A Very BIG Buddha
Buddha is big in China and in Hong Kong that’s literally true. On Lantau Island sits the world’s largest outdoor seated Buddha statue. It stands 112 feet high and weighs 220 tons. From its mountain perch, it’s said that the Buddha can be seen all the way to Macau on a clear day. That’s a distance of 40 miles. It gives you a feel for what an imposing figure it is.
So ,of course, it’s a big draw for tourists. Since it opened in 1993, it has been one of Hong Kong’s top draws. What’s truly amazing for a major attraction is that there is no admission charge to climb the steps. But you will pay to go inside. Underneath the massive statue are three floors of antiques and artifacts. Included are what’s supposedly the cremated remains of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. To see this whole area a fee is charged. Plus, visitors are required to purchase an offering to see that particular relic.
Getting to the Big Buddha is quite a trek since Lantau Island is one of the outlying areas of Hong Kong. Probably the easiest way to get there is on a cable car .It’s the easiest but not the most relaxing. I’m not especially fond of heights and these cable cars do little to calm that fear. I’ve been on many cable cars both in China as well as the United states but something about these cars did not give me a confident feeling. Guess I’m not being neurotic since I discovered these cable cars had a few serious safety issues in the past. Five years ago one of them fell! On another occasion, a couple of them collided. Apparently the issues disappeared once the MTR took over .That’s the same organization which runs Hong Kong’s subway system. Now when the winds get especially high, service is cancelled. -
At least the cable cars save your legs. Once you reach the Big Buddha you’ll need them! To get to the top you have to climb over two hundred steps. The steady stream of people climbing them can be both a good and a bad thing. When it gets really crowded you have to keep up or get trampled. You don’t have too much time to think about being tired. On the other hand, sometimes the “cattle call” is so slow that you get plenty of chances to stop and catch your breath according to what the traffic flow’s doing.
Once you reach the top, you really get a feel for how huge the statute is. It’s also evident that for some people this is more than just a tourist attraction. Many come here to worship and pray to Buddha. Hands clasped in prayer is a common sight. During my trip with United International College colleagues, I was shocked to see one of our group praying to Buddha . She is in fact a Christian woman. But she explained it’s more of a good luck gesture to her. In that respect it may be like kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland. Perhaps that may be the case with some of the other visitors as well.
The Big Buddha is inspiring and it can give you something of a feeling of comfort. His hand is raised to give a blessing. It will supposedly free you of any afflictions-whatever they may be. Besides the human worshippers, the base of Buddha has several statues making offerings. They symbolize charity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom. During my trek down from the statue, I mimicked the Buddha’s gesture but nobody stopped to worship me!Perhaps it’s because I raised the wrong hand-a mistake I realized after the picture was taken.
This area actually is a center of Buddhism since there’s a monastery as part of the complex. I’m told many of the visitors do come here for religious reasons. So Big Buddha can serve as both a religious and touristy draw. It’s interesting that an attraction connected with religion can be popular without any controversy. In the United States, it seems whenever there’s a HINT of religion it gets called “politically incorrect. “ In my travels, I’ve discovered that sometimes Asia is more tolerant than we are. That’s probably something Buddha would give his blessing to!