Postcard reflection SIX

On my day off on Saturday I decided to make my way to the Tian Tan Buddha. It’s an incredible spot with astounding views as you ascend on the cable car. Next to the Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery which I was excited to visit having been to the Man Mo Temple and Tin Hau Temple. I really ought to read up on the main differences between a Monastery and a Temple so that I don’t go on to completely undermine what I want to say…

Ok based purely on a quick google of the two and a very brief skim read of a long article I think a Monastery has the same values however it is purely for the Buddhist religion as Buddha did not want it to be a temple. But I will come back in and add more to this with a bit more (and probably thorough research) when I can.

For now, and for the point of the theme I wanted to dwell on for this reflection, I found I had very different experiences at each place. The Man Mo temple has been my favourite spot so far, I found it an overwhelming experience being there which was quite surprising. I love the burning incense and the serenity, there’s a sense of peace just from being inside. I also think because they are so foreign to Australia, the sense of ‘new’ is exciting and thought provoking. I took a few pictures trying to capture the space and the moody-ness is definitely there. The red colours which we’re seeing increasingly around the city in the build up to Chinese New Year is also a beautiful and rich colour to be surrounded by.

Tin Hau Temple was interesting to visit for similar reasons, the shrines were much larger though and it is known as a more touristic spot which definitely made a difference to the atmosphere of the place. This change between the two is what I wanted to delve into with this reflection. Although both temples and relatively small scale, they were noticeably different to the Po Lin Monastery. I realise that the Tian Tan Buddha is a key tourist site to visit whilst in Hong Kong and that with the Monastery next to it, it becomes a phenomenon in itself, but because of this when they ask for voluntary donations and have the boxes dotted around the entrances, you definitely begin to see a financial difference between this and the temples.

Personally I found that this wealth and development of the site seemed to suck out the atmosphere and religious aspect to the building. I didn’t find it overwhelming for the sense of space but instead just for the maintenance and richness of the decorations and shrines. The room of the Ten Thousand Buddha Statues for example — amazing! But so bright, shiny and new that to me it felt like it had lost its heritage. In one of my other postcards I had used the theme of preservation to maintain history, and I suppose this touches on a similar topic but from a difficult angle. If you modify the temple or whatever object it is that you wish to preserve, does it maintain the history and relevance of the object, or does it actually just recategorised it for the ‘now?’

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