Tin Hau Temple 坪洲天后宮 – Peng Chau, Hong Kong

TinHauTemplePengChauAfter the recent passing of my elderly grandmother, I went to Peng Chau (坪洲), one of the smaller islands of Hong Kong, for a day of healing in nature. I was happy to find this tiny gem of a temple, which was built in 1798 – it is located very close to the ferry pier and hard to miss.

The temple is dedicated to Tin Hau (天后), or Queen of Heaven. She is a Chinese goddess of the sea that lived as a shamaness in Fujian over one thousand years ago. She is believed to protect her believers and protect fishermen, sailors and others out at sea. Her worship exists throughout China’s coast regions and have spread with the Chinese from that area who have migrated overseas to locations such as Southeast Asia. She is known by many names, including Mazu (媽祖) and Mazupo (媽祖婆). 

Jacob, the new generation temple keeper, speaks English and is happy to show visitors how to burn incense to the deities within the temple in the correct order.

The Lady Chapel of Einsiedeln

This is my second trip this week to visit the Black Madonna of Einsiedeln. She sits in the Lady Chapel of Einsiedeln, which is made of black marble and lies inside of the Einsiedeln Abbey. Like many Black Madonnas, she is located in a natural energy centre where ancient goddesses, and perhaps Mother Earth herself, used to be worshipped. It’s hard not to feel the energy, especially after one steps into the Lady Chapel itself for prayer. Even the surrounding forest is reverberating with spiritual energy.

The Black Madonna of Einsiedeln is also known as the Our Lady of the Dark Forest, and there’s quite a story to go with this name. Some time in the ninth century, the famous German Monk St. Meinrad came to live in Einsiedeln when it was just a forest, taking nothing with him other than a Black Madonna. Thirty-three years after he arrived, he was murdered here, after which miracles were seen. The place which used to be his hermitage is now the Lady Chapel of Einsiedeln. Then in 948, St. Konrad the bishop of Konstanz was supposed to consecrate the Lady Chapel – the night before, he had a vision involving divine beings. The next day, he was told that he didn’t need to carry out the consecration, because the the chapel had already been divinely consecrated.

For centuries, the Black Madonna of Einsiedeln has been renowned for her ability to heal and work miracles. As I learned on Monday, after I told someone I was having lunch with that I intended to visit the Black Madonna of Einsiedln, this Black Madonna has the ability to grant women babies. So in addition to praying for myself, I lit candles for a couple of friends while I was here on Monday. Then today (Friday), I came back to light candles for others on my way back from the Crystal warehouse, where I was also getting Moonstones for a couple of friends and other nice ladies.

A magical place!

Montserrat

Easily accessible from Barcelona, the magical mountain of Montserrat, once home to a temple of Venus, is associated with numerous legends. The most famous of these legends is that of the Holy Grail – many people believe that Montserrat is Mont-Salvat, the location of the sacred chalice.

Another legend is that of the Madonna of Monsterrat, one of the Black Madonnas in Europe. Legend has it that, in 888, some shepherds saw some fireballs come out of a cave (now known as the “Santa Cova”) and found “La Moreneta.” They tried to move her to Manresa, but she began to weight more and more, indicating that she wanted to stay there. A monastery was built around her, the Santa Maria de Montserrat.

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After visiting Montserrat, I became fascinated with the mythos of the Black Madonna. Like the Madonna of Montserrat, the statues are usually of a holy mother and child, which were found under mystical conditions and coloured black. Some believe that local people hid their worship of the mother goddess as Christianity spread, and some of these statues were later found again and incorporated into Catholic socities as Madonnas.

With rock formations resembling antennas and subterranean caverns storing water, Montserrat is also known to be a location of powerful energy with inter-dimensional doors. It is a site of interest to those interested in alien abuductions and UFOs as well as those seeking to healing.

There is definitely something magical about the whole place, and I will be back again to explore the Santa Cova and other areas I did not have time to visit.

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Lingyin Temple (靈隱寺) and the Feilai Feng (飛來峰) grottoes

In November 2017, I also visited Lingyin Temple (靈隱寺) and the Feilai Feng (飛來峰) grottoes in Hangzhou (杭州).  The Chan (Zen) Buddhist temple is one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, and the serene environment is breathtakingly beautiful.  It was founded in 328 AD by an Indian monk known as Huili in Chinese.  The Japanese monk, Kūkai, who was the founder of the Shingon Buddhism once visited while he was studying in China.

 

Within the Feilai Feng (飛來峰) grottoes, the Feilai Feng (飛來峰) grottoes.  Numerous rock reliefs dot the surface of the peak and the inside of caves and grottoes throughout the peak.  The main cave, which is called Longhong Cave (龍泓洞) isdedicated to Guanyin – it is also known as the Cave Leading to the Sky or Guanyin Cave.  It has a crack in the ceiling – and the sliver of sunlight that can be seen from there is know as one “one thread of heaven” (一線天).

Putuoshan/Mount Putuo (普陀山)

In November 2017, I visit Putuoshan, also known as Mount Putuo, for the second time.  It is thought to be the home or bodhimanda of Guan Yin and one of the four sacred mountains in Chinese Buddhism – the others are Mount Wutai, Mount Jiuhua and Mount Emei.  It has been a pilgrimage site for over a thousand years.

 

I visited Puji Si (普濟寺), Fayu Si (法雨寺) and Huiji Si (慧濟寺), as well as the large Nanhai Guan Yin (南海觀音) statue, which is 33 metres tall and thought to have protected the area from large storms since it was installed.  I also visited the Bukenqu Guanyin Temple (不肯去觀音院), which is important to the founding of the mountain as the home of Guan Yin.  

The founding story is that a Japanese monk made the journey from Japan to Wutai Shan in China.  He wanted to bring a Guan Yin statue back to Japan so that the Japanese people could learn about Guan Yin, but when he got to Putuoshan, he could sail no further.  He believed that Guan Yin wanted to stay on the island, and that is how Putuoshan came to be known as the home of Guanyin.  Since then, numerous renowned people have visited Putuoshan, including the Chan master known as Ingen in Japan (a monk from China who founded the Ōbaku school of Zen) and Taixu (a monk considered to be the most important figure in the history of modern Chinese Buddhism).

 

Tsz Shan Monastery (慈山寺) in Hong Kong

In November 2017, I visited Tsz Shan Monastery, a stunning, 500,000 square foot complex designed based on Tang Dynasty monastic architecture. The monastery is dedicated to Guan Yin, and the 76-meter tall statue at the monastery is the world’s tallest bronze Guan Yin monastery. Unlike most other monasteries, Tsz Shan Monastery is incense free, and one uses water in its place to pay respect to Guan Yin.

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Please note that visitors need to make an online reservation in advance to ensure a peaceful, tranquil environment.  I booked weeks in advance at their

website here:
http://booking.tszshan.org/

To get there, take the MTR to the Tai Po Market Station.  Then catch one of the minibuses going towards the monastery, such as 75K or 75T, and follow the road to get to the monastery.  It is important to make sure one shows up in advance of the entrance time.

Lin Fa Temple

In April 2017, I also visited Lin Fa Temple, also known as Lin Fa Kung (蓮花宮).  It is a small temple, which was constructed for worship on Guan Yin (Kwun Yam) in 1863, during the Qing dynasty, after Guan Yin showed up on a boulder in the spot where the temple now stands.  Inside of the temple, you can actually see this Lotus Rock, which the temple is built on/around.  When I visited, I also noted that many people were waiting for their fortunes to be told by an oracle, using the traditional yarrow sticks and the I-Ching.  All three windows a pair of Chinese couplets on each side, celebrating nature and Kwan Yin.

Mount Kinabalu

In May 2017, I visited Mount Kinabalu (Gunung Kinabalu), which is located in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.  Together with the rest of Kinabalu Park (Taman Kinabalu), it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It is a spiritually significant mountain, for multiple reasons.  Not only does the mountain have a spirit, local people of different ethnicities believe that ancestors’ spirits reside atop this mountain. Another belief is that the mountain is named “Chinese widow”, after a local woman who died there after years of waiting for her husband to return from China.

Here is a photo of Mount Kinabalu, viewed from a look-out point, right before it was covered in clouds.

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Here are some photos taken in Kinabalu Park.  The energy is unbelievable, just magical, and I can still hear the sound of the cicadas.  I took it as an auspicious sign when we saw an Rafflesia arnoldii.  It is the world’s largest flower and a rare sight due to the particular conditions under which it must grow.

Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage 西国三十三所

On this trip, in April 2017, I was only able to visit five of the 33 temples which form the the Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage (西国三十三所, Saigoku Sanjūsan-sho).  This is the oldest pilgrimage trail of Japan, 1300 years old.  I have set the intention to return to the Kansai area to continue on this pilgrimage.

Ishiyama-dera 石山寺

This temple is #13 of the Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage and built around 747 CE.  It is located in Otsu, Shiga.  Lucky for us and others who do not have enough time to complete the full pilgrimage in one trip, there is a mini-Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage with a forest walk containing thirty-three small Kannon statues, one representing each of the temples that are part of the pilgrimage. The photo here is of a Kannon statue representing #33 (I can neither remember nor see which one I posed with).

 

Hase-dera 長谷寺

The temple is #8 of the Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage and is located in Sakura, Nara Prefecture.  It was first built in 686 CE and features a statue of the eleven-faced Kannon, which is 9.3 metres tall. I paid an extra fee to go into the hall and touch the feet of the statue.

 

Ki-mii-dera 紀三井寺

The temple is #2 of the Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage and is located in Wakayama, Wakayama.  It was founded in 770 CE by Iko, a holy priest from China.  This temple enjoyed must prestige and was visited by numerous emperors.  One must climb 231 steps to reach the main temple area.

 

Kokawa-dera 粉河寺

The temple is #3 of the Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage and is located in Kinokawa, Wakayama.  It was founded in  the temple was founded in 770 CE by Otomo no Kujiko, a hunter.

 

Katsuō-ji 勝尾寺

The temple is #23 of the Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage and located in Minoh, Osaka.  It was built in 765 CE by Prince Kaijō, with the help of the priests, Zenchu and Zensan.  I hiked up there via the waterfall in Minoh, and it was quite tough but well worth it – it ended up being my favourite temple on this visit.