Category: Hong Kong Culture

Feb 14

Travel Guide to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, Hong Kong

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is a little off the beaten tourist trail as it is located on a steep hillside. When you make your way uphill, thank your lucky stars that you weren’t part of the construction team. Work began on the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery project in 1949. The monastery was the brainchild of the venerable Reverend Yuet Kai. Together with his disciples, they carried all the building materials up to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery personally by hand!

There are about 12,800 statues of Buddhas at the monastery and each has a different posture. If you’re wondering about the discrepancy between the number of Buddhas and the monastery’s name, there’s a simple explanation. In Cantonese, the phrase for ten thousand really means “a large number”. So, the name is not a mistake. We’d suggest you count them, but only after you catch your breath post climbing all those steps!

10000 Buddha Monastery Hong Kong

History of Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Reverend Yuet Kai’s story is unusual, to say the least. Born into a wealthy family, he studied philosophy at a well-known university in China. At age 19, Reverend Yuet Kai converted to Buddhism. His religious zeal knew no bounds. To demonstrate the depth of his faith, he cut off two fingers on his left hand as well as a piece of flesh – which was the size of his palm – from his chest! Thereafter, he burnt them in order to light 48 lanterns as an offering to the Buddha. By the time the idea for the monastery was conceived, Reverend Yuet Kai was an old man. Nonetheless, he joined his disciples in carrying those materials up the hillside!

Eight long years later, the exterior building work was finished. Subsequently, it took another decade before the rest was done. Reverend Yuet Kai died, aged 87, in 1965. Following his wishes, eight months on, his disciples removed his body from the coffin. Reverend Yuet Kai’s body was in almost perfect condition, just as he had predicted! The disciples then embalmed the body with Chinese lacquer and gold leaves. To this day, the immortal body of Reverend Yuet Kai occupies a prominent position in the main hall of the monastery where devotees can come to pay their respects.

Step-by-Step Guide to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

There’s no dispute that the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is worth a visit, but it can be tricky to find. For this reason, follow our step-by-step photo guide and you won’t get lost. Be prepared for quite a climb though. There are a lot of steps! However everything has a silver lining and the climb is going to put some tourists off – meaning there’ll be less of a crowd to share it with. Here’s where you need to go.

Firstly, take the MTR to Sha Tin Station. You need to take the East Rail Line. Don’t confuse this station with Sha Tin Wai Station on the Ma On Shan Line! When you arrive at Sha Tin Station, take Exit B, labelled Grand Central Plaza.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 1

Secondly, make a left and aim for the ramp. Alternatively, you can follow the signage for taxis and pedestrians.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 2

Thirdly, follow the pedestrian path for a short distance. At this point, you are still heading in the general direction of Grand Central Plaza.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 3

Next, bear left and cut through these village houses.

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Afterward, you’ll walk past these stalls selling paper offerings, incense sticks and fruits for worshiping.

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Shortly after, you’ll notice this pathway on the left marked with a cluster of signs. Follow the path and you’ll find a white sign for Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. This means you are on the right track!

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Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 9

This is a close-up of that same sign.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 10

From here on, keep heading straight. The path is lined with a metal fence – the hillside to your left and the village to your right.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 11

Continue straight on. At this point, you’ll pass more buildings and a few turn offs, but don’t deviate.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 12

Similarly, keep right; you don’t need to go up the steps.

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Thereafter, head straight and you’ll find yourself walking past the public toilets. You’re steadily making your way uphill towards the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. Keep going!

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Walk past this small red gate. Keep right.

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Keep climbing and go past this culvert.

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Remember to keep heading in the general direction of the trees.

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The path’s long but well maintained. Here, bear right and follow the path, aiming for the yellow sign in the background.

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Keep following that yellow sign!

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Soon you’ll arrive at the monastery. You’ll know you’re almost there when you see a huge golden Buddha statue to the left of a series of steps.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 23

Go up these steps, which as you ascend, are lined with more golden Arhat statues.

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Hurray! Finally, you have arrived at Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery; it’s red with golden adornment. This is the main area, where you’ll find those 12,800 Buddha statues on the walls, each with different posture. But we’re not done yet – there’s more!

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 28

Head right, skirting around the building where you will find the brown sign. It leads to other sections of the monastery, such as the Amitabha Hall, Jade Emperor Hall and Tai Sui Gallery.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 29

There are now three routes to choose from. First and foremost, take the lane on the far left to visit the Jade Emperor Hall, Amitabha Hall, Avalokitesvara House, Cundi House, Ksitigarbha House, Sprinkler Guanyin, YueXi Pavilion and Naga-puspa Court. The middle lane brings you to Tai Sui Gallery while the far right lane will bring you back to the city.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 30

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This is the path to look for when you make your way back to the Tai Sui Gallery – the middle lane of the three.

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When you arrive at this junction, you are at the end of the Tai Sui Gallery. Follow the lane where the people are in the photo and you’ll find yourself in the right direction to get back to the city.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 33

Ready to head back to the city? More life size Arhat statues await on your journey home!

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Finally, you can see the city. Watch out for that Sheung Wo Che Road sign. The Sha Tin MTR station is just north east of this picture.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 36

We hope you will have fun exploring the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery! The opening hours are from 9am to 5pm everyday (except on days with heavy rain, or with typhoon signal 8 or above).

For an in-depth tour of Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery or if you are interested in one of our private walking tours of Hong Kong, visit our Big Foot Tour website today!

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Jan 23

Our Favourite Chinese New Year Traditions

Chinese New Year’s finally here! Our favourite time of year brings a whole host of traditions. While the highlight of the festivities will be the chance to celebrate Chinese New Year with our friends and families, there are a lot of other things we look forward to as well.

Chinese New Year image: Markets

Shopping at the Flower Markets

Shopping at Hong Kong’s flower markets is a popular activity during Chinese New Year. Don’t miss the annual Flower Market at Victoria Park! There will be plenty of opportunity to stock up on some of the plants and flowers traditionally associated with the holiday. Look out for mandarin trees (a symbol of prosperity), cherry and plum blossom which represent new beginnings as well as lucky daffodils and bamboo.

Spring Cleaning

It’s important to make sure homes are free of dirt before the clock strikes midnight. On Chinese New Year’s Eve, people are busy sweeping up any last vestiges of dirt as it’s unlucky to clean on Chinese New Year’s Day. If the dustpan comes out after midnight, then all the good fortune will be swept away with the dust. For the first five days of the Chinese New Year, people place any rubbish in the corners of their living rooms. The superstitious believe that if dirt is swept across the threshold, then a member of the family will be lost as well. On the fifth day, that rubbish goes out the back door, so that good fortune can’t be lost from the front.

Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner

Much as we love the company, Chinese New Year is as much about the food as it is the getting together with family. It’s a time when we enjoy some special foods, and each has a symbolic meaning as well as being valued for its delicious taste. Fish represents abundance, as the Chinese name sounds like the word “surplus”. Carp and catfish are commonly found on the table, with their head pointing to the most distinguished guest; don’t move it! Also key dishes are Chinese dumplings and spring rolls to signify wealth. For a long life, it’s best to look out for longevity noodles, longer than the usual variety.

Those hoping for a promotion at work should dig in to the glutinous rice cake, which traditionally symbolizes a higher income or position. Nin Gou, as it’s called, is a delicious combination of dates, sugar, sticky rice, chestnuts and lotus leaves. Sweet rice balls are associated with family togetherness while certain fruits are chosen for both their appearance and name. The Chinese word for tangerine, for instance, is similar to that for “success”. Anything golden in colour is considered lucky.

Lai Si

Chinese New Year image: Lai Si

We’re hoping for a glut of red and gold envelopes this Chinese New Year – are you? Lai Si are the little packets that, if you’re lucky, will come your way filled with cash. Signifying prosperity and fortune, you’re most likely to be given them if you’re a kid, as it’s customary for an elder to give them to someone much younger than themselves. However you’ll also witness them being given from bosses to employees, married couples to singletons and as tips to waiters, doormen and others providing a service.

If you do decide to dish them out, then make sure you include brand new notes (never coins). The amount should have nothing to do with the number four, as that’s considered unlucky. The word sounds like “death” in Cantonese. But make sure that it’s an even number, as odd numbers are associated with funerals. Once you’ve got your head around that, you’ll be pleased to know that both the donor and the recipient share the good luck.

Lighting joss sticks at Wong Tai Sin temple

Wong Tai Sin Temple is busier than ever during the run up to Chinese New Year. On Chinese New Year’s Eve, queues will form as people wait outside. On the stroke of midnight, they’ll pour inside to light sticks of incense. Why such a rush? Well, many believe that the earlier those sticks are glowing, the greater their luck will be in the upcoming year. The temple itself is one of the most famous in Hong Kong. Constructed in 1921, as the name suggests, it is dedicated to Wong Tai Sin. He was known as the Great Immortal Wong. It’s typically Chinese in appearance, with red pillars supporting a golden roof. Yellow latticework and multi-coloured decoration complete the colourful picture.

Lunar New Year Night Parade

One of the most colourful events on the Hong Kong social calendar has surely got to be the Chinese New Year Parade. The procession consists of elaborately decorated floats, bands of musicians, acrobats, drummers and dancers. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a sprinkling of dragons and lions too. This incredible street party welcomes visitors from across the world. If you’d like to catch the event, it’s free to watch!

Lunar New Year Fireworks

Who doesn’t love a great fireworks display? Hong Kong Victoria Harbour forms the ideal backdrop for more than 20 minutes’ display of pyrotechnics. The sky will light up in a riot of colour, the fireworks launched from a fleet of barges and pontoons moored up in the water. Whether you’re in Kowloon or on Hong Kong Island, the view’s guaranteed to be fabulous. Base yourself along the promenade anywhere from the Star Ferry Terminal to the New World Centre. Across the harbour, try Bauhinia Square near the Convention Centre or along the Central Waterfront Promenade. Alternatively, head to our secret spot for the best view from Victoria Peak!

The Lion Dance

Lions bring good luck and thus the Lion Dance will always be an integral part of any self-respecting Chinese New Year celebration wherever you are in the world. This energetic dance is accompanied by the beat of drums, gongs and cymbals. The result is a cacophony of noise to equal the riot of colour found in the elaborate costumes.

The dance is thought to originate from the days of the Han Dynasty. A few lions had been introduced to Chinese society via the Silk Road. This was a big deal considering that lions weren’t found in the wild. Performances started to take place, with two humans in costume mimicking the movements of these semi-mythical creatures. The practice became both more common and more popular. By the time of the Tang Dynasty, the Lion Dance was established as one of the dances seen at court. Now, you can still see similarities. Watch closely and you’ll observe cat-like traits such as scratching, licking fur and shaking the body.

Chinese New Year image: Lion Dance

Chinese New Year Lantern Festival

The Spring Lantern Festival heralds the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Throughout the month, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre is the location for a fantastic lantern exhibition and it’s free to enter. Although of course, you’ll see lanterns adorning buildings all over Hong Kong, the sheer number in one place make this an unmissable sight. Visit at night when the lanterns are lit; it’s magical.

Informally known as Chinese Valentine’s day, 2nd March 2018 marks the 15th day of the new Lunar Year and this is when the Lantern Carnival will take place. The action’s likely to kick off at 7.30pm and last until around 10pm. Performances take place at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre throughout the day. You’ll have the chance to see folk singers, dancers, musicians, acrobats and more.

Fortune-telling at the temple

There’s one thing left to complete our run through of Lunar New Year, and that’s to get our fortunes told at one of Hong Kong’s many temples. Even the government participates in the ritual known as kau cim. On the 2nd day of the Lunar New Year in Sha Tin’s Che Kung temple, a member of the government shakes a tin of fortune sticks, waiting for one to fall. The fortune of Hong Kong for the upcoming year rests on the outcome. The city holds its breath as they wait to find out what the verdict will be. Yes, Chinese New Year is an opportunity to take stock. We’ll look back at the past twelve months, trying to learn from our mistakes and build on our successes. We wish you good fortune, health and happiness for the Year of the Dog!

Love to find out more about Hong Kong and its fascinating culture? Join us on our Real Hong Kong Tour today! We offer the perfect overview for first-time visitors, including plenty of fun facts and insider stories. For more information, visit Big Foot Tour – Hong Kong Walking Tours.

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Apr 22

Hong Kong Guide : Mahjong

Think you’ve heard all about Hong Kong’s love for Mahjong?

Check this out: Spotted at IFC, quite literally and creatively, mahjong (wall) tiles!

Hong Kong Mahjong Wallpaper image

Did you know:

  • The origin of the game is a much debated topic. For instance, one story suggests that Confucius created this game! As a bird lover, he named the game after the sparrow, known as “Maa Chuk” in Cantonese (or “Ma Que” in Chinese).
  • During a wedding banquet in Hong Kong, it is common for guests to have a few games. To attract good luck, many believe in superstitions such as bagging the best seats, carrying lucky charms and changing underwear after losing a game! Now, what’s yours?

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Apr 16

Hong Kong Guide: Yuen Po Street Bird Garden

When was the last time you took your pet out for a stroll?

Yuen Po Street Bird Garden - Hong Kong Walking Tours - Big Foot Tour

Image courtesy of our lovely Hong Kong walking tour guest, Jessica Corson

In Hong Kong, bird lovers walk their pet birds often, believing that fresh air and sunshine will keep the birds healthy and lively. As the men swing the birdcages gently, the birds grip the perch tightly, resulting in smoother feathers that aren’t easily shed. Did you know this is a tradition that has continued since the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911)?

Now, here’s where you can listen to some beautiful birds singing in Hong Kong: 

Place to visit: Yuen Po Street Bird Garden

Nearest MTR Station: Prince Edward Station, Exit B1

Best time to visit: 7am – 5pm

If you are lucky, you may get a chance to see these bird lovers feeding live worms, grasshoppers and crickets to their birds!

Want to know more about Chinese culture and traditions? If so, please come join us on our Hong Kong walking tours. We make it fun and easy for you to explore real Hong Kong! For more information on our private tours, please visit Big Foot Tour – Hong Kong.

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Feb 07

Hong Kong Guide: Ethnic Minority

We are very lucky to connect with Kooky (pseudonym), who struck a chord with us when she shared her story on growing up as an ethnic minority in Hong Kong. Numbers aside, they are, nonetheless, the locals in Hong Kong. Have you seen Hong Kong through their eyes? Here’s Kooky’s story:

Growing up as an Ethnic Minority in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, more than 90 per cent of the population is Chinese. Hence, there aren’t many opportunities for people to learn more about the lives of ethnic minorities that live in this urban jungle. Sure, we have newspaper articles that report the latest row between foreign domestic helpers and their employers. We also have the very occasional RTHK special – presented in Cantonese – following the lives of ethnic minorities. However, these have never been enough to truly portray the realities of living as an ethnic minority in Hong Kong. They have so far only served to show a tiny fraction of this already small group of people.

Ethnic Minority – Filipinos

I am a Filipino girl, born and raised in this city. My mother immigrated to Hong Kong after the company that she was working for shut their offices down in Manila. She had a job offer in Hong Kong. My father and older sister followed shortly afterwards. According to the 2011 population census, there are about 133,000 Filipinos living in Hong Kong. This is one of the largest ethnic minority groups, yet still only accounting for a little less than two per cent of the population. Filipinos always stick together so it wasn’t too long before my parents found themselves a group of friends and a nice church community. They helped my parents to learn some of the ins and outs of the city, enough to survive. My parents decided to have another child after a religious retweet. That’s how I came to be.

Ethnic Minority – Language Barrier

Growing up as an ethnic minority is tough, especially in a city where few understand our situation or genuinely care about the inequality we face. Perhaps the biggest of all problems was – and is still – the language barrier. Without the ability to communicate in the most widely understood language, ethnic minorities are unable to have a voice. Unless you’ve gone to a school with a lot of Chinese or have been able to persevere in studying the language on your own, chances are you’ll never have a level of Chinese that will allow you to fully communicate with the locals. Hong Kong education system lacks a proper curriculum for non-native speakers. For most of my schooling, I went to schools that were filled with ethnic minorities. In kindergarten, we had no Chinese classes whatsoever. In the primary school I went to, we learnt very basic Cantonese. But back then, many of us didn’t take that class seriously. When I got to secondary school, our language curriculum constantly changed: we had Mandarin in our first year; French in our second; French and Chinese in our third. By fourth year we were given the chance to choose which language to focus on. We had to fulfill the second language requirement needed for the next3 years. This is before the introduction of the 3-3-4 scheme. It was a mess.

Ethnic Minority – Learning Chinese

Those who took Chinese in my secondary school were further split into classes according to their skill levels. There were classes which learnt only basic Cantonese. Elite students in the top class learnt both Putonghua and Cantonese. In my third year, I was placed in the class for basic Cantonese and given textbooks that were created by teachers themselves. The textbooks focus on poems with basic vocabulary, mainly for very young children. If we can recite these poems in front of a teacher, we get a good grade for the oral examination. Coming from a primary school that taught me these in grade 1, these basic Cantonese classes were a piece of cake. When I told my Chinese teacher that my parents was considering for me to take French instead, he personally called them to convince them otherwise.

“Elite” Chinese Class – Harsh Regimen & High Expectation

In my fourth year, a few of my friends and I moved to the elite class. Our teacher could barely speak English. She had to rely on my good friend, Michael, to translate words and sentences for her. It was a small class with less than 20 people. The textbook had paragraphs with complex sentence structures. It was a huge jump in level. For the first few months, our teacher was frustrated at how we were way below her expectations. Some of us were unfamiliar with the differences between Cantonese’s spoken and written forms. Hence we had trouble writing essays. We also couldn’t keep up with how fast she was speaking in Chinese during class. However, we couldn’t speak in Chinese fluently enough to communicate with her seamlessly. It was difficult for us to constantly receive the harsh criticism. Consequently, I was despair at one point. But we continued to do our best. In the end, she acknowledged our rapid rate of improvement and we finally became worthy in her eyes. Despite the initial difficulties, we did learn a lot more from her than we did in the basic Cantonese classes. If it wasn’t for that class, I would not be able to understand most of the Cantonese I hear every day. Nor would I have gained the confidence to speak in Cantonese when the situation calls for it. I still speak in English for the most part and my Filipino accent likes to kick in when I speak in Cantonese. That said, at least I am able to communicate a lot more than I used to.

“Basic” Chinese Class – Lack of Motivation & Interest

On the contrary, my other schoolmates in the basic Cantonese classes were not so lucky. Chinese is a requirement for most of the jobs you can find in the city, especially many of the higher-paying ones. Chinese is also a requirement to get into university. As a result, many gave up dreaming of getting a Bachelor’s degree in Hong Kong. All they wanted was a pass to get into a vocational training school or Philippines university. Only a small minority was serious about school. With this mind-set, many of my schoolmates fooled around. They spent a lot of their time either playing sports or rough-housing in the hallways. Most of these schoolmates were placed in classes located on a floor that our school designated for the “troublemakers”. Sometimes, they blast music using the in-class computer and speakers. To top it all, some students would turn off the lights in their classrooms. Prefects were terrified and often ridiculed. Violence was not uncommon either: a mere bump on the shoulder could illicit a full-blown fist fight between groups. Unsurprisingly, some students were taken to the hospital. Most of our school assemblies consisted of discussions on our students’ behaviour in school and outside. With the chaotic nature of our school mixed with the various minorities that studied there, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to compare it to Chungking Mansions.

Ethnic Minority – Hopes and Beliefs

As an ethnic minority in Hong Kong, life has not exactly been smooth sailing. However, I’m still glad that my parents chose to immigrate to this country. Growing up with other ethnicities, I’ve learned about a myriad of other cultures and have grown fond of the differences between them. Growing up as a minority, I know what it’s like to be marginalized in society. I have learned not be ashamed of receiving help from others in situations where I need it. I am also thankful for any assistance that I get. Had I lived in the Philippines, I wouldn’t have had a chance to have experiences like these. I wouldn’t have grown up to be the multi-cultural person that I am today. The language barrier is of course still a problem but I’m trying my best to learn as much as I can from my Chinese peers in college. I have also recently enrolled in Mandarin evening classes. There is also hope for future generations to overcome this hurdle. Ethnic minority advocacy group, Hong Kong Unison, continuously pushes for change. Chief Executive CY Leung is also pledging to strengthen education support and employment services for ethnic minorities. If all goes well, ethnic minorities will be able to integrate better in this city that they call home.

Thank you, Kooky. =D

Hong Kong is a city with various pockets of culture. Have you wondered what a local thinks of Hong Kong and how do they live? What is the real Hong Kong, as seen by different locals? Come join us for a thought-provoking Hong Kong walking tour! We go beyond guide-books and tourist attractions by immersing you in a real Hong Kong environment. Check out Big Foot Tour today for more information on our top-rated Hong Kong tours!

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