Asia’s richest man funds $193M monastery with bulletproof VIP rooms

Hong Kong CNN  — 

Nestled on a tranquil hillside, Hong Kong’s newest Buddhist monastery features bulletproof VIP rooms and the world’s second tallest statue of the Goddess of Mercy – a Buddhist deity.

The Tsz Shan monastery is funded entirely by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, who contributed $193 million from his personal foundation to the building project.

The premises, styled on Tang dynasty buildings, sprawl across a lush, green area of 500,000 square feet - around nine football fields.

It can accommodate up to 400 to 500 visitors daily, but will not be open to tour groups in order to preserve the sacred atmosphere.

Li initiated the project in 2003 to promote Buddhism in the city and construction took five years to complete.

Stunning sights, statues and bulletproof windows

At a height of 76 meters (250 feet), the Goddess of Mercy statue overlooks the site and a breathtaking view of several islands and the border with Shenzhen – it’s actually closer to the mainland China city than to Hong Kong’s urban center.

The monastery also features several grand halls, including one which houses three ornate 24-karat gold plated Buddhist statues, where people can meditate and learn about Buddhism.

Much of Ka-shing’s personal collection of some of the world’s rarest Buddhist art and objects is on display as well, although guests will need to queue up and not use photography in certain areas of the museum.

However, perhaps the most intriguing feature is the bulletproof dormitory rooms.

One of the three dormitories that provide housing for visiting monks from all over world has built-in bulletproof windows to protect “important guests.”

“We installed the bulletproof glass windows because we hoped there could be a place to protect our important guests such as the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand and other top monks,” Walter Ngai Kai-shu, secretary general of the monastery told local media.

The rooms are still empty, and Ngai added that they were not designed for Li or any specific individual, reported the South China Morning Post.

Visitors are not allowed to bring joss (incense) sticks, meat, alcohol, or other food offerings in order to be environmentally friendly — instead, the monastery will provide water.

“There are many other ways to offer the Buddha apart from joss sticks,” Ngai told local media.

Currently, a dozen monks, mainly from Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, reside inside the monastery.

It will be open to the public on April 15, but registration and booking are now available online.

CNN’s Shen Lu contributed to this report.