Going to Kaohsiung without visiting the magnificent Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum is to miss out on one of Taiwan’s most important cultural sites so, if you want to learn more about Buddhism, or simply spend a nice day in peaceful surroundings, this is the museum for you. Combining both traditional as well as modern structures, a visit to Fo Guang Shan is a must, if only to admire the many majestic treasures it contains!

Save it for later!

Fo Guang Shan’s History

Opened to the public on December 25th, 2011, the Buddha Museum, which took nine years to build and covers more than 100 hectares, also features a unique layout made up of different buildings, each representing its own distinct significance.

Containing many treasures, Fo Guang Shan was nevertheless originally built to house one of world’s three relics of Buddha’s tooth (gifted to Venerable Master Hsing Yun), with the aim of making Buddhism known worldwide and educating people about its teachings.

Another particularity of the museum is its 48 underground palaces which, although not open to the public, are in turn opened every 100 years to fill them with various items relating to history, culture, commemoration… donated by the people themselves and representing their memories.

One of the most splendid site I’ve ever had the chance to visit, its architecture, setting, history and culture are sure to amaze you and leave a lasting impression, so follow me on my tour!

For more information, or if you need a detailed map of the area, follow this link!

Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum

1. Front Hall

Even before stepping into this haven of peace and beauty that is the Buddha museum, you’ll arrive at the main entrance, where you’ll be greeted on either side by these statues: on the left, the lion and its cubs, representing the “roar” of the Buddha’s teachings, and on the right, the white elephants, representing strength and dignity, as well as the way Buddha rode a white elephant in his mother’s womb.

By entering the front hall, you can get more information at the visitor’s centre, eat in the delicious vegeterian restaurants but also buy souvenirs in the dedicated shops.

2. Life Protection Murals & Jetavana Grove

If you take a right before visiting the famous breathtaking pagodas, you’ll find yourself on a walkway leading to the Life Protection Murals. Admire the colorful, delicately painted murals before taking a fresh walk into Jetavana Grove, where you can enjoy, for a moment, the tranquility of the place in the shade of its trees (trust me, you’ll need some shade at some point).

3. Twin Pavilions

Located right next to Jetavana Grove, the Twin Pavilions is the place to go if you wish to experience another aspect of culture: Tea Chan. Based on both tea culture and meditation, it’s a unique and interesting experience in wonderful surroundings. How can anyone ask for more?

4. The 8 Pagodas

The 8 Pagodas in Fo Guang Shan

The 8 Pagodas, 38 meters high and leading to the famous Big Buddha, have all been designed according to a precise concept. Here are their names and what they refer to:

  • One Teaching Pagoda: represents Buddha’s teachings and is a place (available for rent) for meetings, training courses and various activities.
  • Two Assemblies Pagoda: designed especially for children, it’s purpose is to teach them as well as encourage them to do good deeds; to this end, interactive games have been set up inside.
  • Three Goodness Pagoda: referring to “saying good words, doing good deeds, and having good thoughts”, this pagoda also serves as a joint office.
  • Four Givings Pagoda: or to “give others faith, hope, joy and equanimity” is a bookstore where you can sit back and learn more about a subject of your choice. Many languages are available, to the delight of avid readers.
  • Five Harmonies Pagoda: comprising “personal harmony, interpersonal harmony, family harmony, social harmony and world harmony”, the pagoda is a hosting place for numerous family events.
  • Six Perfections Pagoda: named after the 6 perfections of Buddhism > generosity, morality, patience, energy, concentration, and wisdom, you can see through the exhibition the Venerable Master’s One-Stroke Calligraphy (after his vision deteriorated due to illness and shaking hands).
  • Seven Admonishments Pagoda: which refers to “violence, stealing, sexual misconduct, drug, gambling, alcohol and harsh words”, it serves as a place where people can take a break and rest peacefully.
  • Eightfold Path Pagoda: the first pagoda on your right tells you more about the museum and its buildings. Its name relate to the 8 principles of right conduct, right speech, right livelihood, right mindfulness, right effort, right concentration, right view and right resolve.

5. Bodhi Wisdom Concourse

Bodhi Wisdom Concourse with Bug Buddha in Fo Guang Shan

This immense square, directly facing the Big Buddha, is composed of Eighteen Arhats, standing on both sides of the concourse.

Arhats are individuals who have attained enlightenment but Fo Guang Shan has a special feature: usually composed only of men, the sculptures also include three women, advocating equality and open-mindedness as taught in Buddhist teachings.

Take time to admire the statues’ characteristics before continuing your visit!

And if you’re looking to satisfy your inner artist a little more, take a stroll along the alleys on either side of the square to enjoy the semi-relief sculptures depicting the Buddhist Verses and Stories of the Buddha.

6. Main Hall

This is where you can explore four exhibits and discover Buddha’s life, Buddhist festivals and much more. Spanning two levels, the main hall will also take you to Mount Potalaka Avalokitesvara Shrine, where a lotus-shaped floor and the statue of the Thousand-Armed, Thousand-Eyed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statue will greet you.

You can then make your way to the Golden Buddha Shrine, where you’ll see not only the seated Buddha statue, but also some thousands of smaller ones set into the wall at the back. The first floor also includes a reclining Buddha as well as the relic of Buddha’s tooth in the Jade Buddha Shrine.

The second floor, for its part, houses the Great Enlightenment Auditorium which can accomodates around 2,000 people and features a revolving stage allowing all spectators to see the performance, wherever they’re seated. Since its creation, the auditorium has hosted numerous international performances, and is commited to attracting locals and foreigners alike to promote its culture and art.

7. Big Buddha

Big Buddha in Fo Guang Shan

It’s the first thing you’ll see as soon as you enter Fo Guang Shan, and no wonder, given that the statue is 108 meters high (hard to miss, isn’t it?).

But why 108 and not 100 or 110? For the record, 108 is a powerful number in Buddhism, referring to the number of temptations.

Actually, if you look it up, you’ll see that this number is important in everything from religions to mathematics…

Marvel at the greatness of the Big Buddha and stroll around its Four Stupas, each representing the Four Great Bodhisattvas: Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Ksitigarbha and Samantabhadra.

8. Chan Art and Stories

Bas-relief in Fo Guang Shan

When visiting Fo Guang Shan, you should take the time to explore every nook and cranny, and don’t forget to stop for a minute to admire the magnificent bas-reliefs on the outer walls of the Bodhi Wisdom Concourse, created by the famous Chinese painters Gao Ertai and his wife, Pu Xiaoyu.

These masterpieces are simply splendid and it would be a shame to miss them, so do me a favor and include them in your visit!

Depending of the time you have available, you can stop your tour here, but I recommend stopping at two other places if time permits!

Sutra Repository

Sutra Repository in Fo Guang Shan

Home to the Fo Guang Shan Institute of Humanistic Buddhism, Sutra Repository, which construction wasn’t completed until 2016, contains many treasures, including the Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s literary works.

What I found most mesmerizing was the mural just outside the main gate of the Sutra Repository. Such detail and vibrant colors left me in awe for quite some time. The place was so quiet and empty that it was a real pleasure to explore too.

Fo Guang Shan Monastery

Last stop on your visit, the Monastery, to which the Mountain Gate was the first point of access, was initially closed to the public in the late 90s to allow for more peaceful Buddhist practices, but finally reopened a few years later to the delight of visitors.

Here are the main sites!

1. Avalokitesvara Pond

Avalokitesvara Pond in Fo Guang Shan

Just after passing through Mountain Gate, you’ll find this lovely pond on your left, which honors the life of a laywoman turned nun, who donated all her possesssions to the construction of this pond. The little island in the middle is called “Peace and Love Island”, in tribute to this woman’s devotion and generosity.

2. Non-duality Gate & Vulture Peak

Non- Duality gate in Fo Guang Shan

The concept of non-duality in Buddhism is quite interesting, as it refers to the principle of oneness, or if you prefer, the fact that all things are one. So, to step through the Non-duality Gate, which is the last door, is to enter Buddhahood or enlightenment.

I found the place quite charming, and you can see how beautiful the site is thanks to the intricate architecture and vibrant colors adorning the gate. Passing under, you’ll reach another important site: Vulture Peak, where Buddha taught many scriptures and which today is now adorned with hundreds of Arhats statues and Bodhi trees, paving the way to the next sight: the Main Shrine.

3. Main Shrine

Main Shrine in Fo Guang Shan

Walking through tiled square, also known as the “Great Path to Buddhahood”, you’ll finally arrive at the sumptuous Main Shrine of Fo Guang Shan Monastery. This shrine, envisioned by the Founder Venerable Master Hsing Yun himself, houses three Buddha images and can accomodate up to 1,000 people.

As always, the aesthetic quality and attention to detail make a visit to the monastery a must (if you have enough time, of course).

4. Great Compassion Shrine

Lanterns and walkway in Fo Guang Shan

Covering an area of 800 square meters, this was the first shrine to be completed at Fo Guang Shan in 1971.

As I walked beneath the lanterns, swaying gently in the wind, I can assure you that as a stressed-out girl, I felt a sense of peace. Perhaps it was due to the beauty of the place or its stillness, but whatever the case, spending some time here will certainly bring you as much peace of mind as it did me.

5. Great Buddha Land

With its imposing 36-meter-high Buddha statue and 480 smaller ones surrounding it, I’d say without a doubt you can’t miss this site while exploring the superb temple. Plus, the panorama it offers over the Gaoping River is another reason to visit, believe me!

And for an even more enchanting experience, try going at sunset to enjoy the lovely views!

Where to eat

If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll be delighted to know that this is the place for you. From buffets to teahouses and other restaurants, you’re sure to find somewhere to satisfy your taste buds!

How to get to Kaohsiung

From abroad:

If you’re not already in the country, you can fly into Kaohsiung, as the city has its own airport (although people generally tend to land in Taipei). It all depends on your country of departure, but you should still check prices as they are sometimes quite similar.

From Taipei:

  • By THSR (Taiwan High Speed Rail): take the train from Taipei Main Station to Zuoying Station in Kaohsiung. The journey takes around 1.5 to 2 hours and costs NT$1,500 (~$43).
  • By TRA (Taiwan Railways Administration): take the train from Taipei Main Station to Kaohsiung Station. This time, the ride takes much longer, between 3.5-6 hours, and costs NT$843 ($25).
  • By bus: take the bus from Taipei Bus Station to Kaohsiung for a ride between 4-6 hours and a total of NT$470-730 ($13-$21)

Please note that tickets must be purchased directly at the stations, and don’t worry if there are no seats, as this is quite rare in Taiwan (except during vacations, when it’s best to book your ticket in advance).

How to get to Fo Guang Shan

If you’re on a budget or don’t have a car, here is the simplest and most efficient way to reach Fo Guang Shan!

From Kaohsiung station, take bus 8010 (高雄客運) for 1h20m and get off at Buddha Memorial Hall to start your exploration.

Entrance to Fo Guang Shan is free and the site is opened every day except on Tuesdays. Here are the opening hours:

  • Monday-Friday: 09:00-18:00
    Saturday-Sunday: 09:00-19:00

For more information on the Buddha Museum and its various exhibitions and events, here’s the link to the official website!


1. Dress modestly

The rule is no inappropriate or revealing clothing, so dress comfortably!

2. Be respectful

Remember that this is a place of worship, so you’ll need to be quiet, or at least not make any loud noise.

3. No smoking or drinking

Strictly forbidden!

4. Don’t sit on religious objects

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t sit or climb on religious objects, be they sculptures, statues… because they’re sacred!

In a nutshell

Whether you’re a history or architecture buff, whether you know about Buddhism or not, Fo Guang Shan is a must-see on your trip to Taiwan. Its treasures as well as natural splendor provide the perfect backdrop for a resourceful and tranquil day trip from Kaohsiung!

Interested in another Kaohsiung’s must-see sites? Why not visit the lovely Lotus Pond?

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  1. The architecture is unreal and the background is even cooler! Thanks for sharing this with us and also for sharing the tips. It is important that we, as tourists, respect their customs and rules for these types of places.

  2. I am fascinated by the intricate designs of the building. Even though I am not a Buddhist, I appreciate and respect the culture. Guan Shan looks like a great place to visit.

    1. Yes, the good thing is that you don’t have to have the same religion to appreciate the beauty of the place! Thanks for your support and comment, Kevin! 😊

  3. Photos are stunning and the places are well described! I have just come back from a holiday and looking at these pictures, I feel like taking a flight to visit these places 😍

  4. I really want to go Taiwan. Pictures looking great and I heard Taiwan is surrounded with mountains, they are my favorite.
    Can you please write one article for a travel visa for indians?

    1. If you love mountains, then Taiwan is definitely for you! I know that for Indians, you’ll need a visitor visa (~$50 single entry) or you can apply for a ROC Travel Authorization Certificate but there will be special requirements to be met. Thanks for stopping by, Dipak!

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