Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang, also known as the Temple of Supreme Bliss, is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. Located in Air Itam, the hills in that area (called "He San" or Crane Hill) have traditionally been regarded as geomantically significant, having all the right “feng shui” for a temple. They are extremely popular as a retreat for monks and Taoists striving for immortality.
The monastery owes its existence to Beow Lean, a Buddhist resident monk of the Kuan Yin Temple in George Town. Overwhelmed by the dedication of Penang Buddhist devotees, he presided over the construction of Kek Lok Si Temple in 1893. The Manchu Emperor Guangxu approved of the project, bestowing a tablet and gift of 70,000 volumes of the Imperial Edition of the Buddhist Sutras. Other Chinese rulers, such as His Majesty Emperor Kuang Xi and Empress Cixi of the Ching Dynasty, have also bestowed the temple with gifts.
The best time to visit Kek Lok Si is during the Chinese New Year celebrations, when the temple is adorned with thousands of brightly-lit lanterns. Its main draw is the striking seven-storey Pagoda of Rama VI (Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas), completed in 1930. Boasting 10,000 alabaster and bronze statues of the Buddha, its design symbolises the harmony between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, and marries a Chinese octagonal base with a middle tier of Thai architecture, topped by a Burmese crown. One can climb to the top of the pagoda via a steep flight of stairs and be rewarded with a great view of Penang.
The latest addition to the temple is the beautiful 30.2-metre bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. Kek Lok Si Temple holds 3 distinct records as the tallest pavillion (89.23 metres), the tallest bronze Goddess of Mercy (33.67 metres) and the tallest granite pillars (42.24 metres) in Malaysia.