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Lantau Island Wisdom Path » Walking a Spiritual Trail on a Usually Hectic Hong Kong Tour

Smiling colorful scarecrow sitting on fence
In the chaos of modern travel, there is beauty in simply walking. Amazingly, walking gives us time to go deeper, think and relax. As we walk, we give thanks for the beauty we see around us; in nature, in people we pass by or the travel buddies we are walking with. 

One of my peak profound experiences was during my Mt. Pinatubo trek; alone on the volcanic ashes, walking as fast as I could, breathing hard, with only the mountains and burned woods and colored pebbles on my feet. I felt alive, connected to the universe.

I never expected I’d experience it again on my visit to Hong Kong, a hectic and highly urbanized place.

During our 3-day Hong Kong tour, we decided to include a quick trek at the Wisdom Path on our itinerary. It is a trail on Lantau Island (not technically on Hong Kong Island, but close enough) which is part of the Ngong Ping Village tourist attraction.

Walking a Spiritual Trail

Signage girection going to Wisdom Path
Street signage going to Wisdom Path at Ngong Ping Piazza
The short trail is set on the Phoenix Mountain of the Lantau Island. After passing the Ngong Ping giant Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, we followed the trail markers to the Wisdom Path and took a narrow trail exit from the piazza.

Traveller on sneakers walking on trail
Concrete pavement forming a trail in the forest going to Wisdom Path
Two scarecrow on tea garden in Lantau Ngong Ping
Monks' Tea Garden at the Wisdom Path Trail
Parts of the trail are areas covered with trees and greenery. We also passed by the monks’ tea garden and some abandoned shacks and of course glimpses of some excellent mountain views.

Two colorful scarecrows on the fence in tea garden
Monks' garden decorated by colorful scarecrows
Two scarecrows on bench
Scarecrow bench as resting area for the trekkers
After walking about 20 minutes we finally reached the towering timbers or popularly known as the Wisdom Path.

The Wisdom Path

Mountain view on the Wisdom Path area with sarimanok

LANTAU TRAIL: A 70-kilometer long hiking trail with 12 stages. It winds around the southern part of Lantau and connects several sightseeing spots on this outlying island.
At the end of the serene trail are 38 giant rectangular wood pillars organized in the form of infinite figure (horizontal "8") which presents one of the world's best known Buddhist prayers, the "Heart Sutra". The Wisdom Path is the world's largest outdoor display of its kind.

According to Hong Kong tourism board, the pillar was first erected in 2005. These wooden pillars were chemically treated and predicted to last for 100 years, unfortunately they were badly attacked by insects and molds and undergone re-coat in just one year after its opening.

Towering wooden pillars at Wisdom Path Ngong Ping 360 Lantau Island
Towering timbers at the Wisdom Path
I thought that the monks erected these large wooden pillars but I found out that it was set up by the Hong Kong Government as a tourist attraction.

Although I do not understand the writings, I found them fascinating. I don’t know but there’s always something culturally mysterious to the Chinese calligraphy. 

On a historical note

{Excerpts from the Historical Marker}
While on a visit to China in 1980, Professor Jao Tsung-I saw the Buddhist stone carvings of the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra on Mount Taishan in Shandong. This inspired Professor Jao to create a monumental calligraphic work of the Heart Sutra. The Heart Sutra is a treasured text revered by Confucians, Buddhists and Taoists alike. It is written in a simple and concise manner, yet its message is truly profound.

Heart Sutra inscriptions on wooden pillars in Wisdom Path Hong Kong
Heart Sutra inscriptions on large scale wood display
Professor Jao completed this calligraphy of Heart Sutra in 2002, and dedicated it to the people of Hong Kong in June the same year. The work is now presented in the form of a large-scale wood inscription display in an outdoor environment. The calligraphy has been carved on to wooden columns reminiscent of bamboo tiles (zhujian) used for writing in ancient times.

Heart Sutra inscribe on wooden pillars at Wisdom Path Lantau Island
Calligraphy carved on wooden columns
Construction of the “Wisdom Path” work was completed in 2005. The path consists of thirty-eight columns in total. The height and positioning of each column are designed to correspond to the topography of the landscape, and are planted in a figure-of-eight configuration symbolizing infinity.

The column located at the highest point of the hill is left blank to suggest the concept of “emptiness”, a key theme in the Hearth Sutra.

A walk to remember

Fight scene jump shot at Wisdom Path
Fighting jump group shot photo
Our mandatory group jump shots
The quick trek was surely a nice twist to our Hong Kong escapade, which usually involves touring the city and of course what Hong Kong is so famous for – shopping.

The tranquility of the natural environment of the Wisdom Path enables me to appreciate the masterpiece that combines art and philosophy. The short walk, though physically tiring, was amazingly relaxing and memorable.

This article is included on this blog's article series:
Hong Kong Tour 

» Lantau Island Cultural Experience. “Wisdom Path” [Retrieved: 28 March 2012]
» Hong Kong Tourism Commission. “The Wisdom Path (formerly known as the Heart Sutra Inscription)". [Retrieved: 28 March 2012
» Hong Kong / Lantau. Wikitravel Entry. [Retrieved: 28 March 2012]
» Discover Hong Kong. “Giant Buddha / Po Lin Monastery / The Wisdom Path” Hong Kong Attractions. Hong Kong Tourism Board. [Retrieved: 28 March 2012]

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