Scarred by lucky gesture

THE guardian gods of Lantau's giant Buddha are taking sanctuary behind iron fences to escape 'dastardly attacks' by visitors who sling coins at them for good luck.

Scratch marks can be seen on the statues' eyes and faces, and the floors of the altar are covered with 10 and 20-cent coins.

Some visitors believe it brings them good luck if they hit the statues' heads with their donations.

To raise funds for maintenance, the Po Lin Monastery, which manages the statues, has recently imposed a $60 fee for admission to the Buddha. Fast-food kiosks have also been set up outside the monastery to raise money.

The statues of the six guardian gods are fenced off but are still targets. Visitors ignore signs saying 'Do not damage the statues'.

Security guards are often helpless in the face of the 6,000-strong crowds at weekends and holidays.


Mainland visitor Li Zhe said: 'You make a wish as you toss the coin at the deity, and your dream will come true if you can hit it.' 'It is not doing harm to the Buddha. It is a way of making donations, just like tossing coins on the turtles in the temples.' Tai O Rural Committee chairman Lee Chi-fung, who also represents the monastery, said he had received complaints about damage to the statues.

'If the people really want to donate money to the monastery, they can simply do so by handing in the money or dropping it in donation boxes,' he said. 'It is an insult to the gods if you sling coins at them.' The Tian Tan Buddha was unveiled in December 1993. It took the monastery about 20 years to complete at a cost of $60 million. The statue is 23 metres tall and is the biggest outdoor bronze Buddha statue in the world.