Kowloon, Sightseeing

Bonsai trees in Chi Lin Nunnery

While my friends were visiting Hong Kong, we spent a morning in the Chi Lin Nunnery. Chi Lin Nunnery was first opened in 1934 but substantially rebuilt in a major project involving designers, architects and traditional craftsmen from China, Hong Kong and Japan, before being opened to the public in May 2000.

Located at the foot of Diamond Hill in north Kowloon amidst high-rise apartment blocks and with a mountain backdrop the nunnery occupies a 30,000 square-metre site which provides a tranquil retreat from its urban surroundings. The nunnery is a large Buddhist monastic complex of fifteen magnificently crafted cedar halls, gardens, courtyards, gilded statues and lotus ponds and is modelled on the architectural style of the Tang Dynasty (618–907AD).

A place that always amazes and fascinates me. This time I was taken back by the sheer range of different bonsai trees they’ve cultivated there.

Not just normal ones, but all kind of different ones. Some where in full bloom, others carried fruit and then there were those that looked dried out and almost dead to me. It was fascinating and very calming to look at.

When we got back home, I read a little more about Bonsai trees. I knew that they were a Japanese art form which dates back over a thousand years, and has evolved its own unique aesthetics and terminology. Bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container.

I thought it was all about a special type of trees, i.e. very small trees. But actually regular stocks and seeds are used. Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees. It seems like hard work to me, but the result is stunning to look at!

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