The Kek Lok Si Temple (Penang Hokkien for “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 also the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia.
Mahayana Buddhism and traditional Chinese rituals blend into a harmonious whole, both in the temple architecture and artwork as well as in the daily activities of worshippers.
My thoughts through the lens
“Rain rain go away, come again another day.” This ditty seemed to echo in my mind as I stepped out from the house and into the car. Although cloudy skies bring dramatic effects to an image, many photographers would agree that the rain could also be one of the photographers’ biggest adversaries. Nevertheless, I had packed my backpack and was ready to take my chances, hoping that the sun would make its presence later.
Miraculously, when I arrived at the gate of the Kek Lok Si temple, the rain had turned to a drizzle and the skies were beginning to clear. The moody-looking clouds seemed to make way for the white clouds and even the skies gradually turned blue. I thought that I would be confined to taking indoor shots of the temples but I think Lord Buddha had other plans for me…*wink wink*..
I was excited, to say the least.
I am sure the Kek Lok Si temple is synonymous to most Buddhist devotees around this region; in fact, the Temple is also featured in Shenzhen’s Window of the World Theme Park in China, making it an iconic symbol that has received acknowledgment around the globe. I was in Shenzhen in December last year and this had me pleasantly surprised.
In this assignment, my intention is to showcase this magnificent landmark in a two-part (possibly three) series. I am pleased to take this photographic journey and will walk with you through the stairways and slopes, and hopefully, be enlightened along the way.
To all devotees and readers, Happy Wesak Day!
All photos and texts by Calvin Kwok
p/s: The series will take a break next week and will most probably be back the following week.
The Pagoda of A Thousand Buddhas looking majestic and seem to dwarf the hundreds of visitors on that particular morning. Being a long weekend, the temple was one of the ‘must visit’ sites in Penang which saw local and foreign visitors making up the large crowd.
To reach the pagoda, you would need to make a slightly steep ascend starting from the covered walkway seen on the right side of this image.
One of the first of many places to visit in Kek Lok Si is the prayer hall. This shot was taken hand-held with no flash as I intended to capture the statue of Lord Buddha being illuminated by the flames of the pineapple-shaped candles on the altar.
The Sanskrit name “Avalokitesvara” is interpreted in many ways: “The One Who Hears the Cries of the World”; “The Lord Who Looks Down”; “The Lord Who Looks in Every Direction.”
On your way up to the mid level of Kek Lok Si, be prepared to catch your breath and the surrounding sights as well. Even a humble-looking stone staircase and wall could present a beautiful photographic moment, as this couple would attest.
A row of Buddha’s statues greeting visitors as soon as they complete their ascend to the mid level of Kek Lok Si temple. On the background is the ever-present Pagoda.
A set of Buddha’s statues lining up one of the corners of a smaller temple within Kek Lok Si. I was drawn to the carvings of the dragon (foreground) and thought it would make the image interesting by framing it between the red pillar and Buddha’s saffron robe.
A large statue of Lord Buddha being surrounded by lotus candles placed by devotees and visitors. This smaller temple, located at the mid level of Kek Lok Si temple, is a popular pit-stop for visitors wanting to get some fresh air and purchase memorabilia to bring home apart from the memories.
An aerial view taken from one of the corners of the temple. After making the ascend to the mid level, visitors will get a chance to take a breather and admire the scenery of the nearby Air Itam town.
A young boy praying in front of an altar at the prayer hall. Notice the lighted candles in the form of pineapple (‘ong lye’ in local Hokkien dialect) vases. With messages tied around the neck of the vases, devotees often pray for the blessings for the entire family to have a bountiful and prosperous year.
Bathing of the Buddha: The Kek Lok Si temple is a hive of activity, especially in the run-up to Wesak Day on 9th May this year. There was an air of serenity as devotees took turns to bathe the statue with some taking home the fragrant holy water for consumption.
This shot was captured using a very low shutter speed (1/6 seconds, hand held) which resulted in some intentional blur or softness. The little girl in blue suddenly pirouetted in front of my camera, resulting in a welcomed streaks of blue which rendered some elements of Impressionistic art to the overall image, in my opinion, and making it appear dream-like and mysterious.
Born, bred and schooled within the vicinity of George Town; Penang has been my home for over twenty years. As a way of saying ‘Welcome to Penang’, I would like to share scenes of Penang with you from my perspective as a keen amateur photographer. More [+]