Chinese New Year is a celebration celebrated by all Chinese in the world, and of course in Penang, to celebrate the start of a new year. Chinese New Year or CNY on short, falls in end January to early February
The Kek Lok Si Temple or otherwise known as “Temple of Supreme Bliss” or “Temple of Sukhavati” is a Buddhist temple situated in Air Itam in Penang and is one of the best known temples on the island. It is the largest Buddhist temple complex in Southeast Asia. The temple is heavily commercialised with shops at every level and inside the main temple complexes.
Most visitors approach the temple as they ascend a stairway, roofs of which provide shelter to a multitude of shops selling souvenirs and other – mostly secular – commodities. They pass by a so-called Liberation Pond, following the buddhist tradition of merit-making, turtles may be released into freedom, albeit a limited one.
The temple itself consists of several large halls for assembly and prayer, here, statues of Buddha, various Bodhisattvas as well as Chinese gods are being venerated.
The Pagoda you see lighted up is the Pagoda of the 10,000 Buddhas. It was built in 1930. This 7 storey Pagoda combines a Chinese octagonal base with a middle tier of Thai design, and a Burmese crown; reflecting the temple’s embrace of both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. After climbing up the spiral top, you will have a scenic view of Air Itam Town below.
Intricate woodwork, often brightly painted and a plethora of lanterns add to the visual impression. During Chinese New Year, for an entire month, the entire temple will be lighted up with 100,000 lanterns and lights and these decorations could be seen from a few kilometers away. During this time, the temple will be open to the public till late in the night!
There is an inclined lift to carry pilgrims and visitors further uphill. On the elevated platform, you can find a pond filled with Koi and the towering statue of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, which can also be regarded as Avalokitheshvara, Bodhisattva of Universal Compassion.
In 2002, a 30.2m bronze statue of the Kuan Yin was completed and opened to public. It replaced the previous white plaster Kuan Yin statue which was damaged due to a fire a few years earlier. The bronze statue is located on the hillside above the pagoda while the head of the previous statue which survived the fire is preserved and placed on the right hand corner of the new statue.
Rapid Penang Bus 201, 203, 204, 206, 306 and U502. Check the Rapid Penang Bus Route for details, map and time table. The most convenient bus stop is located along Jalan Pasar, at the foothills of the temple. Jalan Pasar is a one-way street. Walk following the traffic flow until you reach a T-junction. You can see Kek Lok Si towering to the left side. Turn left and walk in its direction.