The birthday of Lord Buddha is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Hong Kong, as well as being a national holiday.
This year, Buddha’s Birthday falls on May 12, and Buddhist temples all across Hong Kong hang lanterns, burn incense, and give offerings in preparation for the big day.
It is also known as the ‘Bathing of the Buddha’ Festival. According to Buddhist legend, when the baby Buddha was born, nine dragons sprayed water to bathe him. Today, worshippers and devotees visit Buddhist temples to pour water over statues of Buddha in a cleansing ritual for purifying the soul.
A great place to see the festivities is the Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan ‘Big Buddha’, on Lantau Island. Inside the Main Shrine Hall of Po Lin Monastery, worshippers can participate in the ceremony to wash and cleanse a statue of the Buddha in a basin of scented water. And all around the Big Buddha statue you will find devotees in deep prayer, as well as cultural performances. Be sure to read our guide to visiting the Big Buddha, and the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car.
In Kowloon, you can also observe the ceremonies at the beautiful and tranquil Chi Lin Nunnery, where female monks live and worship. Be sure to also visit the adjoining Nan Lian Gardens, with its iconic red bridge and golden pavilion.
A bit further north, in Sha Tin, is the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, a unique site in Hong Kong, thanks to its thousands and thousands of Buddha statues, most notably the life-sized golden statues along the steep path to the monastery. Every year, the temple serves vegetarian noodle dishes to visitors on Buddha’s Birthday.
There are said to be more than 500,000 Buddhists living in Hong Kong, so on this day you are sure to see activities taking place in every Buddhist temple, big or small, all over the territory.