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.