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  • Guoying Stacy Zhang

Curating A Sacred Museum In Hong Kong: Consecration In The Tsz Shan Monastery Buddhist Art Museum

TSZ SHAN MONASTERY in Hong Kong is a Chinese Buddhist monastery dedicated to promoting the Buddhist teachings of Clarity, Compassion and Action. Embraced by the Tolo Harbour and the mountain range of the Eight Immortals (Pat Sin Leng), the monastery features solemn, yet elegant, architecture inspired by Tang dynasty (618– 907) style. Dedicated to Guan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion, the monastery is particularly known for the magnificent outdoor statue of Guan Yin, 76 metres in height and white in colour (1). In the bustle of Hong Kong, Tsz Shan Monastery serves as a place for learning about Buddhism as well as a spiritual sanctuary.
On March 27th, 2019, Tsz Shan Monastery announced the inauguration of its Buddhist Art Museum—the first museum for Buddhist art in Hong Kong. Over the past eighteen years of planning and building the Tsz Shan Monastery, the Buddhist Art Museum is another endeavour to further Buddhist teachings, after the Buddhist Spiritual Counselling Centre and the Tsz Shan Institute. Situated in the 24,000-square feet base area of the Guan Yin Statue, the permanent collection of the Buddhist Art Museum includes 100 Buddhist sculptures and forty-three Dunhuang manuscripts (2). They not only tell the story of how Buddhism and Buddhist art developed across space and time, but also embody Buddhist wisdom and compassion, that will inspire visitors to seek spiritual realisation.
Before the inauguration of the Buddhist Art Museum, Tsz Shan Monastery organised a series of consecration ceremonies for the Guan Yin Statue, by installing Buddhist treasures from the three main traditions: Chinese Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. In this process, Tsz Shan Monastery Buddhist Art Museum was made one of the very few sacred museums around the world; first, because the museum is an integral component of the Guan Yin Statue; and second, two of the three consecration chambers are located at the centre of the museum. Meanwhile, the museum, in return, validates the efficacy of the Guan Yin Statue as a contemporary focus of veneration, because its collection of Buddhist artefacts, dating from the 3rd to the 20th century, represents the relics of Buddhism since antiquity.
This article focuses on the consecration of the Guan Yin Statue at the Tsz Shan Monastery. By illuminating the position of the statue in the monastic landscape and by unravelling the contents and rituals of the consecration, this article sets out to explore the significance of statue consecration in Buddhist practice, as well as the religious importance of the Tsz Shan Monastery Buddhist Art Museum. A few artefacts in the museum collection will be mentioned, while museum highlights will be discussed in detail in another article in this issue.

Arial view of Tsz Shan Monastery

More about Arts of Asia, July to August 2020 issue:


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