Malaysia is a Southeast Asian country known for its gorgeous coastline, splendid beaches, exotic islands, historical richness, and lush tropical rainforests. If you are planning to visit this thriving metropolitan hub, you will require a Malaysia visa or a Malaysia tourist visa. The Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang is one of the hotspots to visit on your trip to this tropical country. Buddhism is the second largest religion followed in Malaysia. Kek Lok Si temple is the symbol of Chinese Buddhism. Situated atop a hill at Air Itam near Penang Island, Kek Lok Si is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia.
Kek Lok Si Temple History
- The history of the Kek Lok Si temple can be traced back to the late nineteenth century. Beow Lean, a priest, came to Penang in 1885 for obtaining donations for a monastery in Ku-san in China. Later he discovered the sprawling hill in Air Itam, outside Georgetown, and discovered that it had the perfect Feng shui to build a Buddhist monastery.
- The construction work of the Kek Lok Si temple started in 1890 and was completed in 1905. The Hall of Boddhisattvas got completed in 1891, the Hall of Devas in 1895, the Hall of Devawira in 1896, and the tower of sacred books in 1899. In 1905, Beow Lean became Kek Lok Si temple’s first Abbot and chief priest.
- He served for 15 years from 1906 to 1938 and was succeeded by Poon Teong. The Pagoda of a million Buddhas was built under the leadership of the second Abbot, and the monastery further expanded.
- The third chief Abbot Yuan Ying succeeded Poon Teong in 1938. He was succeeded by Pai Sheng, the fourth chief Abbot, and then Tat Neng (1990 to 1997), who became the fifth chief Abbot.
- Under the sixth chief Abbot, Jit Heng, the majestic statue of Kuan Yin got completed.
The third chief Abbot Yuan Ying succeeded Poon Teong in 1938. He was succeeded by Pai Sheng, the fourth chief Abbot, and then Tat Neng (1990 to 1997), who became the fifth chief Abbot.
Under the sixth chief Abbot, Jit Heng, the majestic statue of Kuan Yin got completed.
Kek Lok Si Temple Facts
- The Kek Lok Si is a 130-year-old temple built over an area of 12 hectares and is said to be the oldest and largest temple in Malaysia.
- This temple is among the few places where Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism teachings are practiced together with a harmonious blend of Chinese culture.
- The temple has a seven-story pagoda that houses ten thousand alabaster and bronze statues of Buddha.
- The architectural design of the Kek Lok Si temple draws inspiration from different countries like Thailand, China, and Myanmar. This is evident in the architectural design of the temple tower or pagoda of Rama VI.
- The octagonal base of the tower is built, taking inspiration from the Chinese style. The middle tiers are made, taking inspiration from the Thai style. The top tier of the pagoda or crown of the temple in yellow has a Burmese design.
- Along the way to the hilltop, you come across statues of the twelve zodiac animals such as ox, rat, tiger, rabbit, snake, dragon, horse, monkey, sheep, rooster, dog, and pig.
- Kek Lok Si temple is a monks’ pilgrimage. A monastery that exudes longevity and wisdom for seekers entirely devoting themselves to Buddhism.
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Main Attractions of the Temple
Buddha Pavilion: As you proceed up from the Avalokiteshvara Hall, the path leads up through a finely decorated corridor facing a landscaped garden. There are dozens of Buddha statues on the perimeter of this landscaped garden, and in the center is a building with smaller prayer halls.
Avalokiteshvara Hall: The shrine at Avalokiteshvara Hall is where three majestic seated Boddhisattva wait for believers in prayer. The hall is adorned by hundreds of small niches where seated Buddha figurines are placed.
Kuan Yin Statue: Kuan Yin, also called the Goddess of Mercy, is worshipped by women to beget children. It is a 36.5-meter-high statue of the Goddess sheltered by a Chinese-styled roof supported by 16 pillars.
Pagoda (Ban Pho Tar): The seven-story pagoda, with ten thousand bronze statues, is the main attraction of the temple. King Rama VI of Thailand laid the foundation of this pagoda. Hence, it is also called Rama Pagoda. It combines a Chinese, Thai, and Burmese design, reflecting the amalgamation of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.
The Liberation Pond: The Liberation Pond is a large pool filled with many beautiful tortoises. According to Chinese tradition, turtles symbolize strength, endurance, and long life. The pond surrounded by Chinese arched bridges and a viewing platform is a must-stop on your way up to the first level of the temple.
Timings of the Temple
Visitors can visit the Kek Lok Si temple every day from 7.00 am to 5.30 pm. Once inside, you can stay and roam in the temple complex till 6 pm. The rush hours begin after 10 am, so plan your visit in such a way that you arrive early to bask in the tranquil environment of the temple. It takes around two hours for you to explore the temple complex at a leisurely pace.
Dress Code to Follow in the Temple
There is no signage in the temple or enforcement to follow any dress code. But, the Kek Lok Si temple is a religious site. Therefore, all visitors are expected to dress modestly to show respect. Cover your shoulders and knees as a general rule of the thumb. Since this temple is uphill, you will have to walk a lot. So, avoid wearing heels. Remember to remove your shoes outside the prayer halls.
How to Reach Kek Lok Si Temple
Kek Lok Si temple is about 9 to 10 km away from Georgetown. The cheapest way to reach the temple is to catch a bus at the Komtar bus terminal. It will cost 2 ringgits for the 45-minute ride. If you take an Uber or Grab, it will cost around 13 ringgits for a 30-minute ride. A taxi would cost about 25 ringgits for a one-way trip.
Entrance Fees at the Temple
No entrance fee or admission fee is required to visit the Kek Lok Si temple. However, a visit to some areas of the temple is chargeable.
- RM 2 entrance fees to visit the pagoda (RM 1 for children under 13 years)
- RM 16 for a return trip for the inclined lift or cable car (free for children depending upon their age)
In addition, occasional donation runs are held at the temple to fund future construction projects and for the maintenance of the temple.
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Best Time to Visit the Temple
Penang gets hot, really hot during the day. The higher you go, the cooler it gets. But with the sun beaming as you hike up the hills and staircases, you will sweat during the journey. Opt to visit the temple early morning or around 4 pm. The Chinese New Year is the best time to visit the temple. The temple is open till 11 pm. Seeing the lantern light up at night and illuminate the entire temple complex is a magical sight to watch!
Kek Lok Si temple is an important pilgrimage center for Buddhists from Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, and other countries in Southeast Asia. Make sure to take advantage of the delicious street food like Asam Laksa, Curry Mee, and Rojak available in the area.