The Tian Tan Big Buddha (天坛大佛) statue, commonly known as the Big Buddha statue, is a popular attraction in Hong Kong. It is a 34 meters bronze statue located at Ngong Ping, Lantau Island. The statue is built on a base platform known as the “tian tan” (literally Altar of Heaven), which is why it is called the “Tian Tan Big Buddha Statue”. This majestic statue was completed in 1989.
For those of you who are interested in religious symbolism, each of the Buddha statue’s features has a symbolic meaning. For example, the left hand is in the mudra of “fulfilling wishes”, which represents the Buddha’s vow to grant blessing and happiness to all. To read more about the statue’s symbolism, as well as the fascinating history of how the statue came to be, you can visit the Po Lin Monastery official site.
How to get there?
Take the MTR to Tung Chung Station and go out through Exit B. After that, walk towards the Tung Chung Cable Car Terminal which is near the MTR station. The walk should take less than 5 minutes. From there, there are two ways to reach the Big Buddha.
1. Take the bus
You can take the New Lantau Bus (NLB) No. 1R or 23 to Ngong Ping Village and walk to the Big Buddha statue. If you are unsure, just ask the locals and they will be more than willing to help. You can buy the bus tickets on the day itself.
Estimated time: 50 minutes
Cost: HKD 17.20 (Weekdays), HKD 27 (Weekends/Public Holidays)
2. Take the cable car
I would recommend this option. Raevian and I bought round-trip tickets for the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car. The cable car will bring you to Ngong Pong village and you can walk to the Big Buddha statue from there. You will get to enjoy 360 degrees of view encompassing the vast green hills, the Hong Kong International Airport, and the South China Sea.
However, be sure to go early to avoid the horrendously long queue. We arrived in the late afternoon on a weekend and had to turn back because the queue was too long (the staff told us that the waiting time would be 1.5 to 2 hours!). We went back on another weekday morning and this time round we queued for about half an hour.
You can also buy the tickets online. According to the Ngong Ping 360 website, if you book online, you will be able to skip the queue and enjoy a discounted rate. However, we did not use this method; do let us know your experience in the comments below if you did.
Estimated Time: 25 minutes
10:00am – 6:00pm (Weekdays)
9:00am – 6.30pm (Weekends and Public Holidays)
*Be sure to check the Ngong Ping website before you visit because the cable car is closed for maintenance on certain days.
Things to do
This was a fun experience. We bought the 1+1 round trip package which consists of a one-way crystal cabin ticket and a one-way standard cabin ticket. Taking the cable car gives you magnificent views of the Big Buddha statue. For the way up, we took the crystal cabin. Basically, this is a cabin with a thick see-through glass floor. So other than the beautiful surrounding views, you also get to see the view beneath your cable car. It felt a little strange in the beginning for me (I have a small phobia of heights). But before long, I got used to it and started snapping pictures of my feet on the glass floor like Raevian and everyone else in the cabin. The wind can get quite strong so be prepared for air drafts from the small vents on the sides of the cable car.
Ngong Ping Village
We reached Ngong Ping village after 25 minutes on the cable car. According to the Ngong Ping 360 site this is supposed to be a “culturally themed village which reflects the cultural and spiritual integrity of Ngong Ping”. However, it felt more like a nice little touristy establishment with many shops selling souvenirs and food. There is even a spa and a Starbucks outlet. We had to walk through this stretch before reaching the Big Buddha. Raevian and I didn’t really spend much time here as we felt it was more of a tourist trap.
Twelve Divine Generals Statues
We also saw The Twelve Divine Generals statues, with six lined up on each side of the road. Above is my poor imitation of one of the generals. Essentially, these are the twelve bodyguards of the Imperial Heaven in Buddhist mythology. Each general corresponds to a respective zodiac and weapon, and each is responsible for protecting a two-hour section of the day. I wondered if this meant they had two-hour workdays. If so that’s pretty good working hours!
Finally, we reached the base of the 268 steps leading up to the Big Buddha statue. After taking a couple of photos with the Big Buddha in the background, we took a deep breath and began our mini-pilgrimage up the steps. Halfway up, I nearly incurred Raevian’s wrath when I happily expounded to her on the religious symbolism of the Buddha statue’s features while she was struggling up the never-ending steps. A simple glare from her triggered the survival instinct in me to quickly carry her camera and tripod-stand to lighten her load.
The Big Buddha statue is open for visiting from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM. It is free to visit the statue but you need to pay an entrance fee of HKD 25 for the exhibition halls. If you top up the amount to HKD 100, you can get to enjoy a vegetarian meal at the Po Lin Monastery. We decided to skip that, as we needed some meat to replenish our energy after climbing those 268 steps.
Other attractions on Lantau Island
Other than climbing to see the Big Buddha statue and walking shortly around the premise (Ngong Ping village and Po Lin Monastery are on the same premise), we did not visit the other attractions on Lantau island. This is because we were not interested in those and our main goal was just to see the statue. And Raevian couldn’t wait to get done so she could execute her much-anticipated shopping plan of attack at Citygate Outlets (right beside Tung Chung MTR Station). Below are some of the other attractions on Lantau island if you are interested.
The Wisdom Path: Near the Big Buddha statue. This is a series of 38 tall wooden columns with inscriptions of the Heart Sutra (a centuries-old text revered by Confucians, Buddhists and Taoists).
Lantau Outdoor Activities: Palm beach, Tung Chong Fort, Ngong Ping Nature Centre, among others. You can visit the Ngong Ping 360 website for more details.
Nearby attractions: Citygate Outlets and Disneyland.
If you are planning your itinerary, it would make sense to schedule Disneyland, Citygate Outlets, and the Big Buddha statue on the same day. This is because the Disneyland Resort MTR station is just two stops away from Tung Chung MTR Station, and Citygate Outlets is right beside Tung Chung MTR Station. From the station, you can then simply walk 5 minutes to the Tung Chung Cable Car Terminal and take the bus/cable car to see the Big Buddha statue (see above, “How to get there?”).
Is the Big Buddha statue worth visiting?
Definitely yes. The Tian Tan Big Buddha statue is worth visiting because it is a majestic piece of Buddhist sculptural bronze art which embodies the harmonious Buddhist spirit. It towers above the surrounding tranquil greenery and is both awe-inspiring and beautiful at the same time. In addition, it is a culturally significant monument that took many years of planning and building before it was completed. However, be prepared to spend at least half a day there (travelling to and fro the island, climbing to see the Buddha, waiting times for bus/cable car).
Tian Tan Big Buddha Statue
大嶼山昂坪, Hong Kong
Tel:+852 2985 5248
Museum Opening Hours
Daily: 10:00 am to 5:30 pm