Fried pumpkin, cakes stuffed with custard and sweet red beans, stewed winter melon and bok choy... Mmm, I'm salivating just thinking of my visit to the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights. A mere $7 buys you access to a delicious vegetarian Chinese buffet. And that's just one of the attractions of this 15 acre campus.
A trip to Hsi Lai Temple takes you to another world. Visiting monks pose for pictures next to tourists in front of the majestic main temple. Behind them, children run around the vast courtyard and adults light incense and offer prayers. In the gardens, grey stone monks in various poses smile knowingly at the carved Buddhas that line the walkways.
These little stone monks are everywhere around the temple in different positions
Our friend Kelly, who is a Buddhist born in Taiwan, came with us on this excursion. She told us that the temple is affiliated with the Taiwanese Buddhist order the Fo Guang Shan, and most of the people who work there are Taiwanese.
We entered the temple complex through a smaller temple, where you can make an offering if you wish. Behind this smaller temple is a large courtyard area and the main temple. Walk up the stairs and pay a visit to the main temple, but be aware that there is a dress code to enter. Slippers, shorts, short skirts or tank tops are not permitted. Photography and video recording are also not allowed inside.
place to burn incense
After having lunch and taking a leisurely stroll around the grounds, we ended our visit at the temple's Art Museum which has rotating exhibits every few months. Admission to the small museum is a $1 donation and well worth it. On our visit, we saw striking photographs from Tibet, an intricate statue of Buddha with one hundred tiny children clinging to him, a case of carved inscriptions that you can only read with a magnifying glass, and a mirrored room filled with beautiful statues.
The temple is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily. The buffet is open 11:30 to 1:30 Monday to Friday and 11:30 to 2:30 on Saturday and Sunday. Only outdoor photography is allowed. Self guided audio tours are available at the information center, and guided tours are given on the weekend.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the founder of the temple
Have you been to Hsi Lai Temple? What did you think of it? Leave me a comment below!