Nan Tien temple (Chinese 南天; pinyin nan tian; literally: Southern Heaven) is a Buddhist temple complex located in the industrial suburb of Berkeley, on the southern outskirts of the Australian city of Wollongong, approximately 80 km south of Sydney, Australia.
It is one of the branch temples of Fo Guang Shan, founded in 1965 by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, which has over 120 branches worldwide. This is the biggest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere.
Fo Guang Shan Buddhism is rooted in the Mahayana tradition which emphasises that Buddhahood is within everyone’s potential reach. Fo Guang Shan followers strive to bring Buddhism into daily life and aptly term their faith “Humanistic Buddhism.”
It was funded by and constructed under the auspices of the Mahayana Buddhist sect known as Fo Guang Shan, and completed in 1995. The sect itself was founded in Taiwan in 1965 by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, and has 120 branches throughout the world. The site of the Australian branch’s temple was reputedly chosen by Hsing Yun due to its proximity to Mount Kembla, which is said to have an auspicious resemblance to a recumbent lion. It overlooks both Mount Keira and Mount Kembla.
The Nan Tien complex was built using traditional techniques and materials by Chinese craftsmen, but with numerous modern features. Occupying a semi-rural hillside site several square kilometres in size, and set amidst landscaped gardens, it is the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. It also has the largest terracota tile roof of any building in the southern hemisphere.
In addition to various meeting rooms, a museum, cultural, conference and accommodation facilities and a restaurant, the Nan Tien temple complex includes two massive prayer halls (known as the Great Mercy Shrine and the Great Hero Hall) within which are located multiple monumental Buddha and Bodhisattva statues, as well as a 7 level pagoda intended to house the cremated remains of 7000 people. The front hall houses the Bodhisattva of the Thousand-Hand Kuan Yin; the main hall at the back has five statues of Buddha. Both halls have thousands of tiny statues of Buhhda on the walls. The complex also has amenities for monks, nuns and visitors, and a large garden with a pagoda.
The temple has become a new venue for tourists wishing to know more about Buddhism and Chinese culture; it frequently hosts festivals and retreats for the laity.
Nan Tien is a Chinese term, and means “southern paradise”.