Saturday, 27 February 2010

Kek Lok Si's Kuan Yin pavilion

Ahh...the Temple Of Supreme Bliss. That's the Kek Lok Si Temple in Ayer Itam, Penang. I'm greatly awed by the sheer size of the gigantic statue of Kuan Yin there.  

Went there on Friday evening and saw for myself the magnificence of this statue, lit up in all its splendour together with the rest of the temple complex. The statue used to be unsheltered from the elements until the temple trustees decided to build a pavilion over it. If I thought the Kuan Yin statue was big enough, I wasn't prepared for the gargantuan size of the pavilion. It's immense, rising some 270 feet from the base to its tip. That's even over-shadowing the Kuan Yin statue. Three layers of roof rest on 16 carved columns. Dragon pillars, I believe they are called. An immense engineering feat that calls for the columns to support the weight of the roof which I hope can do its job to shelter the statue from nature's elements. The pavilion was finished last year and consecrated on 8 Dec 2009 amidst a lot of chanting ceremonies.

So there I was, joining a very queue of cars patiently driving along Ayer Itam from the direction of the city. Obviously, a lot of people had the same idea in mind: to visit Kek Lok Si. Therefore, even though it was already more than three weeks since the lights at the temple complex had been switched on for Chinese New Year, throngs of people are still arriving to visit the place.

From as far as the Chung Ling High School, I noticed the pavilion lights for the first time. This was even before we reached the Ayer Itam roundabout. This says a lot for the statue and its pavilion's strategic location on the hill slopes of Penang Hill.

Needless to say, the Ayer Itam village was jammed and traffic on the road leading up to the Kek Lok Si moved along so very slowly. Basically, it was a stop and go all the way. The first car park was full and we had to divert to the second car park. But I was really surprised by the road's steep inclination. It wasn't that apparent to us when we drove up but when we were coming down, we saw how steep the incline was.

Parking the car here was actually a god send because that was where the Kuan Yin statue was located. We didn't have to enter from the front and fight with the crowd to take the temple's short inclined lift ride. We stepped out of the car and there it was, a 120-foot tall bronze Kuan Yin towering above us, reputedly the tallest suxh statue in the world. Ironically, after enduring a two-hour drive up to the temple, it took us only about an hour to appreciate the place. No, we did not queue up to take the temple's lift down to the lower level to visit the pagoda or gape at the lanterns and lights.Had already done that last year. This year, we only wanted to visit the Kuan Yin statue. Now, it's done.

As to be expected, the sheer size of the statue means that even the tallest people are dwarfed by comparison. When we were at the pavilion, a group of visitors were going around the base of the Kuan Yin Statue, dropping a 10 cent coin into every one of the alms bowls. I was told that there are 108 of them.

To this lady, it was insufficient to just walk around the base. At every alms bowl, she would prostrate herself and only then, drop a coin into it. She did it 108 times. That's devotion for you, that's complete surrender to the Kuan Yin.

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