An oasis of serenity in a bustling metropolis, the Chi Lin Nunnery shows how Hong Kong is a city of contrasts and how the modern can embrace the mystical. The Buddhist religious site dates back to the 1930s and was rebuilt in the architectural style of the Tang dynasty in 1998.
The nunnery is a popular drawcard for both its ornate and structural aesthetics and stunning surrounds. The large temple was constructed without the use of a single nail instead using traditional techniques of bracketing and dowels to support the timber structure.
Only natural elements of wood, clay and stone were used during building and the temple adheres to the rules of feng shui with considered placement for energy, strength and abundance. Within the temple grounds are 15 magnificent halls crafted from polished cedar with various statues of Buddha in different incarnations or bodhisattvas – those who have attained enlightenment. The main hall houses five golden Buddhas, and beyond are three courtyards of which two can be accessed by visitors.
Flanked by skyscrapers and mountains, the nunnery also boasts stunning landscaped surrounds. The lotus pond gardens in the first courtyard are decorated with four large geometric ponds, statues, rockeries, potted bonsai trees, plus cypress and fragrant peony and frangipani trees which provide a welcome and tranquil respite from the busy streets and construction in Kowloon.
The operational nunnery is home to around 60 nuns who can sometimes be seen offering fruit and rice to Buddha or heard chanting behind carved screens. Below the complex and behind a waterfall is a vegetarian restaurant, Chi Lin Vegetarian, which purveys meat-free yum cha and snacks.
To visit, the closest MTR station is Diamond Hill. Take the C2 Exit (Plaza Hollywood) and walk eight minutes down Tai Hom Road to Sheung Yuen Street. From here, turn right into Fung Tak Road, walk past Nan Lian Garden then turn left into Chi Lin Drive.