Chi Lin Nunnery

In the shadow of Hong Kong’s tightly packed skyscrapers, a Buddhist temple complex provides a quiet refuge from the busy city.

Covering an area of about eight acres (3.2 hectares), Chi Lin Nunnery is a serene space of manicured gardens, courtyards, beautifully carved cedar halls, religious relics and gilded statues.

Founded in the 1930s as a retreat for Buddhist nuns, the temple complex has served a number of purposes over the years. It has been a school for underprivileged children, an orphanage and a shelter for the homeless.  

When it was renovated in the 1990s, the wooden buildings were constructed in accordance with traditional architectural techniques of the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618–907). No nails or screws were used: The thousands of planks of yellow cedar wood are held together by interlocking systems cut into the timber.

To enter the complex, you walk through the Shanmen “mountain gate.” This takes you into the first courtyard, which contains lotus ponds, rockeries and bonsai trees. At the opposite end of the courtyard to the Shanmen is the Hall of Celestial Kings. Step inside to see a statue of Buddha with the Celestial Kings at each corner.

The main hall, located off the smaller second courtyard, is the monastery’s most imposing space, with 28 tall cedar columns supporting a roof of 28,000 clay tiles. Inside are five gilded Buddha statues, and at the center is Buddha Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism in India. He is also known as “the Enlightened One.”

During your time at Chi Lin, take the opportunity for a long solitary walk around the grounds and enjoy the tranquility of one of the most peaceful settings in Hong Kong. Note, however, that you aren’t allowed to take photographs.

Situated at the foot of Diamond Hill in north Kowloon, Chi Lin Nunnery is just a short walk from Diamond Hill MTR station. The way to the complex is well signposted from there. 

Chi Lin Nunnery is open every day and admission is free.

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