Hong Kong is incredibly busy, fast paced and overcrowded, it is what makes Hong Kong, well, Hong Kong, but believe it or not there are some places that you can get away from it all. About 20 minutes journey away from Central on the MRT is the Diamond Hill area and two little peaceful gems, the Chi Lin Nunnery and along side it the Nan Lian Garden.
My morning starts in the Chi Lin Nunnery, the entrance is a few minutes walk from Diamond Hill MRT. The nunnery is a large Buddhist temple complex that originally dates from the 1930’s. It was rebuilt in the 1990’s in the Tang Dynasty style of architecture to a design based on a Sukhavati drawing in the Mogao Caves. The buildings are constructed entirely of cypress wood and are held together using a Chinese system of intricately interlocking sections of wood joined together without a single nail.
I enter the complex through the Sam Mun, a series of three gates that represent the Buddhist precepts of compassion, wisdom and skilful means.
The first courtyard contains a beautiful Lotus Pond Garden, it’s a very tranquil place and if it wasn’t for the soaring tower blocks in the background you really wouldn’t believe you were in Hong Kong.
At the far end of the Lotus Pond Garden is the huge Hall of Celestial Kings with its large statue of the seated Buddha surrounded by the deities of the four cardinal points.
Beyond is the main hall containing a statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha flanked by two standing disciples and two seated Bodiesattvas. The statues are made from gold, clay, wood and stone. I would have loved to have gotten some pictures of these beautiful statues but unfortunately photography of them was not allowed.
Back out at the front of the nunnery I cross the bridge with its pretty manicured bonsai trees over to the adjacent Nan Lian Garden.
Like the nunnery the garden has been built in the traditional Tang Dynasty style and is a fairly recent addition to Hong Kong having only been opened in 2006. The garden is in a half moon shape running longer from east to west and shorter from south to north. From the bridge I decided to walk back to the main entrance as the garden follows a circular one way route so I could start at the beginning.
The Black Lintel Gate marks the entrance to the garden and from here I walk up to the Chinese Timber Architecture Gallery, a traditional building housing scaled models of Tang, Liao, and Jin dynasty timber structures.
The highlight of the garden for me was the Lotus Pond and Pavilion of Absolute Perfection with its vermillion coloured Zi-Wu Bridges, just beautiful.
Further on is the Lunar Reflection Terrace and its pond filled with koi carp, across from the terrace is the Song Cha Xie, with its open terrace it’s normally used for enjoying the service of tea.
At the eastern end of the Blue Pond is the Pavilion Bridge. This was designed to function as both a bridge and a pavilion and has a vivid phoenix at its top.
Next to the Pavilion Bridge is the Mill, built to recreate a scenic theme from farm life centred around a water mill.
Eventually the paths bring me back to where I started. The Nan Lian Gardens are small but beautiful and, if like me, you just need a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of central Hong Kong then I would highly recommend coming here. It’s free to enter both the nunnery and the gardens and hopefully after a few hours here you’ll leave relaxed and refreshed and want to take on more of what this great city has to offer.