Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), Calcutta (Kolkata) Chinatown, General > Hsuan Tsang Monastery ~ Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Hsuan Tsang Monastery ~ Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Hsuan Tsang Chinese Buddhist Temple (Monastery)

Paschim Chowbaga (Tiljala), Calcutta (Kolkata)

Also see: My blog post on Calcutta (Kolkata) Chinatown and Buddhist Temple of Kolkata (Calcutta)

Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga (Tiljala), Calcutta (Kolkata)

Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga (Tiljala), Calcutta (Kolkata)

As I stepped inside the monastery complex I was reminded of the mountains, the Himalayas. The Hsuan Tsang Monastery has remarkable resemblance with his Himalayan counterparts like Rumtek, Hemis and Tawang, each of which built over a large area containing several temples and other religious structures.

L: Nun Hui Roong makes Green Tea. R: Dominic and Nun Hui Roong having Green Tea. Hsuan Tsang Monastery

L: Nun Hui Roong makes Green Tea. R: Dominic Lee and Nun Hui Roong having Green Tea. Hsuan Tsang Monastery

Sadly the Hsuan Tsang Monastery lacked the eternal snow peaks of the Himalayas in its background. Its quiet obvious as the Hsuan Tsang Monastery is not lactated high up in the Himalayas but located in the outskirts of Calcutta (Kolkata).

Ground Floor Prayer Hall, Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta

Ground Floor Prayer Hall, Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta

Located in Paschim Chowbaga of the Tiljala region the Monastery is best approached from the Ruby Hospital on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. Regular auto services are available from Ruby to just sort of the  Hsuan Tsang Monastery. Alternatively one can get down at the Paschim Chowbaga bus – stop on the Science City – Basanti highway, cross a rickty wooden bridge over a canal and walk for 15 minutes to reach the Hsaun Tsang Monastery, locally called the China Mandir.

I was accompanied by Dominic Lee, a fourth generation Chinese who calls Calcutta (Kolkata) his home. We were greeted by Nun Hui Rong, the chief nun of the monastery.  Nun Hui Rong from Taiwan have been looking after the Hsuan Manastery for over two decades.

First Floor Prayer Hall, Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta

First Floor Prayer Hall, Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta

Sitting at her office Nun Hui Rong narrated the history of Hsuan Tsang Monastery. She spoke only Chinese and Dominic interpreted the amazing story. The monastery was started by Chien Wu in 1968 and doubled up as a lama training centre. The Moanastery was constructed in stages over the years and still continues to expand. A small temple is under construction and so is an old age home.

Nun Hui Roong took charge about two decades back and presently trains 10 Buddhist orphan children, who attends normal English medium school, in Chinese and Buddhist studies. Sipping on green tea she narrated the story of the changing surrounding. The monastery was once construct far from the city limits, but today the city has grown creating problems to the monastery.

Side Alter, Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta

Side Alter, Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta

A apartment block has come up straight in front of the pagoda style gate of the Hsuan Tsang Monastery, which blocked the flow of energy. So a Feng – Sui expert from Hong Kong, who visited the monastery, decided to block the main entrance and create a temporary entrance to the Hsuan Tsang Monastery. So today the pagoda styled gate is walled off and entrance is through a sliding door, which seem totally out of place.

We were soon out to explore the Monastery with Nun Hui Roong as my guide and Dominic Lee as my interpretor. It is hard to believe that Nan Hui Rong have been living in Calcutta (Kolkata) over two decades and apart from a few broken Hindi phrases, the only language she speaks is Chinese!!!!

Hsuan Tsang Memorial Hall, Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta

Hsuan Tsang Memorial Hall, Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta

Our first stop was the prayer hall in the ground floor. The huge hall contains four giant Buddha statues, painted with bright golden paint, creating a mesmerising environment. The main alter is flanked on either side my smaller alters housing statues of Chinese Gods and Goddesses. But the glass cover in front of the alter makes photography extremely difficult.

Nun Hui Roong led us past the guest quarters and through the dinning hall to the prayer hall on the first floor. Similar in design with the ground floor hall it also houses a similar alter with several golden Buddha Statues. But the star attraction of the first floor prayer hall is the bright fresco on the wall, pillars and the ceiling, depicting different stories of Buddha’s life and other related events.

Hsuan Tsang Memorial Hall, Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta

Hsuan Tsang Memorial Hall, Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta

Nun Hui Roong narrated that funds were always short and the frescoes were painted in parts by local artist and she has plans for similar frescoes in the ground floor halls also. She also said the regular prayer services are held at the monastery on the first and fifteenth of every month of the Chinese calendar (which respectively coincides with the new moon and full moon day). This prayer hall also contains a small room housing a huge drums and a bell, with beautiful Chinese calligraphy engraved on it.

From the prayer hall we moved on to the Hsaun Tsang Memorial Hall, housing a statue of the famed Chinese traveller, who visited India during the reign of the great Indian King Harshavardhan. The hall also doubles up as a library and houses a rare collection of Chinese religious books neatly arranged in shelves.

Ashes of the dead, Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta

Ashes of the dead, Hsuan Tsang Monastery, Paschim Chowbaga, Calcutta

The Hsuan Tseng Memorial Hall offers a grand view of the adjoining Chinese Cemetery with the horse shoe shaped graves. Nun Hui Roong pointed out that many of the modern day Chinese preferred to cremated than buried. She led us to a separate building housing the ashes of the dead.

It looked more like a bank lockers with rows of small chambers housing the ashes kept in locker like vaults. The used chambers, containing the ashes in a urn, are sealed off and name of the deceased written in Chinese along with the year of death. The unused chambers were open. Straight ahead is a small alter housing a Chinese deity, who seemed to guard the ashes of the dead.

Finally it was time for home and we returned with a box of Green Tea and a bag full of memories to last a life time.

Special Thanks:

  • Nun Hui Rong not only of the wonderful trip of the Hsuan Tsang Monastery but also for the delicious green tea.
  • Dominic Lee not only for taking me to the Hsuan Tsang Monastery but also for helping me unlock many of the secrets of the Calcutta Chinatown.

  1. July 3, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Mr. Rangan, i felt delighted to read your blog post on this old monastery located in the heart of the city. I loved your pictures. Sir, if i may ask, can i go and visit the Monastery? From where did you take the permission. In future if you go on such visits to unique places in and around Kolkata, i would be delighted to accompany you, if you do not mind me coming that it.
    Loved the way you describe your experiences. Thank you for sharing🙂

    • July 4, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      Dear Sadhchyme, thanks for your inspiring comment. Normally you don’t need a permission to visit the monastery, initially the caretaker may not allow you but a few friendly phrases can change his mind. Do take a try.

      Since I update my blog on every Wednesday day, I am out for such visits on a regular basis.

      Do keep in touch and thanks once more for the inspiring comment.

      • July 5, 2013 at 10:11 PM

        I will surely take your advice and be sure to visit the Hsuan Tsang Monastery. Will i email you my details so that next time you travel to one such a wonderful place i may accompany you. please mention your email id.Thank you.

    • July 5, 2013 at 10:57 PM
  2. July 3, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    Rangan’s description makes us feel as if we are actually travelling at the location, observing it ourselves and unlocking the many secrets its hold.

    • July 4, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      Dominic (Pouchong Lee) it was an honor to have us as my guide and interpretor. With out your’s help the article would never have been possible.

  3. July 4, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    I never knew its existence !

    • July 4, 2013 at 1:12 PM

      Thanks Sourabh, Calcutta is full of many such hidden gems and I one day I plan to discover it all.

      Thanks for your constant inspiration.

  4. July 5, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    When I read your posts, I feel I never lived in Kolkata and this is but a different city, out of this world. Your posts on some of the hidden Chinese gems are awesome. Are you planning a China Walk in Kolkata…I would love to come along when I am in the city.

    • July 5, 2013 at 11:00 PM

      Thanks Sangeeta for the inspiring comment.

      Calcutta is an amazing city with lots of hidden gems, so next time in Calcutta do try to find out some of them.

      I will try my best to help you out.

  5. May 21, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    Wanted to know so much about any monastery in Kolkata and your blog have really been helpful. Would definitely visit the same.🙂

  6. Bappan Roy
    July 11, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    Dear RanganDa,
    If you remember we had met in the Calcutta huntage and from then on I follow your blog. And I wanted to write this to you a since then.
    Your blog is a real eye opener to us. I am also a jaywalker and sometimes I go out walking in the lanes and bylanes of calcutta. That was just a pleasure of my eyes and I only imagined looking at the old buildings and lanes that what it could have been during its time. But reading your blog realy its a eye opener. The history of my city is so rich , I realy sometime feel , Do I realy stay in Kolkata …?

    Thank you Ranganda for your blog , to make us more proud of our city.

    • October 10, 2014 at 11:42 AM

      Thanks Bappan, nice to meet a fellow Calcutata enthusiast. Hope our paths would cross again.

      Do keep in touch.

  7. Paramit saha
    October 4, 2014 at 12:11 AM

    dear friend…
    may i know the official timings or the visiting hours for Hsuan Tsang monastery.
    And how to go there from biddhanagar rail station? Is it somewhere near Vip bazar? kindly help me with the right direction…
    thank u…

    • October 10, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      Thanks Paramita for the comment, the Hsuan Tsang Monastery normally does not allow visitors. I visited the monastery with a Calcutta Chinese friend.

      • Takvo Topden lepcha
        August 29, 2015 at 8:51 PM

        Well not that to say that the monastery is not opened for visitors but normally it’s open for visitors . Today only (23rd August 2015) I visited the monastery nd they were very much happy to see me as I stepped in without anyone’s permission though I was reminded that we have to take permission yet I went in nd there was prayer going as
        it was a full moon day.

  8. chotak
    January 2, 2016 at 8:52 AM

    Hello guys ……….now srart again hsuan tsang monastery open steel 10.00 am to 05.00 pm everyday. So ….welcome to visit monastery …anyone🙂 9903982522

  9. October 24, 2016 at 1:40 AM

    It was just a amazing place cuz I know everything about that monestery, I had spend 9 years in their temple

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