Chi Lin Nunnery

Chi Lin Nunnery
Chi Lin Nunnery - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f5.6, 1/2500s.

This place is one which I did not know even existed until I came across a wallpaper site with some interesting shots of some classical architecture, and after some digging I found out where it was, and added it to the must visit list.

As part of my digging after finding the location was that the nunnery is attached to the Nan Lian Gardens, which includes several attractions that are of special interest to me, these are; the stunning Yuanman Pavilion, and the Chinese Timber Architecture Gallery.

Diamond Hill
Diamond Hill MTR June 2024

First, its breakfast time, as it is quite a hike out to Diamond Hill, where the nunnery is located, so first the ferry to Central, then staying on the water, across the harbour on the star ferry, and finally to East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station for the six stops trip to Diamond Hill.

Diamond Hill MTR station is at the Plaza Hollywood, yet another modern, air-conditioned shopping centre that is worth a look. Yes, there are many, many of these sort of centres all over the place; they range from mediocre to world-class. As for which is this, well, that's your call 😉

Anyhow, it was time to find the Nunnery, and this time, that was not a painful experience. Finding the Peak Tram station from central, where the signs were "interesting", a real case of going this way, then nothing, then going a different way.

The first issue was down to me; leaving the Plaza Holywood, I saw water falling and thought, why me? More rain. But in this case, it was just water dripping from the roof of the building and not actually rain.

Crossing the street, the real rain started, but looking at the sky, I guessed it was not going to last, and for once, I was right, and it only lasted a few minutes.

Sheltering from the showers under a freeway overpass and looking around, I spotted the entrance to Nan Lian Gardens, which, at that point, I did not fully understand how it was linked to the Nunnery and made a note to check it out on the way back.

Nan Lian Gardens
Nan Lian Gardens Gate - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f6.3, 1/160s.

Not too far in the distance, there's the first sign of the Nunnery, but ouch, my bad knees are dreading all those steps; but no choice and things do look interesting at the top.

Chi Lin Nunnery
Chi Lin Nunnery - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f6.3, 1/160s.

Heading for the crossing to get over the street and take on the steps, I spotted a sign talking about a lift to the Nunnery. Phew, someone someplace must have known I was coming 👍

Exiting the lift and looking around the first thing I see, through the gloom, is the top of a pagoda, not sure if it's part of the Nunnery but something else to note to go have a look at on the way back.

Pagoda and Gardens - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f6.3, 1/160s.

Note the barrier across the bottom of the red bridge, Hmmm I have a bad feeling. More on that one later.

Anyhow, on to the Nunnery, which looks even more impressive up close.

Chi Lin Nunnery
Chi Lin Nunnery - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f5.6, 1/2500s.

Heading in, there is a very impressive-looking courtyard, complete with what I call relaxation pools and a covered walkway around the edges. And shock, horror, the rain had actually more or less stopped.

Chi Lin Nunnery
Chi Lin Nunnery - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f5.6, 1/2500s.

Displayed in the covered walkway is an interesting display of polished minerals, each with a quote from various sources. I did shoot most of them, and may put a dedicated gallery, until that happens here are a few examples.

Diamond Hill
A stream flows downhill with no purpose,
a cloud drifts into the mountain cave with no plan.
If life is lived as a cloud and a stream,
the iron tree will blossom to usher in the sprint.
*from Ancient Chan Masters Sayings
Diamond Hill
A man of faith utters no empty words.
He does what he says,
without conceit and arrogance.
* by Master Yin Guang

I did spend a fair amount of time wandering around and reading the quotations, which, given my interest in Asian history, was time well spent.

One interesting thing was, I expected crowds, as while researching the visit, there were warnings, although especially on the weekends, and I was visiting during the week.

My best guess is a combination of the day of the week, and the weather deterred the usual crowds; as for my visit so far, there have been very few people around, just some security guards who nodded hello as I walked past them.

And no, it would take way more than some rain to deter me, maybe a typhoon, but not just rain. 🌧️

Moving on from the mineral displays, there were steps up to the next area, but seeing a "closed" sign, I hesitated; a guard at the top of the steps said "ok" and expressed sympathy after it took me a while to get up the steps.

Chi Lin Nunnery
Chi Lin Nunnery - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f5.6, 1/2500s.

At the top of the steps is another courtyard; this time, around the outside, are multiple places of worship, which, as always, I treat with respect, although in this case, I must have missed the no-photo signs, as I was about to take a shot when a guard stopped me.

And no, I was not yelled at; it was just a polite "no," to which I acknowledged and put the camera down. If the guard had been closer, I would have apologised.

So no photos, this is not a red flag, and from personal experience not unusual when it comes to temples and/or other places of worship. All I can say is it all depends on where you are; for example, quite a few temples I have been in do allow photography, but no flash or tripod allowed. Just keep an eye out for signs and if there is anyone around, ask if unsure.

After several hours of looking around the Nunnery, it was time to head back out and have a look at those gardens.

Gardens Map
Nan Lian Gardens Lap - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f5.6, 1/2500s.

I researched those gardens once I made it back to my hotel, and it seems they are a project from the Nunnery and the HK government.

Diamond Hill
Steps Water Feature June 2024

Leaving the Nunnery via the same gate used to enter, the Gardens were at the other end of the bridge over the road.

The bad news, more steps to deal with; oh well, the knees need the exercise. 😟

Making it to the bottom of the steps and passing someone taking selfies, who gave me the "crazy tourist" look on seeing how carefully I was moving down.

Now, rather than head straight for the pagoda and not yet having seen any map, I spotted what seemed to be a loop walk around the gardens, a no-brainer, and best of all, it seemed to be flat.

Following the path, the first stop was a garden of Bonsai trees, leading to a building with more polished minerals.

The Bonsai trees are the first quality examples I have seen outside Japan from the 90s, and these are some good examples. Well, I think so 😁

Chi Lin Nunnery
Bonsai Trees - June 2024 Samsung SM-S908E, 6.4mm, f1.8, 1/850s.

While I did go in and have a look at the mineral display, I was less impressed than I was with the previous display in the main Nunnery.

Moving on past the mineral displays, there is a gift shop with some very high-end offerings. It is expensive but very high quality; if time allows, go in and have a look.

Continuing on the loop path, I started to hear flowing water, and saw a waterfall, and getting closer it seems to be a restaurant behind the waterfall. Interesting, yes, but no real interest for me.

The Mill
The Mill - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f5.6, 1/800s.

Interestingly, the building on the left gives me "Japanese" rather than "Chinese" vibes. Not sure why, and something to research. Anyhow, getting closer, it seems this is just a shell rather than a full recreation of a historical structure.

Water Wheel
Water Wheel - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f5.6, 1/320s.

Moving further on, there is a pond with a waterwheel; not sure why, maybe just for the outlook from the restaurant. Regardless, it's quite well done.

Looking around, I spotted something way better, this time giving more Chinese than Japanese vibes and more like the relaxing gardens I always enjoy.

Koi Pond
Bridge - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f5.6, 1/500s.

Moving on, the walk way curved around closer to the pond at the center of the gardens, and now comes the best part, the relaxing environment I really enjoy when visiting gardens like this.

Koi Pond
Koi Pond - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f5.6, 1/500s.
Koi Pond
Koi Pond - June 2024 Samsung SM-S908E, 6.4mm, f1.8, 1/280s.

And yes, I did spend a fair amount of time just taking in the environment and only decided to move on when the first few drops of rain hit me.

Oh well, it's time to go have a closer look at the Pagoda I spotted on my way in. Which where the annoyance started. Not only was it starting to rain, but the Pagoda was closed for maintenance.

Pagoda - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f5.6, 1/500s.

Ok, it's closed for maintenance, but did they have to put the extra high part of the fence to stop people looking over the top? It is very annoying, but I am sure they have their reasons for doing this.

Moving on, and not wanting to get even wetter, there was another part of the gardens that I noted on one of the layout maps: the "Chinese Timber Architecture Gallery," which, given my interest in carpentry, is a must-visit.

I have had an interest in a technique called Doungong for many years, and I find how it works to be fascinating. So a gallery with, I hope, examples of this should be good, and with the building looking this good, things are looking promising.

Timber Gallery
Chinese Timber Architecture Gallery - June 2024 Nikon D850, 28-70@28mm, f5.6, 1/500s.

Heading in, there are some very impressive models and some information showing how the construction works.

Talking of models, this one is the Nunnery's main hall, which I had been visiting earlier in the day.

Impressive attention to detail; someone really put their all into this model, and yes, I would really like to see how it's put together.

Timber Gallery
Main Hall, Chi Lin Nunnery - June 2024 Samsung SM-S908E, 6.4mm, f1.8, 1/120s.

Then comes the highlight, a diagram of the cross-section of the hall, which shows the various architectural elements. And yes, I spent a while checking this out.

Timber Gallery
Main Hall, Chi Lin Nunnery, Cross Section - June 2024 Samsung SM-S908E, 6.4mm, f1.8, 1/120s.

Finally, some information showing some of the joinery techniques used. Again very interesting to me.

Timber Gallery
Joinery examples - June 2024 Samsung SM-S908E, 6.4mm, f1.8, 1/120s.

Yes, there were many additional models, including some life-size examples of the joinery. But this page is already way too long, so I will put these into a dedicated photo gallery and link it here.

I am planning to put more of the mountain of photos I took both in the gardens and at the Nunnery proper into a new photo gallery, and link it here.

After a good day visiting the Nunnery and Gardens, the rain had started again, with some thunder in the distance, so it was time to head back to the hotel.

My closing thoughts are; it is highly recommended, to the point that if you are visiting HK, add this to the must-visit list.