Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden

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Name in Chinese: 志蓮淨苑 (Chi Lin Nunnery) / 南蓮園池 (Nan Lian Garden)
Area: Diamond Hill
Address: 5 Chi Lin Dr, Diamond Hill, Hong Kong [map]
Phone: 852 2354 1888 852 2354 1888
Access: 463 m from Diamond Hill Kwun Tong Line
0.7 km from Choi Hung Kwun Tong Line
1.3 km from Wong Tai Sin Kwun Tong Line
Hours: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
Admission: Free
Accessibility options: Premises are wheelchair accessible
Website: http://www.chilin.org%20/%20http://www.nanli...

Hong Kong’s crowds can get overwhelming, so if you need a break, find yourself a bit of zen at the lovely Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden.

Located in the Diamond Hill area of Kowloon, it is easily accessed from Diamond Hill MTR Station, which is about a five-minute walk away.

Chi Lin Nunnery
Chi Lin Nunnery | Photo by Karl Jamoralin used under CC

The nunnery has been a retreat for Buddhist nuns since the 1930s, but in the 1990s the halls were rebuilt using traditional Tang Dynasty architecture. But there’s one unique feature—the wooden halls were built without using a single nail. Instead, the cypress wooden beams all interlock perfectly, making it the world’s largest ‘handmade’ wooden building, and the only one of its kind in Hong Kong.

Chi Lin Nunnery
Chi Lin Nunnery | Photo by Gonzalo Pineda Zuniga used under CC

It’s a tranquil walk around the compound, through a series of large gates, with the first courtyard leading you to the beautiful Lotus Pond Garden, with manicured bonsai trees, intricate carvings, and stone lion heads, spurting out water in the fountain. The second courtyard takes you to the very impressive Hall of Celestial Kings. Be aware that you can look inside the prayer halls, but photography is not allowed. As this is a place of worship, visitors should dress appropriately.

The courtyards, which are open for free to the public daily from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, are all meticulously maintained, with every rock, bonsai, fountain and statue specifically placed to achieve harmony with nature. You can sometimes catch a glimpse of the some of the nuns who live there, going about their duties. Thankfully, despite its beauty, the nunnery and the adjacent gardens are rarely crowded.

Nan Lian Garden
Nan Lian Garden | Photo by ginomempin used under CC

Chi Lin Nunnery is connected by a pedestrian footbridge to Nan Lian Gardens, where a one-way walking path takes you through ornate gates that circle a pond, in the middle of which is a red bridge, leading to the Pavilion of Absolute Perfection. This is without a doubt the most photographic spot, and one full of contrast, with the golden pavilion shining in the sun, framed by Hong Kong’s ubiquitous dull high rises, and lush green mountains.

Nan Lian Garden, Hong Kong
Photo by Anna & Michal used under CC

Within Nan Lian Gardens you can sample some Chinese tea at the Song Cha Xia tea house, while sitting on the lovely verandah overlooking the ponds. But even better is the vegetarian restaurant Long Men Lou, discreetly tucked away behind the waterfall, which serves lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner.