The Reverend Yuet Kai, born into a wealthy family in Kunming in southern China in 1878, was a skilled lyre player and talented poet, who studied philosophy at one of China’s leading universities.
At the age of 19 he decided to dedicate his life to Buddhism and is said to have set fire to flesh, cut from two of his fingers, to light forty-eight oil lamps in front of the Buddha to demonstrate his commitment to the faith.
Establishment of the 10K Buddhas Monastery
In 1933 Yuet Kai moved to Hong Kong to preach Buddhism in a local monastery and soon found many followers. He originally planned to establish a Buddhist college on an estate donated by a wealthy merchant who was also a devout Buddhist but eventually decided to found a monastery and construction of the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery began in 1949.
Construction of the Monastery
Yuet Kai himself, although by now approaching old age, personally helped in the construction by carrying materials, with his disciples, from the foot of the mountain. The monastery buildings were completed in 1957 but it took a further ten years to complete all the miniature Buddha statues, now on display around the walls of the main temple and which actually number almost 13,000 (in Cantonese tradition “ten thousand” simply represents a figurative term for an extremely large number).
Reverend Yuet Kai
The Reverend Yuet Kai died on 24th April 1965 (23rd March in the Chinese Calendar) at the age of 87. After being buried for eight months in a coffin on the hillside his body was exhumed, still in perfect condition, and in accordance with his wishes, embalmed with Chinese lacquer, painted with gold leaf, draped with robes and put on display seated in the lotus position in a glass case in front of the main altar. The corpse is named "The Diamond Indestructible Body of Yuexi" on monastery signs.