Tsing Shan Monastery, Tuen Mun
Tsing Shan Monastery is one of the oldest and most revered monasteries in Hong Kong (there are many here). Thought to have been established over 1500 years ago (it’s so old I don’t understand why the HK Govt hasn’t knocked it down to make way for some nice luxury apartments!!). It sits about halfway up Castle Peak – a mountain that sits at the Western edge of Hong Kong’s New Territories.
Upon entering the Monastery, visitors will see the engraved characters “香海名山” (in Cantonese this read as ‘Heung Hoi Ming Saan’ which basically translates as “Fragrant Sea, Prestigious Hill”), a poetic inscription by the (then) Governor – Sir Cecil Clementi.
The founding of the monastery stems from a legend surrounding an Indian Buddhist monk who supposedly traveled around in a wooden tea cup (he must have been pretty small then – or liked his tea in large quantities). He came upon Castle Peak and was attracted by the peace and serenity – a fact still noticeable today, 1500 years later – and decided to stay, building a small cottage for himself so he could continue his devout religious practice without getting wet in Hong Kong’s torrential monsoon downpours.
The monks name was Pui To, which I have been told in the literature, means ‘to travel by cup’ (‘pui’, or more accurately ‘bui’, is Cantonese for ‘cup’) and as he became renowned his followers built him a shrine in a nearby cave – Pui To Cave – one of the sacred areas in the monastery compound. There is some disagreement about when this cave shrine was created but regardless of exact age it’s pretty old which is good going for anything in Hong Kong.
Another lesser known fact about Tsing Shan Monastery is that it was used as a location for my favoruite film: Enter the Dragon. “Lao’s Time” (a.k.a the “Kick me” scene) was shot here, as was Bruce’s chat with Roy Chiao’s monk character and of course the tea with Braithewaite. The location, situated up the hill behind the main monastery complex, has changed surprisingly little. With the exception of some trees that have failed to stand the test of time the place looks as it did back in 1973.