It's tricky to find, tucked behind a Chinese cemetery, and a long climb (431 stairs!) to the top. But it's well worth the effort.
Despite the name, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, or Man Fat Tsz, isn’t actually a monastery. No monks live on site, and it is managed by laypersons. It is actually a series of temples, constructed by Reverend Yuet Kai, between 1949-1957.
When I say constructed, the reverend himself helped his followers carry building materials up the steep hill, despite his advanced age.
The reverend was 87 when he passed away in 1965, less than ten years after his temple was completed. He was buried for 8 months on the hillside, before his body was exhumed. It was completely intact, so his followers covered it in gold lacquer and robes and placed it in a glass case in the temple with the title “Diamond Indestructible Body of Yuexi.”
After the buildings were completed, it took another 10 years to create the Buddha statues: more than 10,000.
In fact, the name, Ten Thousand Buddhas, doesn’t refer to the variety of golden statues we passed during our climb (there are about 500 of those), but rather the tiny, unique statues inside the main temple. There are 13,000 of them. In Cantonese, the term ‘ten thousand’ simply refers to a very large number. Wandering around the main level of the temple, that ‘large number’ becomes apparent. There are Buddhas on the pagoda, Buddhas riding animals, Buddhas in glass cases, Buddhas absolutely everywhere you look.
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Worth Every Step
I finally stumble upon the stairs leading up to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. Lots and lots of stairs. Steep ones.
The climbing becomes less odious as hundreds of golden, life-size Arhat (Buddhist disciples freed from the cycle of life and death) statues welcome me from either side of the staircase.
Terraces, temples and pavillions reward me for my efforts. And thousands and thousands of Buddhas. Big Buddhas, little ones, happy Buddhas, sad ones, red Buddhas, blue ones, Buddhas sitting, Buddhas meditiating, Buddhas riding dragons. Buddhas, Buddhas, Buddhas. Plus, gods, goddesses and demons. They make for a comical sight.