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Inside the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Kate Springer, CNNPublished 25th September 2017
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(CNN) — Overlooking lush Sha Tin in the northeastern New Territories of Hong Kong, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is one of the city's most memorable cultural sites.
After all, it's not every day you're surrounded by 10,000 gold Buddhas and a handful of monkeys. About an hour from Central district by metro, the experience promises a peaceful afternoon in the foothills of Hong Kong's countryside.
Ready to tally up the Buddhas? Here's what you need to know before you go:

More than 10,000 buddhas

There are more than 12,000 Buddhas at Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.
There are more than 12,000 Buddhas at Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.
Kate Springer
Also known as Man Fat Sze, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is a bit of a misnomer.
For starters, it's a monastery with no monks -- and there are actually more than 12,000 Buddhas.
When travelers arrive, the experience begins with a steep climb up some 400 steps lined with golden Buddhas in a mix of poses.
As travelers work their way up the leafy switchbacks, shameless macaque monkeys are known to make appearances -- often snatching plastic bags in hopes of a treat. After the last curve of the hill, the main hall rises overhead, awash in dramatic red paint and dragon motifs.

Going for the gold

The temple is less than 70 years old.
The temple is less than 70 years old.
Kate Springer
The temple might look and feel ancient, but it's actually a product of modern times.
Built in the 1950s, the Grade III-listed heritage columbarium (housing cremated remains) was constructed by Yuet Kai -- a Buddhist teacher -- and his followers.
Inside the temple, a gold-leaf-covered figure in a lotus pond is said to be Yuet Kai's remains. Surrounding him on all sides, the temple's walls are covered in thousands of small golden Buddha statues that mark each columbarium niche.
Elsewhere in the square, there's a nine-story Man Fat Sze pagoda, a koi pond and several colorful pavilions, including one dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. The hilltop address also provides a vegetarian restaurant and excellent views of the New Territories.

How to get there

The temple's hard to find but worth the effort.
The temple's hard to find but worth the effort.
Kate Springer
The monastery is just a 10-minute walk from Sha Tin Station, on the metro's East Rail Line -- about 40 minutes from Central.
From Sha Tin Station's Exit B, things get more challenging.
There are very few signs to lead travelers to the monastery's pathway. But we'd recommend tracing Pai Tau Street to the northwest.
The street curves left, taking travelers past the Pai Tau ancestral hall (a large white complex), then right, finishing in a dead end.
At the end of the road, an unmarked pathway to the monastery begins. If there's a dodgy fence and overgrown weeds, then you're in the right place.
Alternatively, a slow stream of visitors should give it away. The temple is free to enter, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.