Loves going out and about in Canberra and writing about her adventures! Also addicted to coffee, high teas, escape rooms, and dressing up.
Published July 21st 2018
Visit the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere
Wollongong is well known for its beautiful beaches and its long history of steel, coal mining and industry. But did you know that Wollongong also has the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere?
Nan Tien (literally, "Paradise in the South" in Chinese) is a Buddhist temple complex located in the southern outskirts of Wollongong, just over two and a half hours' drive from Canberra. It opened in 1995 and since then, Nan Tien temple has been a very important cultural centre in bridging cultures and bringing local and international visitors together.
Nan Tien is one of the branch temples of the Taiwanese Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order. Fo Guang Shan was founded by Venerable Master Hsing Yun in 1967 and now has 120 branches worldwide. Fo Guang Shan is rooted in the tradition that Buddhism is within everyone's reach. Followers strive to bring Buddhism into daily life and describe their philosophy as a form of 'humanistic Buddhism.'
You don't have to be Buddhist to enter Nan Tien. And you don't have to worry about being 'converted', either. My family are not Buddhist but I had always wanted to visit Nan Tien. And I found Nan Tien to be a quiet, peaceful place where everyone, no matter what religious or cultural background, is welcome to visit.
The Five Buddhas of Confidence, Longevity, Wisdom, Inner Beauty and Peace
The temple complex is large and spacious. There is the main shrine which is the most important building and is also known as the Great Hero Hall. There are five large Buddhas (the Buddhas of Confidence, Longevity, Wisdom, Inner Beauty and Peace) in this Hall as well as 10 000 smaller Buddhas around the Hall, which show that everybody can achieve Buddhahood.
There is also the front shrine or the Great Compassion Shrine housing a prominent statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, known as Guan Yin or Kuan Yin in Chinese.
The Front Shrine or Great Compassion Shrine
And towering above the complex, reaching up into the sky is the eight-storey pagoda, which is a resting place for the cremated ashes of devotees and their relatives. A wishing bell is also here and visitors are more than welcome to ring the bell and make a wish.
In addition to the shrines and pagoda, Nan Tien has various meeting rooms, a museum, conference room, meditation hall, auditorium, the Pilgrim's Lodge (for overnight guests), and the beautiful Lotus Pond.
And if you get hungry from exploring the beautiful, tranquil grounds, Nan Tien has a dining hall which can accommodate up to 200 diners and offers a selection of healthy vegetarian meals (open to the public Tuesday to Friday 11.30 am - 2.00 pm and 11.30 am - 2.30 pm on weekends and public holidays), as well as the Dew Drop Inn Tea House (open Tues-Fri 10am-4pm and Sat/Sun/public hols 9.30am-4.30pm).
Dew Drop Inn Tea House
Nan Tien is open to the public for Buddhism classes and retreats, such as the monthly Weekend Meditation Retreat where guests stay overnight in the Pilgrim Lodge, enjoy healthy vegetarian meals, receive excellent teaching in Buddhist meditation and of course, meditate.
The Temple also frequently hosts and celebrates festivals, such as Chinese New Year. It was wonderful to see the Temple decorated for the lunar new year when we visited.
Visiting Nan Tien is worth the drive from Canberra. It was important for my husband and I that our little son visit the temple and see with his own eyes how people worship and pray in different ways.
We will visit the temple again and again when he is older. Because I believe it is more important than ever to continue to learn about and celebrate the diverse cultures, religions and ways of being that make up Australia and our world.
Please remember when visiting that Nan Tien is a sacred place of worship and prayer. Picnics are not permitted on the grounds and it is important to be appropriately dressed and suitably covered when entering.