The city of Sanya, located at the southern end of the island of Hainan, is often referred to as “Hawaii of China”, due to its unique distinction of being the only tropical city in the country.
I had the opportunity to visit Sanya during a family trip to Hainan Island, the ancestral home of my in-laws, in December 2017, long before the Covid-19 pandemic that hit the world whole.
While there are many places to visit in Sanya (especially its famous bays and sandy beaches), one particular place I would like to talk about is the Nanshan Temple, and one of its most famous landmarks, the Statue of the 108 m high goddess. of Mercy or Guan Yin.
Located about 40 km from the main district, this temple is only part of an entire 27ha area known as the Nanshan Cultural Tourism Zone, which consists of three parks. Each park has a special theme, and Nanshan Buddhist Culture Park is where you can find Nanshan Temple.
As we were fully aware of the colossal size of this park, we decided to focus only on the temple, where the statue was located. Nanshan Temple sits at the foot of Nanshan (or Southern Mountain), which was considered a longevity mountain in Chinese mythology. It is also said to inspire the popular Chinese greeting frequently pronounced on birthdays: “Fu ru dong hai, shou bi nan shan” (literally translated as “good fortune as much as the East Sea; longevity as high as Nanshan” ).
The temple was built in 1998, so it can be said that it is quite new.
Nanshan Temple is 188m wide from east to west and 416m long from south to north. The entrance to the temple is on the north side, while the statue is on the south end.
We enjoyed our slow walk inside the temple, while also appreciating the other landmarks along the way, such as the rotating urns (where worshipers touch the urns for blessings), as well as several giant statues of Guan Yin, randomly placed throughout the temple grounds.
Inside the temple, we never lost sight of the main statue. We could see her no matter where we went in the temple.
The statue is located on an artificial island about 200 m from the temple grounds and is connected by a connecting bridge.
The marble statue consists of not one, but three figures of the goddess, each facing a different direction and having different hand poses (representing peace, wisdom and mercy). Depending on the angle you view the statue from, you can usually see up to two of the three goddess figures at a time.
At 108m high, this statue is even higher than the Statue of Liberty in New York, which rises to 93m.
The statue of the goddess stands on a bronze lotus, and under the lotus is the main prayer hall of Nanshan Temple. The highest point that visitors can reach is the lotus, where one can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding South China Sea.
Inside the prayer hall, there are thousands of other statues and figurines of the goddess of various sizes, constructions and appearances, including a 3.8m high gold statue in the center of the hall. .
You can also go up to the observation deck on the lotus. However, the road to the lotus is surprisingly long, and you would have to go through several long corridors surrounded by golden Guan Yin idols, as well as multiple stairs, some of them very narrow!
When you finally reach the lotus platform, the first thing you will see are Guan Yin’s feet. Some devotees would touch the toes of the goddess for a blessing or two.
The observation deck offers a magnificent view of the South China Sea and beyond.
After stepping down from the statue, we walked back to the main entrance, passing a few other notable sites within the temple grounds such as the Bodhi Tree Garden and even a temple of the god of prosperity.
All in all, Nanshan Temple is truly a wonderful place to visit whether you are a Buddhist or not, as this is where you can learn more about Buddhist culture.
The opinions expressed are entirely those of the reader.
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