Take a tranquil path to wisdom

Hong Kong's Information Services Department, Aug 1, 2005

Hong Kong, China -- When life gets too hectic you need to escape city life for a day and relax in a natural environment where you can enjoy tranquillity and refresh your spirit through meditation.

<< 38 timber columns carved with the Prajna-paramita Heart Sutra at Wisdom Path

Wisdom Path on Lantau Peak near the Big Buddha is a good choice, housing Professor Jao Tsung-i's Heart Sutra woodcarving. But how was such a monumental work of calligraphy transformed into a huge outdoor display?

Government architect KC King told news.gov.hk. that if you walk along the trail next to the Po Lin Monastery entrance for about 10 minutes, you will arrive at Wisdom Path where 38 timber columns carved with Professor Jao's 260-word Prajna-paramita Heart Sutra are erected.

Mountain masterpiece: Government architect KC King says Wisdom Path features 38 timber columns carved with Professor Jao Tsung-i's Prajna-paramita Heart Sutra.
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Empty theme

Explaining the special design layout of Wisdom Path, Mr King said the height and positioning of each column corresponds to the topography. The column located at the hill peak suggests the concept of "emptiness" (Sunyata), a key theme in the display.

The project is a collaboration between the Tourism Board, Tourism Commission, Architectural Services Department and the University of Hong Kong.

Visiting the Mainland in 1980, Professor Jao saw the Buddhist stone carvings of the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra on Mount Taishan in Shandong, which inspired him to create the Heart Sutra, a treasured text revered by Confucians, Buddhists and Taoists. Professor Jao completed the calligraphy in 2002 and dedicated it to Hong Kong people.

The University of Hong Kong Art Museum initially considered presenting it in stone, but decided on wood instead, reminiscent of the bamboo tiles (zhujian) used for writing long ago.

The timber columns are imported from Africa, and are a solid hardwood robust enough for exterior installation, yet soft enough for carving. Experienced sculptors Tong Chik-shing, Cheung Sing-hung and Lee Kwok-chuen did the chiselwork.

Ecological caution

Construction started last October, spanning six months and costing $9.5 million. Mr King said as the site is remote with little direct access for vehicles, the project encountered many challenges.

The site is also in an environmentally-sensitive area, which called for extra care in its construction. Green groups were widely consulted throughout the process and work plans adjusted to avoid disturbing the natural ecology.

The columns have been treated with nano coating to protect them against fungi and mould, and Architectural Services Department staff will regularly inspect and maintain them. Visitors should respect the columns, avoid littering and lighting hillfires.

Mr King said he has been enlightened by the Heart Sutra, which can help people free themselves from mental obstructions to attain harmony and bliss. He hopes people will enjoy Wisdom Path and get inspiration from the Heart Sutra.