A Travellerspoint blog

Tiptoeing through the sandy fields.

Return to Sha Tin.

sunny

It's a long time since I have been to Sha Tin, but it has always held a special place in my heart. When we arrived in Hong Kong in August 1996 for the first time, we were met at the airport by two teachers from Peter's school who escorted us to the Regal Riverside Hotel in Sha Tin. We lived there for a month, paid for by the Hong Kong Government, while looking for accommodation. Eventually we took a flat in Fo Tan which is also part of Sha Tin. We lived there for eight years before moving to Discovery Bay. Today I returned there and it's only the third time I have been back.

Sha Tin is yet another of the new towns built to house Hong Kong's expanding population under the government's New Town Development Programme in the 1970's. Sha Tin means sandy fields. Prior to becoming a new town this area was largely agricultural. One of the things I liked best about Sha Tin is that a river runs through the middle of it and this helps make it feel more spacious.

I got to Sha Tin using the newly extended Westrail which runs from Tuen Mun to Wu Kai Sha, just past Ma On Shan. I got off at Che Kung Temple Station. I've been here before, when I lived in Sha Tin, but at that time I walked here from Tai Wai Station.

To get to the temple I exited through exit B and then turned right and walked along a major road. The temple was on the other side of the road about five to ten minutes walk away. Che Kung Temple dates all the way back to the Ming Dynasty, though it has undergone major renovations and even reconstruction since then. The temple was built in honour of Che Kung, also known as General Che. He was a famous general who was rumoured to be able to clear up epidemics. Many years ago, during a major outbreak of disease in Sha Tin, people built his temple and apparently the epidemic ended as soon as it was complete. We could certainly do with him nowadays!!! I remember reading somewhere that it is considered good luck to come here before going to Sha Tin Racetrack and placing a bet. The statue of General Che in the centre of the temple is huge. He looks quite fierce and is holding a giant sword. At the entrance to the temple I saw lots of windmills. Apparently turning a windmill brings good luck.

Gateway to the temple.

Gateway to the temple.

Main temple building.

Main temple building.

Close up of main temple building.

Close up of main temple building.

Statues in grounds of temple.

Statues in grounds of temple.

General Che.

General Che.

General Che.

General Che.

Image inside the temple.

Image inside the temple.

Deities.

Deities.

Lucky windmills.

Lucky windmills.

Painting in temple.

Painting in temple.

Impressive Doorway.

Impressive Doorway.

Animal images on outer walls of temple.

Animal images on outer walls of temple.

Animal images on outer walls of temple.

Animal images on outer walls of temple.

Leaving the temple, I headed towards the MTR again, but I continued past it looking for Tsang Tai Uk - the Big House of the Tsangs. On the way I noticed a place with temperature control machines and leave home safe app devices at the entrance. If it hadn't had these, I wouldn't even have noticed it, but I went up and asked "What is in there?" And they said: "It's the four faced Buddha." I went in to take a look. They were very friendly inside and told me that the Buddah was a gift from Thailand, but there were signs up saying no photos everywhere, so I only got two pictures on the lower floor before I noticed all the signs.

At the shrine of the four faced Buddha.

At the shrine of the four faced Buddha.

At the shrine of the four faced Buddha.

At the shrine of the four faced Buddha.

I then continued on to Tsang Tai Uk. This is a Hakka walled village, which was built in 1847 by Tsang Koon-man, a stone mason. This compound was, and indeed still is, home to the Tsang Clan. The building is rectangular in shape with guard towers at each corner. These were once needed to defend the village against pirates. The village isn't a museum, it is still people's homes, so it's only possible to visit the central courtyard and the ancestral hall. Inside the compound there are some wells and pieces of old machinery. Apparently Prince Charles came here on a state visit to Hong Kong, due to his interest in architecture.

Tsang Tai UK.

Tsang Tai UK.

Tsang Tai UK.

Tsang Tai UK.

Earth god shrine outside the village.

Earth god shrine outside the village.

Central Courtard.

Central Courtard.

Central Courtard.

Central Courtard.

Doorway.

Doorway.

Doorway.

Doorway.

Doorway.

Doorway.

The ancestral hall.

The ancestral hall.

The ancestral hall.

The ancestral hall.

I think these are threshing machines.

I think these are threshing machines.

I think these are threshing machines.

I think these are threshing machines.

Next I walked to the Shing Mun River. Personally I felt this had improved a lot. When we lived here, it used to smell and there were always dead fish floating on the surface. We lived in Fo Tan and strangely coloured water- sometimes weird shades of green, sometimes blue - used to flow down the Fo Tan Nullah and into the river. This water came from Fo Tan's industrial zone. On this visit, I noticed live fish, lots of egrets and no bad smells. The Shing Mun River runs from Tai Wai, through Sha Tin Town Centre to the Tolo Harbour in Tai Po. There is a nice pedestrian bridge across the river called the Lek Yuen Bridge. Lek Yuen means source of clear water. The central Sha Tin area was known as this before the new town was built. Along one side of the river there's a long cycle track and behind that is Sha Tin Park.

Pedestrian bridge near Tai Wai.

Pedestrian bridge near Tai Wai.

Tall buildings reflected in the Shing Mun River.

Tall buildings reflected in the Shing Mun River.

Looking towards the Heritage Museum in Tai Wai.

Looking towards the Heritage Museum in Tai Wai.

Looking up the Shing Mun River towards the Lek Yuen Bridge.

Looking up the Shing Mun River towards the Lek Yuen Bridge.

Looking up the Shing Mun River towards the Lek Yuen Bridge.

Looking up the Shing Mun River towards the Lek Yuen Bridge.

When I lived in Sha Tin, I loved the park. I used to come here all the time. This park was created in 1988. My favourite parts are the Chinese gardens at each end. These have pagodas, bridges, waterfalls and pavilions. There are some statues in the central part of the park and behind these is Sha Tin Marriage Registry, Sha Tin Public Library and Sha Tin Town Hall.

Chinese Garden in North Sha Tin Park.

Chinese Garden in North Sha Tin Park.

Chinese Garden in North Sha Tin Park.

Chinese Garden in North Sha Tin Park.

Chinese Garden in North Sha Tin Park.

Chinese Garden in North Sha Tin Park.

Chinese Garden in North Sha Tin Park.

Chinese Garden in North Sha Tin Park.

Chinese Garden in North Sha Tin Park.

Chinese Garden in North Sha Tin Park.

Pond with waterlilies.

Pond with waterlilies.

Colourful flowers.

Colourful flowers.

Colourful flowers.

Colourful flowers.

Strange toadstool sculpture.

Strange toadstool sculpture.

Got the whole world in my hands.

Got the whole world in my hands.

These sculptures look like rings and they are outside the marriage registery.

These sculptures look like rings and they are outside the marriage registery.

Sculpture outside the town hall.

Sculpture outside the town hall.

Hong Kong has really embraced the idea of brightening up its drab concrete surfaces with murals. These were on the walls of the northern part of Sha Tin Park

Murals on the park walls.

Murals on the park walls.

Murals on the park walls.

Murals on the park walls.

Murals on the park walls.

Murals on the park walls.

Murals on the park walls.

Murals on the park walls.

Murals on the park walls.

Murals on the park walls.

Murals on the park walls.

Murals on the park walls.

Behind the park is New Town Plaza, a huge shopping mall where you can also find Sha Tin MTR Station on the East Rail Line. I used to go here on my commute to work every day. Outside the shopping mall on a third floor podium is Snoopy's World. I've always rather liked the Charlie Brown books, so I was happy to visit here and take some photos. This small theme park was created in 2000. It is free entry. There's a play area, canoe rides for small children, Snoopy's kennel, a school bus and school facade with clock and Snoopy town.

Snoopy's World.

Snoopy's World.

Snoopy asleep on his kennel.

Snoopy asleep on his kennel.

Charlie Brown at home.

Charlie Brown at home.

Charlie Brown at home.

Charlie Brown at home.

Snoopy's World.

Snoopy's World.

The School Bus.

The School Bus.

The School Bus.

The School Bus.

Snoopy and Woodstock.

Snoopy and Woodstock.

Charlie Brown fishing.

Charlie Brown fishing.

Charlie Brown fishing.

Charlie Brown fishing.

Apparently you can get married inside there.

Apparently you can get married inside there.

The Canoe Ride.

The Canoe Ride.

Peppermint Patty and Schroeder.

Peppermint Patty and Schroeder.

Snoopy, Charlie Brown and Lucy.

Snoopy, Charlie Brown and Lucy.

I then walked through New Town Plaza to the train station. I didn't go inside the station yet. Instead I exited through exit B and walked down a slope towards a minibus station. This is where I used to catch my minibus home from. To my left was Pai Tau Village. I used to walk past this every day. There are some attractive old houses here.

Pai Tau Village.

Pai Tau Village.

Pai Tau Village.

Pai Tau Village.

Pai Tau Village.

Pai Tau Village.

The walls next to this village are covered in colourful murals.

The first flight in Hong Kong took place in Sha Tin Airfield at 5:10pm on 18th March, 1911 when Belgian, Charles Van den Born, flew a 1910 Farman Mk II bi-plane named “Wanda”,  over the fields and water of Tolo Harbour.

The first flight in Hong Kong took place in Sha Tin Airfield at 5:10pm on 18th March, 1911 when Belgian, Charles Van den Born, flew a 1910 Farman Mk II bi-plane named “Wanda”, over the fields and water of Tolo Harbour.

Murals.

Murals.

There are some pagodas nearby.

There are some pagodas nearby.

Sha Tin is home to one of Hong Kong's two race courses.

Sha Tin is home to one of Hong Kong's two race courses.

Sha Tin was once a farming community.

Sha Tin was once a farming community.

Then housing estates were built.

Then housing estates were built.

Murals.

Murals.

Murals.

Murals.

When we lived in Sha Tin, one of the first things we did was visit the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - or so we have always thought. In reality we made a very common mistake we visited Po Fook Hill Columbarium instead. It's taken us a very embarrassing twenty-four years to realise this and it's not just us, many people make the same mistake. Why? Well when you exit the MTR and head towards the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, you will suddenly see an imposing archway guarded by lions, behind it on a hill there are pagodas, Buddha statues and animal statues. It looks exactly like a temple, but it isn't. It's a columbarium, which means it's a place to store the cremated ashes of your loved ones. The only signs for Po Fook Hill Columbarium are in Chinese. Nothing tells you what the building is in English. Then there's the fact that while most sights in Hong Kong are well-signposted, The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is not. Add to that the fact that the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is behind Po Fook Hill Columbarium and that the entrance to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is well-hidden and you can understand why the mix up happens.

To get up Po Fook Hill you can walk, ride an escalator or even ride in a Swiss built funicular. Po Fook Hill Columbarium is one of the largest public cemeteries in Hong Kong. It dates back to 1990 and contains the ashes of over one hundred thousand people. There are great views over Sha Tin from here making this place well worth a visit in its own right even if it isn't the famous monastery.

Entranceway to Po Fook Hill Columbarium.

Entranceway to Po Fook Hill Columbarium.

At the bottom of the hill there is a Tang Dynasty style garden. There's a turtle pond here as turtles symbolise longevity.

At the bottom of the hill there is a Tang Dynasty style garden. There's a turtle pond here as turtles symbolise longevity.

Tang Dynasty style garden.

Tang Dynasty style garden.

Shrine in the garden.

Shrine in the garden.

Pagoda.

Pagoda.

Pagoda and views.

Pagoda and views.

Pagoda and views.

Pagoda and views.

Looking up at the cemetery building.

Looking up at the cemetery building.

Cemetery building.

Cemetery building.

Terrace with statues.

Terrace with statues.

Pagoda

Pagoda

Cemetery building, perhaps you can see why I thought it was a temple.

Cemetery building, perhaps you can see why I thought it was a temple.

Cemetery building.

Cemetery building.

Shrine.

Shrine.

Shrine.

Shrine.

Buddha.

Buddha.

Buddha.

Buddha.

One of the areas where ashes are stored.

One of the areas where ashes are stored.

Views from the cemetery.

Views from the cemetery.

Views from the cemetery.

Views from the cemetery.

Views from the cemetery.

Views from the cemetery.

I already sort of knew that this building was not the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, because when I planned to visit Sha Tin I looked up some sights to remind myself about them and read an account of someone climbing over four hundred stairs to get to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. I thought: "Why didn't they just get on the escalator?" Then I looked at more reviews, some with pictures, and I thought: " I don't remember any of this."

To get to The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery it's necessary to go a little further on than the columbarium, then go left. There's a tall fence, still no signs and an insignificant looking path which leads to the monastery. The first sign I saw for the monastery was when I had arrived at it!

By the time I arrived at the monastery I had been wandering around in the sun for around three hours and I was now faced with more than four hundred steps to climb. I took it very, very slowly and I still felt utterly exhausted. Thank goodness I had brought lots of water with me.

The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery dates from the 1950's. It was founded by a monk called Yuet Kai and completed in 1957. It's not really a monastery as no monks actually live here. As you climb the steep stairways to the monastery, the path is lined with golden statues of arhuts, a kind of Buddhist Saint. Each one has a different expression, some look quite comical.

Yuet Kai , the founder of the monastery, moved to Hong Kong from Mainland China in 1933 and taught the principles of Buddhism here. The place where the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is currently located was at that time the site of a temple to Kwan Yin, goddess of mercy. Sadly one of the nuns at this temple was killed here during World War II. After the war, the land here was purchased by a local tobacco company, then the owner, obviously a devout Buddhist, donated it to Yuet Kai. He was meant to build a Buddhist college here, but ended up building a monastery instead.

Yuet Kai died in 1965, eight years after the monastery was complete. His body is said to have shown no signs of decay eight months after his death. It was then embalmed and placed inside the main monastery building where it is still exhibited to the present day. It's not possible to photograph this part of the monastery.

In 1997, during the Handover of Hong Kong back to China, when Peter and I lived in Sha Tin, we had terrible rain storms that lasted for days. There was a landslide at this monastery and the caretaker of the building was killed.

The monastery is located on two levels. The upper level has four halls dedicated to Kwan Yin and other Buddhist and Taoist deities, the lower level has a hall with the embalmed body of Yuet Kai and over ten thousand tiny Buddha statues. These are the images that give the monastery it's name. There is also a nine storey pagoda and two pavilions here.

More of the temple exists past the upper level buildings, but this area is closed and repair work is still being carried out due to the terrible landslide that occurred all those years ago.

Monastery sign.

Monastery sign.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

Arhuts.

The pathway is lined with golden arhut statues.

The pathway is lined with golden arhut statues.

The pathway is lined with golden arhut statues.

The pathway is lined with golden arhut statues.

Arhuts and view.

Arhuts and view.

Arhut and View.

Arhut and View.

Arhuts and pagoda.

Arhuts and pagoda.

Main Hall on lower level.

Main Hall on lower level.

A view over the lower level with its vegetarian restaurant.

A view over the lower level with its vegetarian restaurant.

Nine storey high pagoda.

Nine storey high pagoda.

Pavilion on the lower terrace.

Pavilion on the lower terrace.

Pavilion on the lower terrace.

Pavilion on the lower terrace.

Building at the upper level.

Building at the upper level.

Statues at the upper level.

Statues at the upper level.

Statues at the upper level.

Statues at the upper level.

Statues on the upper level.

Statues on the upper level.

View over Sha Tin from the monastery.

View over Sha Tin from the monastery.

When I had finished looking at the monastery, I headed back home. It was a huge relief to get back into the air-conditioning.

Posted by irenevt 02:43 Archived in Hong Kong

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Comments

Hello, Irene! Thanks for sharing your great exploration photographs. You are lucky to be able to enjoy that beauty nearby...

by Vic_IV

Hi Victor, thank you for visiting. Three more days of freedom then back to work.

by irenevt

Do you think General Che could stop the pandemic? That would be lovely.

Our school started here August 5th. It's been hard on the kids with the pandemic and all the fires around creating smoke even miles away. Today and yesterday, the wind changed direction so it was clear and nice.

by Beausoleil

Hi Sally, I certainly wish someone could. I hope they manage to get those fires out soon. Awful to think of all the damage they must be doing. All the best, Irene

by irenevt

You had a great weather to take photographs, those clouds looks amazing! :)

by hennaonthetrek

Hi Henna, As seems to be normal here in summer I had most weathers. It started off raining then changed to cloudy, then sunny just as I started my climb. Haha! Thanks for visiting.

by irenevt

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Login