Hong Kong has no shortage of temples and prides itself on being a melting pot of cultures. Whether it’s Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim or Sikh, there’s bound to be one in every neighbourhood you step into across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories and even the outlying islands. Some temples have become popular tourist attractions like Man Mo Temple and Po Lin Monastery thanks to their fascinating history and intricate architectural design. To make things easier, we’ve rounded up the most beautiful and historically significant temples in Hong Kong that are worthy of a visit at least once in your lifetime.
RECOMMENDED: If you’re a history buff, make sure you make time for a trip to Hong Kong’s best museums, and Hong Kong’s oldest buildings and structures.
Hong Kong temple guide
The name is a bit of misleading as there are actually 12,000 Buddhas statues at the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery. Walk up the 431 steps, which are lined with life-sized, gold-painted, unique Buddha statues, before reaching the complex at the top known as Man Fat Sze. Inside, you’ll be dazzled by many more gilded statues, as well as gorgeous pavilions and a crimson pagoda – not to mention the Instagram-worthy panorama of Sha Tin and its mountainous surrounds.
Rebuilt in 1998 in the style of the Tang Dynasty, Chi Lin Nunnery is a large temple complex that boasts elegant wooden architecture and serene lotus ponds. Several temple halls and buildings form part of the complex where treasured Buddhist relics are kept. Chi Lin Nunnery also houses the popular Nan Lian Garden.
A serene oasis located in Tuen Mun, this Taoist temple is surrounded by bonsai trees, an intricate rock garden, pagodas, pavilions, as well as fish ponds, making it one of the most peaceful spots in town. The temple houses the remains of many of its former community members, but the crowning glory of Ching Chung Koon is no doubt the lanterns gifted by Beijing’s Forbidden City. Don’t miss the popular annual bonsai festival, which is usually held during April or May, to view spectacular and artistically shaped trees.
Situated on the outlying island of Kau Sai Shing – though it’s still technically categorised as Sai Kung – is a 120-year-old temple and a declared monument in Hong Kong. This establishment is dedicated to Hung Shing, the God of the Sea. The delicate structure has suffered through years of typhoons and heavy rains leading to four renovations, the last of which won the Outstanding Project Award in the 2000 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation. Inside the temple you’ll find images of Hung Shing and intricate murals depicting dragons.
Hong Kong’s oldest mosque is easily recognisable by its mint green facade and gorgeous, Islamic-influenced architecture. It sits prettily in Mid-Levels, beckoning visitors to view its Arabic-style windows and gates. Aside from being a place of worship for Muslims in Hong Kong, Jamia Mosque is also an important historic landmark, dating back to the 1840s, acting as a haven for many travellers over the years.
The first gurudwara, or place of worship for Sikhs in Hong Kong. Built back in 1901, the distinctly white and pastel blue temple has a rich history in the city and was even bombed twice during WWII. Accommodating Hong Kong’s growing Sikh community, the temple is also known for offering free meals to those in need and short-term accommodation to international visitors of any faith.
Located close to the many nearby antique stores that dot both Hollywood and Cat street, Man Mo Temple is a mid-19th century Grade I historic building and a declared national monument. A place of worship dedicated primarily to Man Cheong (god of literature) and Mo Tai (god of war) – a pair frequently worshipped by young students taking Imperial China’s civil service exams – the atmosphere created by the heavy clouds of incense is a world away from the bustle of Central racing past outside.
The city’s notable and primary Jewish centre, Ohel Leah Synagogue is a testament to the long history of Judaism in Hong Kong. The building was erected in 1901 and has been serving the local Jewish community for more than a century. With its Eastern Jewish-style architectural features, it’s particularly eye-popping in the heart of the residential buildings in Mid-Levels. Listed as a Grade I historic building, the synagogue also underwent a UNESCO award-winning restoration in 1998 and welcomes any visitors to learn more about the faith.
Also known as Yuk Hui Temple, this Grade I historic building is famous for being part of the annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival. The Taoist temple was originally built around 200 years ago as a tribute to Pak Tai, the Taoist god of the sea. The structure itself is quite the architectural gem featuring a roof lined with green concave tiles, ceramic figures and sculpted dragons. Home to an iron sword that dates back to the Song Dynasty and a 20-ounce golden crown, the temple is also significant for its numerous stone lions scattered around the complex.
One of the most magnificent Buddist structures in Hong Kong. Po Lin Monastery is rich with colorful iconography both on the exterior and interior while also boasting spectacularly high ceilings and lavish decorations. Sitting behind the iconic Big Buddha, the complex consists of several halls including the main temple, which houses three bronze statues of the Buddha to represent his past, present and future. Grab a bite at the popular vegetarian restaurant if you’re feeling peckish after all the marvelling.
Situated in Tsuen Wan’s Lo Wai village, Western Monastery, also known as Yuen Yuen Institute, is a Buddist institution with more than 40 years of history. The monastery is designed to replicate the grandeur of a Chinese palace with traditional yellow tiled roofs and flying eaves. Shrouded between the surrounding mountains, you can truly experience some quiet and tranquility the moment you step into the monastery. The occasional passing monk chanting mantras also adds to the atmosphere.
A home to three religions – Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism – Wong Tai Sin Temple is the go-to place for worship during big celebrations such as Buddha’s birthday and Chinese New Year. It's also a popular site courtesy of its gorgeously ornate buildings. The historic temple is also known for its supposedly accurate fortune-telling via kau cim, where worshippers shake a bamboo cylinder containing various fortune sticks until one falls out.
A church is essentially a Christian temple and St John’s Cathedral is the oldest Anglican church in Hong Kong. It sits atop Government Hill overlooking the financial district. The building itself is English gothic style and built in the shape of a cross. It was briefly turned into a soldier’s club during the Japanese occupation. If you’re in town during Christmas, the Christmas Eve midnight service draws a massive audience year after year.
This monastery is home to the world’s largest bronze statue of Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy (also known as Kwun Yum in Cantonese). It’s quite the sight: 76 metres tall, and twice the size of Big Buddha on Lantau Island. The 500,000 sq ft Tang Dynasty-style Buddhist compound consists of several grand halls, a Bodhi tree, sweeping gardens and what’s called a ‘brilliance pond’. There’s a strict limit on how many visitors can come here each day so online booking in advance is essential.