Only a 20-minute metro ride away from Hong Kong Island, tugged away between a giant shopping mall and a busy cluster of highway overpasses, lies Chi Lin Nunnery. It’s not a terribly historic place of interest as it was only established in 1934 and rebuilt in 1990 in a Tang Dynasty style, but the utter tranquillity compared to the city noise outside its walls, makes it worth a nosy around.
It’s quite a large temple complex with wooden structures set around a wide open courtyard dotted with lily ponds and bonsai trees. The temples within the complex house several gold, clay and wooden statues of deities and impressive looking Bodhisattvas. Buddhist chanting and the scent of incense linger in the air. It felt mesmerising to walk around and watch local Hong Kongnese go about their prayer rituals.
Chi Lin Nunnery is connected to Nan Lian Garden by a street bridge, so I walked across and continued my visit in this large and meticulously kept garden. Every path, rock and hill you see are placed precisely where they are according to strict gardening rules. Grass is carefully planted patch by patch and plants are cut and shaped following specific methods. The cleanly swept walkways meander along several wooden structures also built in the Tang Dynasty style and along ponds filled with koi carp and colourful water lilies.
I popped into several of these timber pavilions and found that they housed riveting exhibitions on rocks, plants and Chinese architecture. Even though you can see the high-rises towering over the garden in the background, the setting is so calm that you’d almost forget you’re in Hong Kong. I sat in one of the water pavilions for a while listening to the Chinese pling-pling music that was playing throughout the garden, until my zen-like state was loudly interrupted by the grumbling noise that seemed to be coming from my stomach.
Luckily the garden offers a solution for that. I found a veggie restaurant hidden away behind a waterfall, but I opted for a tea session at the tea house overlooking one of the bigger ponds. Which I will talk about in my next blog post. Stay tuned.