The Kek Lok Si Temple, or “Temple of Supreme Bliss” is just one of the many tourist attractions you will find when you visit the Malaysian island of Penang. One of the best known temples on the island, it is also the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. The temple is not just an amazing feat of architecture, but it’s one of the best places on the island for you to shop.
Every level including inside the main temple complexes is filled with shops. The temple itself is comprised of large halls for assembly and prayer so there is more to it than just a place for visitors to buy various souvenirs. The temple is definitely a must see destination when you are looking for things to do in Penang.
History of the Temple
Construction on Kek Lok Si began in 1890, but it would be years later before it was finally completed. The inspiration for the temple came from the chief monk of the Goddess of Mercy Temple at Pitt Street. The project received the sanction of the Emperor Guangxu, who gave the Kek Lok Si 70,000 volumes of the Imperial Edition of the Buddhist Sutras.
Throughout the long construction of the Kek Lok Si Temple the main benefactor of the Penang temple was Kapitan Chung Keng Quee, a millionaire philanthropist involved in numerous industries like tin mining, farming, logging, and pawn broking. He was also the founder and administrator of modern Taiping, respected by both the Chinese and European communities.
Finally in 1930 the seven story main pagoda called the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddha’s was completed. Temple architecture and the artwork represented there is a blend of Mahayana Buddhism and traditional Chinese rituals. The Kek Lok Si Temple is a popular destination for tourists who find the temple is the ideal place for the Chinese community in Penang.
The Chinese New Year is celebrated at the temple in grand style with a spectacular show of lights that lasts for 30 days following New Year and remains open until very late at night. When you visit you will go up a long stairway to a plethora of shops that pedal secular souvenirs, and then pass by Liberation Pond where turtles are released into freedom following the ancient Buddhist tradition of merit-making.
Like visitors and pilgrims alike, you can then take a lift further uphill where you’ll find a Koi filled pond and a giant statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin. In 2002 the plaster statue was replaced by a bronze one after fire damaged it a few years earlier. This new bronze statue measures over 30 meters high.
Other Things to do and See
When it comes to Penang tourism it’s easy to see why this stunningly gorgeous, brightly painted Kek Lok Si Temple is such a magnet for visitors. Even if you miss out on the post New Year lights there is still plenty of reason to visit, like the supreme statue of the four heavenly kings. Sitting in the center of the four kings is the statue of Maitreya, or the Laughing Buddha. The statue represents the center of the universe which brings hope, prosperity, and happiness to the people. This captivating temple is definitely one of the best places to visit in Penang.
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