of the Tang Dynasty (618–907 ), and the impressive wooden temple hall itself is a work of perfect craftsmanship; not a single nail or piece of metal was used in the construction of the building! There are lots of Buddhist temples all throughout Hong Kong, but in my opinion, the Chi Lin Nunnery is the most beautiful one.
Chi Lin Nunnery 志蓮淨苑
The temple is nestled amongst the mountains and skyscrapers of Diamond Hill in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Visitors can easily reach the temple by taking the C2 Exit at Diamond Hill MTR Station (in Kowloon) and walking just a few minutes to Chi Lin Nunnery. The temple is clearly marked with easy-to-follow signage.
The temple compound is made up of many different buildings. Some, like the library, school, and living areas for the Buddhist nuns who reside at Chi Lin are private, but anyone can visit the beautiful temple hall and the nearby Nan Lian Garden.
Chi Lin Nunnery was founded in 1934. Although the current temple hall and buildings look ancient, they were rebuilt during the 1990s. The temple buildings were designed in the style of the ancient Chinese Tang Dynasty, and are the only buildings of the type in all of Hong Kong.
Chi Lin Nunnery is built entirely of wood, without the use of a single metal nail. It is the largest hand-carved wooden building in the world.
Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the peaceful temple courtyard, and may take photographs of the outside of the temple. Photography is not permitted inside the temple hall, however. The temple interior holds several statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
To help support the nunnery, visitors may purchase Buddhist art, charms, books, beads, music, and more at the well-stocked gift shop on the temple grounds.
Nan Lian Garden 南蓮園池
Opposite Chi Lin Nunnery, you’ll find the fantastic Nan Lian Garden. The garden was built in 2006 as a joint effort between the Hong Kong Government and Chi Lin Nunnery. This public park is considered to be one of the finest examples of Chinese Classical Garden in all of China. Like the Chi Lin Nunnery, Nan Lian Garden is free to visit.
The Nan Lian Garden is built around the glittering Pavilion of Absolute Perfection, a golden Chinese pagoda constructed on an island in a pond within the garden. the pavilion is the focal point of the garden, and the path and other structures are built surrounding it.
There are several other structures at the Nan Lian Garden as well. There are a few shops where visitors can buy gifts, tea, and souvenirs. There is also an interesting museum and exhibition hall detailing the construction techniques used to build the Chi Lin Nunnery, complete with scale models of the temple and other famous hand carved wooden buildings.
One of the most peaceful parts of the garden is the “Rockery”, an indoor Zen rock garden exhibition hall. It was starting to rain on the day I first visited the Nan Lian Garden. I ran indoors to the Rockery to get out of the rain. The interior was quiet, warm, and dry. Rock gardens are often used in Zen Buddhism as a type of meditation tool and a way to emphasize the beauty of simplicity.
A Chinese Garden is a really specific type of landscaping designed to follow a winding path through a natural landscape. Chinese gardens don’t create an artificial landscape, but rather are structured around enhancing the natural beauty of the nature. The path winding through Nan Lian Garden is a perfect example of this philosophy. It is said that the path in a perfect Chinese garden should unroll “like a scroll”, revealing new features with every wind and turn.
If you are feeling hungry, there is a vegetarian restaurant located in a beautiful, tranquil setting within the Nan Lian Garden. Proceeds go to support the garden and the Chi Lin Nunnery. It is one of the most beautiful restaurant settings in all of Hong Kong.
Temple and Garden Location, Opening Hours, and Admission
Chi Lin Nunnery is located at 5 Chi Lin Drive, Diamond Hill, Kowloon .
Nan Lian Garden is located just across the road at 60 Fung Tak Road, Diamond Hill, Kowloon.
Both the temple and garden are located at Diamond Hill MTR Station in Kowloon at Exit C2.
Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/zM1R3iN55ZN2
Chi Lin Nunnery is open for visitors from 9:00 to 16:00 daily.
Nan Lian Garden is open to the public daily from 7:00 to 21:00.
Both the temple at Chi Lin Nunnery and the Nan Lian Garden across the street (including all museums and exhibition halls) are FREE to visit.