Travel for Grown Ups - Hongfa Buddhist Temple, Shenzhen

China is good at erasing the past. In a land were Google is outlawed and the news is controlled by the government it can be very hard finding out the real truth. I reminded myself of this as a listened to my new friend recount the history of Xianhu Botanical Garden and Hongfa Temple in Shenzhen.


street photography, travel photography, Shenzhen, China

Not Mike...this is the bus driver. He wanted a selfie because I was big. Thanks to the technology in my Fufilm phone I was able to wi-fi the photo straight away. 

I had just spent the best part of eight hours traipsing all over the hills and expansive gardens that make up Hongfa temple and was on the bus returning to Shenzhen when I sat next to an ageing Chinese gentleman. Mike, not his Chinese name, was from New York City (he showed my his New York State licence to prove it) and had returned home partly out of curiosity, but most out of nostalgia. He hadn’t been here for over 40 years.  

street photography, travel photography, Shenzhen, China

Also not my new friend Mike...This was four of the biggest Buddhist Monks I have ever seen!

My adventure this day began early from my hotel in Dongmen.  Rather than spend way too much money to sit for way too long in traffic in a taxi, I decided to make my own way to Hongfa Temple. I took the subway from Dongmen to the end of the line at Luohu. My old copy of Lonely Planet told me I then needed the 218 bus to Shenzhen Xianhu Botanical Garden. The only problem with that was the 3km gap between the subway and the bus stop. So I decided to walk…what’s the worst that could happen? As it turns out, nothing.

Disclaimer: What I didn't know was that on return, the 220 bus would take me in a different direcition to Guomao station. And, because the subway is underground, I had absolutely no idea were I was!

Street photography, Luohu, Shenzhen, China

I'm a sucker for plants and the nurseries in China are next level. The 50 year old bonsais are out the front. The dearer 100+ year old ones are out the back.

 Street photography, Luohu, Shenzhen, China

One stop shop!


Hongfa Buddhist Temple, Shenzhen, China

The entrance to Hongfa Buddhist Temple, and the first of many, many steps.


Hongfa Buddhist Temple, Shenzhen, China

I don't know these people...

As we sat on the bus out of Xianhu Botanical Garden Mike told me how, when he was a child, he lived right here. Back then the entire area was an industrial area churning out cheap imitation products for the demanding US market, all the while pumping out toxic chemicals into the environment. It was densely populated with low income families and was certainly not the sort of place were you went outside after dark if you valued your safety. Around the late 1970’s or early 80’s (he wasn’t completely sure) the government had decided the area had become a dangerous, toxic eyesore and it was levelled. Ironically this coincided with Shenzhen being designated China’s first Special Economic Zone. Mike was of the belief that some people were relocated while most were displaced.

Hongfa Buddhist Temple, Shenzhen, China

A very rare moment for some private, peaceful reflection. It's not often you find some alone time in China.


Hongfa Buddhist Temple, Shenzhen, China

 Just one of the forty buildings on 10 terraces spread over 30,000m2 on the way up Wutong Mountain.

Hongfa Buddhist temple, shenzhen

Throwing coins for luck. The higher you get your coin the greater the prosperity.

In the mid 1980’s there was a resurgence in religion in China with many of the countries temples being restored by the people for the people. The ruling Communist Party in Shenzhen saw this as an opportunity to gain favour with the people so they set about building Hongfa Temple and creating the incredible Xianhu Botanical Garden. Built in the shadow of Wutong Mountain, the highest mountain in Shenzhen, it would be the first new temple built in China since 1949.  Everything you see now in the shadow of Wutong mountain, including the huge lake, is entirely man made. 

Xianhu Botanical Garden, Fairy Lake, Shenzhen, China


My one and only photo of the man-made Fairy Lake is black and white and totally ruins my continuity, but I just had to show you.

Hongfa Buddhist Temple, Shenzhen, China The mid-week crowd at Hongfa Temple is ok. If you visit on a weekend or public holiday prepare for chaos.


Subway, Guamo, Shenzhen, street photography

Guomao Station and the way home...I missed that page in Lonely Planet.

Street photography, travel photography, Shenzhen, China

 Back to the city and back to reality. 

So, if you have a lay-over or 24 hours to spend in Shenzhen I can highly recommend a day at Xianhu Botanical Gardens and Hongfa Temple. If you have spent any time in China you will know how densely packed and busy it is and it's a nice reprieve getting out in the fresh air and open space.

Virgin Australia flies to Shenzhen every day from all Australian capital cities.

In China I prefer to fly with China Southern Airlines. They are VERY nice!

In Shenzhen do yourself a favour and stay at the swanky Shenzhen Lido Hotel.

All my photos are taken with Fujifilm cameras. They are the perfect travel camera. Check out the range at Fujifilm Cameras Australia.


Posted By Nathan
As a government employee by day my job is to work within strict parameters and think ‘inside the square’. Photography is in stark contrast to this, requiring patience and creativity, something I have had to learn. A (very) late bloomer in the field of photography I envied the ease at which my wife could compose a photo; yet she struggled with camera settings, so I took over in order to document our travel adventures. Four years on I can’t believe people actually like my photos.

Updated : 23rd July 2021 | Words : 848 | Views : 3695

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