Hong Kong's Hidden Gem of Tranquility: Nan Lian Garden & Chi Lin Nunnery 香港都市中的净土：南莲园池和志莲净苑
Nan Lian Garden quickly whisks you away from the hustle and bustle of busy Kowloon in Hong Kong. A short walk from Diamond Hill MTR stop, this tiny space of beauty, harmony and seclusion boasts of the perfectly laid out Chinese garden. This garden is located among high-rise apartment blocks and skyscrapers and visitors can grasp an understanding why Hong Kong is so often referred to as the city of tradition and modernity or where East meets West. There is also another best reason to visit is the photography opportunities.
Nan Lian Garden is a Tang Dynasty-style garden adorned with antique timber structures and beautifully landscaped with trees, rocks and water features that offers a rich variety of photographic topics to photo lovers. The architectures inside Nan Lian Garden are uniquely styled and full of details. In particular, Nan Lian Garden offers a rich variety of landscape to use as foreground and background elements to enrich the composition. Changing scenery can be enjoyed if you take a stroll along the paths in the garden, with meticulously planned layout that will give you an illusion that you are within a landscape painting.
Just when I think I have seen all of Hong Kong, I wandered into one of the prettiest and most peaceful gardens I will ever encounter. The tranquillity of a natural garden is juxtaposed with towering high-rise apartment complexes in the background. This is a real sanctuary for my senses and one of my best-kept secrets in Hong Kong.
The Pavilion of Absolute Perfection is situated on an island in the middle of the Lotus Pond. The octagonal structure is surrounded by eight Buddhist pines and connected to land by vermillion-coloured Zi-Wu bridges. The Pavilion reminds me of the famous Enkoji Temple in Kyoto, Japan.
Most people come for the striking and quite photogenic Chinese pavillion with the surrounding pond and brightly contrasting red bridge, stunning on its own right, but do take time to admire the many other features you will find in this little breath of fresh air.
From the entrance of the garden, you follow a path that circles Nan Lian in an easy to follow one-way loop passing through all the main highlights and views of the garden, lily ponds, cascades, galleries, pavilions, terraces etc. Rock clusters and intricately manicured bonsai trees are placed harmonically all along the path. Chinese landscaping is heavily influenced by Taoist and Buddhist concepts, that is, simplicity and peace and to be one with nature. Everything is placed along the path so that every step you take, presents a different world as you walk along, and every world presented will touch your soul in different ways. This is exactly what I picture in my head when I think about a Chinese garden. To appreciate all the nuances of the garden, I had to walk around it both clockwise and counterclockwise, in each direction experiencing different vistas and set-pieces.
In Chinese landscape gardens rocks are considered the skeleton and water the flesh. Rocks are linked to zen meditation and the appreciation of rocks is counted as one of the pleasures of life.
A phoenix sits proudly on top of the bridge’s roof.
The Mill is at the centre of a romanticised vision of Chinese farm life.
The Blue Pond is a man-made waterfall called "The Mill and Silver Strand Waterfall". This is yet another relaxing area in the Garden. You can enjoy listening to the waterfall while enjoying the green view near. Just above the waterfall, there's a beautiful pavilion with flowers around it. I asked a local if I can go there, but she said its one of those structures that are not open for visitors. That's all I need to do is enjoy the beauty of it from afar. But it's really beautiful I wish I can see it from outside.
The other water features in the Garden are the "Spring Hill", "Lotus Pond" and "Pine Brook". The Spring Hill is located just beside the "Golden Pavilion" and not accessible for visitors. The Pine Brook and the Lotus Pond are also located around the Golden Pavilion.
And of course, Nan Lian Garden is an ideal pairing with a visit to Chi Lin Nunnery very close by. This is a large Buddhist temple complex with elegant wooden structures and priceless Buddhist relics. The lotus pond is a particular favourite aspect of the visual landscape. Open for almost 100 years, the local people still come here to pray and pay their respects on a daily basis; should you wish to take photos, remember to be respectful of the sacredness of the temple and nunnery.
I was fortunate to visit the Nan Lian Gardens on a pleasant day. The weather was perfect that day. Nan Lian Garden is a place to take a step back from the noise and tension of Hong Kong and retreat to a more peaceful and even spiritual corner of the city. I just love discovering this beautiful oasis of tranquility in bustling Hong Kong. You may wish to include this place to visit in your future itinerary to Hong Kong and I am quite sure you will love the ambiance here too!
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