Fo Guang Shan Monastery is an essential part of any visit to Kaohsiung. It is the a Fo Guang Shan- a Chinese Buddhist religion. The monastery is the largest Buddhist temple in Taiwan and is home to the largest bronze sitting Buddha statue in Southeast Asia.
Fu Guang Shan was founded by Master Hsingyun. Master Hsingyun practiced and preached for a modern, humanistic form of Buddhism, and Fu Guang Shan eventually became the most popular form of Buddhism in Taiwan.
Shortly after the construction of Fo Guang Shan monastery was complete, it was opened to the public. It was an extremely popular destination for practicing monks and disciples to visit, and it was closed to the public 1997 to lessen the disturbance the monks faced.
The monastery reopened to the public in 2001 and has been open ever since.
Fo Guang Shan monastery is breathtaking and is a sight like no other. The detail and time that went into building the monastery really shows in the final product. Even if you’ve been to Buddhist monasteries before, you need to visit Fo Guang Shan monastery when you’re in Kaohsiung.
Getting from Kaohsiung to Fo Guang Shan Monastery
It is quite easy to get from Kaohsiung to Fo Guang Shan Monastery!
The first step is to take the metro or bus to Zuoying Station. Zuoying Station is located along the Red metro line and is stop R16. Many buses also stop at Zuoying Station, and you can use Google Maps to find the best route depending on where you’re staying.
Once you’re at Zuoying Station, you need to take a bus to Fo Guang Shan monastery. You can take with bus 8501 or the Hafo Express. They both cost basically the same amount of money and take approximately 45 minutes to reach the monastery.
The bus station is located outside between the high speed rail station and the metro station. There are signs inside the metro station directing you to the bus station, so you just need to follow them.
There are a number of different buses that stop of Zuoying Station, so you need to read the signs to make sure you’re standing at the correct bus stop. Just look for the sign that read “Fo Guang Shan Monastery”. It is written in both English and Mandarin and is easy to find.
There are 25 buses per day to the monastery between the two companies. The first bus leaves at 8am and the last one departs at 5:40pm. You can find a bus schedule here.
If you’re travelling from Taipei to Kaohsiung, be sure to check out this post. It is an in-depth guide on how to travel from Taipei to Kaohsiung and covers all your different transportation options in one convenient place.
When to get off the Bus
The bus from Kaohsiung stops twice. This first stop is the Buddhist Museum and the second is the monastery. Both stops are part of the Fo Guang Shan complex, so you can’t go wrong with getting off at either stop.
The museum is the part of the complex that has the giant sitting Buddha and is what you’ve probably seen pictures of. The monastery is a the part of the complex where the monks train and practice, and there are plenty of sights you can view there as well.
My personal recommendation is to get off at the monastery (the second stop) rather than the museum. I recommend this becasue:
- It is less busy, so you’ll avoid the crowds. Most people get off at the museum, so it is crowded right after a bus arrives and less busy between bus arrivals. Once you’ve explored the monastery, the museum should be less busy.
- It saves you walking up a large hill. There is a bit of a steep hill between the museum and monastery. If you go from the monastery to the museum, you walk down the hill. If you go from the museum to the monastery, you walk up the hill. The hill isn’t too steep, but it does make you extra sweaty in the Taiwan humidity.
Entrance to Fo Guang Shan Monastery and Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum is free. There are a number of donation boxes throughout the monastery and museum where you’re able to donate money.
You will never be asked or pressured to donate money, but it is a good idea to put donate even a small amount of money. These donations help keep the monastery up and running and free for tourists to enter.
How Long do You Need at Fo Guang Shan?
I suggest spending at least half a day at Fo Guang Shan but three quarters of a day would be even better!
There is a lot to see and do at Fo Guang Shan, so you don’t want to rush your visit. Dedicating at least half a day will allow you to see both the monastery and museum without feeling too rushed.
Spending three quarters of a day at Fo Guang Shan will allow you to spend time getting the perfect pictures, visit all the museum exhibits without rushing through them, have lunch, and do a little souvenir shopping.
Things to See at Fo Guang Shan Monastery
Great Buddha Standing Statue
The Great Buddha Standing Statue is the highlight of Fo Guang Shan Monastery, or at least it was for me. I hadn’t heard of this statue before and was completely blown away when I saw it.
It is located up a short hill once you enter the monastery. The statue is the most popular sight at the monastery, so if you’re following a group of people, you’re probably heading in the right direction!
The Great Buddha Standing Statue is a huge statue of a standing Buddha that is surrounded by countless other small Buddha statues.
It is the tallest standing Buddha statue in Southeast Asia, and the 480 small Buddhas surrounding the statue symbolizing the life of Buddha.
The Main Shrine and the Way to Buddhahood Path
The Main Shrine was constructed in 1975 and is the main shrine at Fo Guang Shan. It is home to three sitting Buddha statues.
Surrounding the shrine is 14,800 statues of the Sakyamuni Buddha. It is an incredible sight to see.
Part of the base of the Main Shrine was constructed using stones from the Diamond Throne in India. This stone is considered sacred in Buddhism as the Diamond Throne is where Budhha taught Dharma and became enlightened.
The use of the stone in the Main Shrine is meant to symbolize the continuation of Buddha’s teachings and enlightenment.
The Main Shrine is typically reserved for prayer, but you’re more than welcome to admire the outside of it if you don’t want to pray.
Light Jewel Pagodas
There are two pagodas located just outside the Main Shrine. They are called the Light Jewel Pagodas, and they symbolize the light of Buddha encompassing all people.
The pagodas are quite spectacular and feature lots of intricate carving work. The Light Jewel Pagodas were one of my favourite parts of Fo Guang Shan. I spent a long time admiring the buildings and taking photos.
Things to See at Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum
The Front Hall is the entrance to Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum. It is the start to your adventure and time at the museum.
The Front Hall has a few shopping kiosks that sell trinkets and other small gifts like scarves or pineapple cakes. It also has a number of restaurants and is where most people eat during their visit to Fo Guang Shan.
The 8 Pagodas line the walkway to the Buddha Museum and giant Buddha. They are spectacular and well worth taking the time to explore each of them as well as take tons of pictures.
You can enter most of the pagodas, and they have a small exhibit about different aspects of the Fo Guang Shan religion and humanistic Buddhism. They don’t take too long to explore, so you should definitely consider making sure you have enough time in your schedule to visit them.
Each of the pagodas has their own meaning ranging from goodness to giving to harmonies.
Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum
At the end of the walkway with the 8 Pagodas, there is a building. Inside that building is the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum.
The museum is two levels with artwork and other cultural items on the second floor and informational exhibits on the first floor. There is also a temporary exhibit on the first floor.
Exhibits include The Life of Buddha, Museum of Underground Palaces, Museum of Buddhist Festivals, and more.
A number of the exhibits are interactive, so you’re able to participate in the activities if you want. Volunteers are also in each exhibit and are happy to explain things to you and answer all of your questions.
The Main Hall is located right on top of the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum. It is built in an Indian-style of architecture. The base of the main hall is made from sandstone and the body of the dome-shaped building is made of rock.
You’re able to walk around the outside of the Main Hall, and there are four shrines you can visit. One is the Jade Buddha Shrine and is well worth a visit!
Fo Guang Shan Big Buddha
The Big Buddha is the star of the show and main reason most people visit Fo Guang Shan. It is breathtaking. I honestly can’t describe how amazing it is to see the Big Buddha in person.
The Big Buddha depicts Sakyamuni Buddha. It is a staggering 108 meters tall including the base. The statue itself is 40 meters tall, and the chair the Big Buddha sits on is 10 meters tall by itself.
The statue took more than a year to make and was completed in 2011. Since then, it has become an extremely popular tourist attraction for both Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.
Where to Eat
You will probably get hungry during your trip to Fo Gunag Shan, and you’re in luck because there are quite a few different places to eat.
There are restaurants in the following parts of Fo Guang Shan:
- Front Hall
- Main Hall
- Fo Guang Shan Monastery
- Outside the entrance near the bus stop
The type of food you can buy varies, but it is all Chinese food. Some restaurants serve dumplings and dim some and some serve quick snacks. You can find any style and price range in Fo Guang Shan.
My personal recommendation is the vegetarian buffet on the second floor of the Front Hall. The food in incredible, and it is extremely affordable. It was probably the least expensive meal I had in Taiwan!
Fo Guang Shan is a working monastery and place of religious importance, so it is important you conduct yourself respectfully. Here are a few tips to make sure you don’t offend anybody while visiting Fo Guang Shan:
- Wear appropriate clothing: Fo Guang Shan is ultimately a place of worship, so you should wear respectful attire. Cover your knees and shoulders, wear a higher neckline if you’re a woman, and avoid clothing with profanity or images that might be controversial.
- Bow to monks: It is respectful to bow to any monks that you see walking around the monastery. You won’t get in trouble if you don’t bow, but it is customary and respectful to bow.
- Be Quiet: There are temples and areas of prayer in Fo Guang Shan. If you happen to be viewing or walking through an area of prayer, try to be as quiet as you can.
- Listen to volunteers: There are certain places that are just for worship and not tourist viewing. If you stumble into one of those areas and are asked to leave, listen to whoever told you and leave as soon as possible. This advice is the same if you’re asked to be quiet, not walk on the grass (please don’t walk on the grass!), or anything else you’re asked to do.
You’re allowed to take photos while visiting Fo Guang Shan!
There are, however, a few restrictions. You’re not allowed to take photos of certain temples or areas of prayer. There will be signs alerting you to the fact that you can’t take photographs.
There are a number of day trips you can take form Kaohsiung, so it can be difficult to choose what is worth visiting and what isn’t. I highly recommend anyone visiting Kaohsiung to take the time to visit Fo Guang Shan.
It is a special part of Taiwanese and Buddhist history and culture. You won’t see anything like it anywhere else in the world. It is the birthplace of humanistic Buddhism after all!
Another advantage of visiting Fo Guang Shan is that is it affordable, so it is the perfect option for budget travellers. There isn’t an entrance fee, and you can find extremely affordable food! There is upscale dining as well, but you can easily avoid it if you take the time to find the right restaurants.
Even if you don’t practice Buddhism, it is worth visiting both the monastery and museum at Fo Guang Shan. You learn so much about the religion and it’s history that you leave with a deeper understanding of a different culture and set of beliefs.
Fo Guang Shan was one of the highlights of my entire Taiwan trip. Trust me when I say it is well worth the trip!