Tian Tan Buddha Facts & History
The base of the Big Buddha in Hong Kong is modeled on the famous Altar of Heaven (Tian Tan) in Beijing, China. As such, the big Buddha is appropriately named the Tian Tan Buddha. However, the Tian Tan Buddha statue is relatively new compared with the ancient Tian Tan in Beijing.
Construction of the Big Buddha in Hong Kong began in 1990 and was completed 3 years later in 1993. Furthermore, the Tian Tan Buddha is constructed entirely of bronze with a height of 34 meters and weight of 250 metric tons.
Additionally, the big Buddha is enthroned on a lotus flower situated on top of a 3 platform altar. It is believed that some of Gautama Buddha’s cremated remains are contained within the altar. The 3 floors beneath the bid Buddha are known as the halls of the Universe, Benevolent Merit and Remembrance.
Tian Tan Buddha is Known Worldwide
The completion of the statue was celebrated by dignitaries who came from around the world. The big Buddha is also the center of Buddhism in Hong Kong and it is a major attraction for Chinese Buddhists as well as international visitors.
The Tian Tan Buddha is majestically situated on top of a mountain in the Ngong Ping highlands on Lantau Island. As such, the locals claim that the statue can be seen all the way from Macau on a clear day. From his perch on Lantau Island, the Tian Tan Buddha offers protection and gifts to the mainland.
How To Get To Tian Tan Buddha
As with some of the other iconic Buddha statues in Asia, getting there is almost as much fun as viewing it! The big Buddha in Hong Kong is surrounded by hiking trails and magnificent view points.
The most practical way to get to Tian Tan Buddha from Hong Kong is to take the MTR. As such, from Hong Kong Station take the Tung Chung Line to Tung Chung Station. Next, simply exit the Tung Chung terminal and walk about 800 meters to the Tian Tan Buddha cable car station (Ngong Ping 360) and from there – enjoy the scenic ride.
It is also possible to hike in. However, the hike is nearly 10 kilometers uphill, as such it is only for the stout hearted. Fortunately, the cable car takes visitors straight to the top of the mountain. However, there is still a short hike to the final path of 268 steps to reach the base of the big Buddha statue.
The Meaning of Tian Tan Buddha
The Tian Tan Buddha statue is depicting a Buddhist gesture called the Abhaya mudra. Although this mudra is associated with Shakyamuni Buddha (a.k.a. Gautama Buddha), it is not exclusive to him.
The Abhaya mudra gesture is most commonly depicted with the flat right hand held at shoulder height with bent elbow. Additionally, the fingers are closed and the palm is facing outwards. It is a gesture of fearlessness or protection. It is also possible to display the Abhaya mudra with the left hand, but it is less common.
The Abhaya mudra is associated with Shakyamuni Buddha because at one time he was attacked by a large elephant. Instead of fleeing in fear, he raised his right hand in this same manner and the attack was abated. This incident is documented in several Buddhist texts and it is also depicted in many frescoes on the walls of monasteries.
The left hand of the Tian Tan Buddha is displaying the Varada mudra, also known as the gift giving or boon granting mudra. This mudra is a depiction of generosity that is expressed with a flat open palm facing away from the body of the statue.
The 6 Devas Surround Tian Tan Buddha
The big Buddha is surrounded by 6 smaller bronze Deva statues on all sides that are offering gifts to the Buddha. Each Deva is poised and holds out flowers, incense, lamp, fruit, ointment and music to the Buddha. Symbolically, the 6 gifts represent the 6 perfections that are necessary to reach enlightenment – morality, patience, generosity, zeal, meditation and wisdom.
Tian Tan Buddha is a compulsory addition to any list of the world’s best Buddha statues. However, this was a cast metal statue which was formed by molds. As a result, it was not a hand carved Buddha statue such as the Leshan Buddha or our Nepali Buddha statues.
Nonetheless, it is a magnificent sculpture and an iconic landmark. Additionally, is a must see attraction for visitors to Hong Kong.