Altar of Heaven: Tian Tan Buddha

Posted by on Apr 16, 2011 in Essays, Photography, Travel | 9 Comments
Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island

The majestic Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

My recent visit to Hong Kong included a side excursion to the rugged island of Lantau. Lantau is the largest island in Hong Kong, yet sparsely populated due to its mountainous terrain. Only 45,000 residents live on Lantau, as compared to Hong Kong Island’s population of 1.45 million.

Located on the Ngong Ping plateau on the western part of Lantau Island, adjacent to the Po Lin Monastery, sits the Tian Tan Buddha, one of five large Buddha statues in China. The Tian Tan (meaning Altar of Heaven) Buddha is the tallest seated outdoor bronze Buddha of its kind. This Buddha statue is 34 m (112 ft) tall and weighs 250 metric tons (276 short tons). It is said this Buddha can even be seen as far away as Macau Island on a clear day—nearly 50 km (30 miles) away. Visitors to the Tian Tan Buddha can climb 268 steps to reach the sculpture, though our driver took the winding road to the base of the Buddha.

Imposing at first, I found the Tian Tan Buddha to be gentle and calming. His features make him appear serene and dignified. His right hand is raised, representing the removal of suffering. While photographing the Buddha, I was stopped by a couple of tourists, their faces perplexed. “Why does Buddha have a swastika on his chest?” one of them said in disbelief. I reassured them that Buddha was not a fascist or a victim of graffiti, rather the swastika was an ancient divinity symbol used long before the Nazi party perversely misappropriated it during World War II.

More photos of the Tian Tan Buddha and nearby Po Lin Monastery can be found on my Flickr page.

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  1. Jim Denham
    April 17, 2011

    Like this shot and story Chris! Interesting about the divinity symbol and wonder what those folks would have thought had you not reassured them? Well done!

  2. Chris Kenison
    April 18, 2011

    Great shot and story, Chris! I’m just glad to see something up here on the blog! Well done!

  3. Toad Hollow Photography
    April 18, 2011

    What a wonderful image and blog post, I really enjoyed this my friend! I just love the composition of this shot, Chris, wonderfully done!
    Toad Hollow Photography recently posted..Quwutsun Cultural &amp Conference CentreMy Profile

  4. Mark Garbowski
    April 18, 2011

    I neither believe nor follow, and in fact have no affinity for eastern religions or philosophy, but images like this do have a very peaceful, calming effect.
    Mark Garbowski recently posted..UnevenMy Profile

  5. Barbara Youngleson
    April 18, 2011

    Love the mood you’ve captured here, Chris. I’m in awe of the sheer size of this bronze sculpture. The gray-blue/orange contrast enhances the serenity of this peaceful place.
    Barbara Youngleson recently posted..Old San JuanMy Profile

  6. Ryan Sexton
    April 25, 2011

    cool shot, its looks very peaceful.
    Ryan Sexton recently posted..Chilling by the Pool at Miami Metro ZooMy Profile

  7. A.Barlow
    May 2, 2011

    Really cool. It’s crazy how it’s all bronze. Man, that must have took time! Really like the POV on this shot.
    A.Barlow recently posted..Spring PoppyMy Profile

  8. Jan Winther
    May 13, 2011

    Your story makes this image work really really well. Thanks for sharing.
    Jan Winther recently posted..The paper mill…My Profile

  9. Lina
    November 30, 2012

    Amazing photo – bravo!!!


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