Hong Kong Hidden Gem: Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Perhaps calling the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery a “Hong Kong Hidden Gem” is a bit of hyperbole. Also known as Man Fat Tsz, the temple is listed in most guidebooks to the city and makes some ‘best of’ lists. However, it doesn’t crack TripAdvisor’s top 30, has a fraction of the Google Reviews of Tian Tan Buddha, and it’s not listed among Lonely Planet’s “Top Choice” Attractions for Hong Kong.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is also out of the way thanks to its location in the New Territories, which both explains why there’s less coverage of it, and also why fewer tourists visit. To that end, it is most definitely a hidden gem in terms of the (lack of) crowds you’re likely to encounter. As compared to other popular points of interest in Hong Kong that tend to be crowded, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery offers a reprieve.

Of course, there’s a cost to this, namely in terms of the commute to and from Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. From many parts of Kowloon or Hong Kong Island, you’re looking at a roughly hour-long commute to the base of the temple. That’s before the hike to the top, which will take at least 30 minutes. The hike is filled with tons of amusing buddha statues, so it’s a ‘journey is the destination’ type of thing.

The name is something of a misnomer, both because there aren’t 10,000 buddhas (there are supposedly over 12,000, although we didn’t count) and because it’s not a functioning monastery. In fact, despite the old world appearance, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is actually quite modern, having been built in the 1950s.  The temple might look and feel ancient, but it’s actually a product of modern times.

If the steps up weren’t lined with jovial buddha statues, it would be a bit of a trudge; with them, the time passes quickly. Upon arriving at the top, visitors find a main square where there’s a temple, pagoda, and pavilions. Inside the temple is the highlight of the upper area, where there are walls lined in thousands of small golden Buddha statues.

Outside in the square, there’s the nine-story Man Fat Sze pagoda, a koi pond, vegetarian restaurant, several colorful statues dedicated to deities and animals, and several temple halls honoring the four bodhisattvas. The hilltop vantage also provides breathtaking views of Hong Kong’s New Territories.

Although brief, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery has a fascinating history. I’m not particularly well-versed in this, but you can read about it here.

Tips & Info

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is located 10 minutes from Sha Tin Station by foot. To get to Sha Tin Station, take the Hong Kong MTR East Rail Line. From Central Station, it’s two transfers and about 40 minutes; you’ll catch the East Line from Kowloon Tong Station.

Once you arrive at Sha Tin Station, it’s a bit tricky. There are no signs directing visitors which way to walk, so hopefully you’ll have Google Maps. Even with that app, finding the unmarked pathway at a dead end around an old fence and overgrowth is tricky. Just keep in mind that the Google Maps location is completely accurate, with the “entrance” appearing like what’s pictured below.

The good news here is that the off-the-beaten-path location means few tourists venture out to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. You’re likely to see a few other people during your visit, but unless you’re going on a weekend or major religious holiday, you probably won’t encounter many other people. Certainly no tour groups or the massive crowds drawn to Tian Tan Buddha.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily, and admission is free of charge. That’s really about all you need to know. Finding the path is the only challenge, and even that isn’t too bad with Google Maps and the photos here.

Our Experience

We really enjoyed Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. The trek out to the New Territories was a bit of a hassle (and we didn’t do anything else out there aside from eating), but it was worth it to see a new-to-us area of Hong Kong and for the experience the monastery provided.

Our visit was in late October, and I was drenched in sweat by the end of the hike to the upper level of the temple complex. I’m a total wimp when it comes to humidity, but I cannot fathom visiting Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery between May and August. The heat and humidity is oppressive during those months, and the ~500 steps to the top would’ve been unbearable. Your mileage may vary, though.

While the heat and humidity was not exactly pleasant during our visit, the statues lining the path provide ample distraction. These defy description, but they have all have varying degrees of peculiarity to them, and look a bit ‘off.’ In some cases, their expressions are solemn and in other cases, downright goofy. They are all unique and have unique personality, which is a huge part of Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery’s charm.

Here are more photos to give you a better sense of Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery’s personality:

It’s also a bit tough to put my finger on the prevailing atmosphere of Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. On the one hand, the presentation is very rough around the edges and feels kitschy in more than a few places.

This is particularly true along the stairs up, where haphazardly-applied red paint covers cement bases for cheeky statues with green corrugated sheet metal walls separating the monastery’s bounds from the bamboo forest behind it.

On the other hand, it still doesn’t feel overtly touristy, and the grittier style arguably gives it a greater aura of authenticity. In some regards, it feels like Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple in Kyoto.

That’s another out-of-the-way temple with a sensibility that you don’t normally find. I’d say Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery finds a way to balance spiritual and irreverent elements, never quite fully embracing either, but managing to evoke both feelings.

Ultimately, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is a spot in Hong Kong that we highly recommend visiting if you have at least a few days in the city, or can find other things to do in the New Territories. While we’ve described the temple as kitschy and off, this should not be construed as criticism. There’s no shortage of places for a weighty, spiritual experience in a serene environment. Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery succeeds precisely because it’s so different, offering a more lighthearted experience that still maintains some of the trappings of a temple. Add to this the unique element of all the Buddha statues, and Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is a definite winner and top thing to do in Hong Kong from our perspective.

Check out the Hong Kong category to see what else we’ve done in Hong Kong! If you’re visiting Hong Kong, we recommend using the Lonely Planet Hong Kong Guidebook.

Your Thoughts…

Have you visited Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Hong Kong? What did you think of this temple? How would you describe it…spiritual, kitschy, or somewhere in between? What did you think of the hike to the top? If you haven’t visited, does 10,000 Buddhas interest you? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

5 replies
  1. Ashley
    Ashley says:

    I wish I saw your article before I made the trip a few weeks ago. It was unbelievably oppressive in the late July heat, especially since I accidentally went all the way to the top of the crematorium next door. I found the back stairs up to the monastery, they were in direct sun, but worth the climb and all the sweat! Looks like they are doing repairs so some sections were blocked off but still plenty of buddhas to see. The station nearby is a major location for protests at the moment, I went on a day that the protests were not occurring. I did receive directions from a very helpful and kind young protestor. Just be aware if visiting during this tumultuous time in Hong Kong. Not in fear of the protestors, but of the Triad attacks, and police tear gas.

    Reply
  2. Kayla
    Kayla says:

    It seems a challenge of this walk would not taking 10,000 photos on the way. Get home, realize you have hundreds of photos of almost the same thing.

    With an entrance like that, I’d probably end up not finding it and leaving frustrated. I know you use Google Maps for walking directions. How do you use it and not look like a tourist? Turn off sound? Just ignore that because you’re already obviously a tourist? I have needed it before but don’t want my phone announcing my “lost” status as it gives me directions.

    Reply
    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      When walking around using Google Maps, I never actually start the directions that provide the audio prompts. For one thing, their timing isn’t always the best. For another, the voice goes off at the most inopportune times.

      Instead, I glance down at my phone to get a sense of where I need to go, and then do that. If I feel like I’m not heading in the right direction, I’ll pull out my phone again and adjust. Most of the time you have a general idea that you need to go southwest (or whatever direction) and can turn down any number of streets to get to your destination, anyway.

      Reply
      • Kayla
        Kayla says:

        Makes sense! I do something like that with driving directions, seems obvious now it’s even easier to do while walking. Thanks!

        Reply

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