Finding Zen Inside Hsi Lai Temple, Los Angeles

Irritation and worries seem to melt away once you step inside Hsi Lai Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in North America.

Last updated: April 24, 2024

Finding Zen inf Hsi Lai Temple, Los Angeles | Roads and Destinations
Walking tour of Hsi Lai Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Los Angeles

Visiting Hsi Lai Temple, the Largest Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles

Address: 3456 Glenmark Dr, Hacienda Heights, CA 91745

An opulent temple sits atop a mountain. Its exquisite golden roofs rise above other structures nearby. Its specious white patios open stunning views of the surroundings. Los Angeles Country has no other Asian temples like this. Its name is Hsi Lai Temple.

The words Hsi Lai mean “coming west.” And Hsi Lai Temple, tucked on the knoll 21 miles west of Los Angeles, is a branch of Fo Guang Shan, an influential Buddhist organization from Taiwan.

Peace and serenity envelop you the moment you step inside one of the most beautiful Asian sites ever built in LA. Fresh air with a slight hint of burning incense spread throughout the whole sanctuary. Occasional monks in yellow robes appear from one building and quickly vanish behind the doors of another.

They don’t bother you or look puzzled by your visit. On the contrary, these silent residents add balance and harmony to Hsi Lai Temple, known as the largest Buddhist temple in North America.

History of Hsi Lai Temple in the Los Angeles Region

Hsi Lai Temple is a monastery nestled in Hacienda Heights in Los Angeles County. The temple is relatively young. It was built in 1988 as an overseas branch temple of Fo Guang Shan, a Buddhist organization from Taiwan.

Before finding its permanent home in the Los Angeles area, Hsi Lai Temple met a series of insurmountable obstacles. Public opinion was one of them.

In the 1980s, the local communities were not ready for Buddhist practices. While skepticism against Buddhism was a main issue in some areas of LA, others had far simpler reasons to keep the new temple from their backyards. Increased traffic would disturb their quiet neighborhoods.

The founders of Hsi Lai Temple, however, showed unprecedented persistence. They carried on with their plan of building the Buddhist temple in Los Angeles County despite many nos and unfavorable public opinion. The city’s authorities were on their side, and finally in 1985, the originators of the temple received a building permit. Three years later, the Buddhist monastery opened the doors for its first residents and visitors.

The Main Shrine - Roads and Destinations,
Main shrine of the Buddhist temple in Hacienda Heights

Finding Zen Inside Hsi Lai Temple: Self-Guided Tour

Hsi Lai is one of the most remarkable Buddhist places of worship in the Greater Los Angeles Area. The temple consists of a few shrines, gardens and Memorial pagoda, used as the memorial to the deceased. Beautiful pathways with statues of Buddhist deities on both sides connect different parts of the sanctuary.

A self-guided tour of Hsi Lai Temple starts at the Bodhisattva Hall, the first shrine you enter upon your arrival. The hall is dedicated to five bodhisattvas and includes three doors, symbols of the Three Jewels (the Buddha, the Sharma, and the Sangha).

The left side of the temple is home to the Arhat Garden. This small space with fountains was built to honor the earliest disciples of the Buddha.

Across the hall from the Arhat Garden is the Avalokitesvara Garden. It depicts the sitting on a rock bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (one of the Buddhist deities) with a few followers by her side.

At the far end of the inner yard, a big stairway leads to the main shrine, the most important building of the temple. According to Buddhist traditions, the main shrine of Hsi Lai Temple is dedicated to Sakyamuni or simply the Buddha. The structure is elaborately decorated with large bells and drums.

The Arhat Garden | Roads and Destinations
The Arhat Garden
Finding Zen inside Hsi Lai Temple, Los Angeles | Roads and Destinations
Pathways with statues of Buddhist deities connect different parts of the monastery

Vegetarian Buffet at Hsi Lai Temple

The ground floor of the temple looks more down to earth. You can see more and more monks engaged in ordinary tasks, such as pulling out weeds or working on new flower beds. In the right corner across the inner yard from the main shrine, some permanent temple residents attend to day visitors in a spacious dining hall.

Hsi Lai Temple vegetarian buffet is an essential part of a guided or self-guided tour of the monastery. Tables with large trays with food neatly line the sides of the room. Everything is made fresh at the monastery. For a small fee, the visitors can indulge in this home-style vegetarian extravaganza made of dishes from Chinese and Taiwanese cuisines.

No meat dishes are cooked at the temple-monastery as Buddhism doesn’t allow consumption of meat.

Dining Hall Hours

  • Monday – Friday: 11:30 am – 1:30 pm
  • Saturday: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
  • Sunday: 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Tea Room and Bookstore

In the same corner, next to the dining hall, you will find two other rooms intended for the convenience and education of temple’s visitors: the tea room and bookstore. The first room offers some traditional treats and beverages for purchase. In the bookstore, you will find a wide variety of materials on Buddhism, small statues, prayer beads, artwork, incense, and postcards.

Guided Group Tours

Currently, Hsi Lai Temple offers guided group tours of the property for schools (4th grade and up), religious communities, and City employees. The group must have 15 people or more and request the tour at least 2 weeks in advance. The tours are available Tuesday through Sunday.

 Hsi Lai Temple, Los Angeles | Roads and Destinations
Hsi Lai Temple, Los Angeles County

Things to Know before Visiting the Temple

Hsi Lai Temple is free to visit. There is no restriction based on religion or denomination. Yet, it’s important to know a few things and rules before visiting the temple.

  • The temple is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
  • A parking lot is available on the territory of the temple. Yet, it may get crowded, especially on weekends when more people come to worship and meditate.
  • No smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, loud talking or music are allowed.
  • You can take photos and video for personal use only and only in the outdoor areas. Permits are required for commercial photography. You can’t use drones while in the temple.
  • Dress appropriately: not shorts or short skirts, flip-flops, or sleeveless shirts.

Read More

If you are looking for more cultural centers in the Los Angeles area, check out the following guides:


  1. Sanjay Salve
    July 9, 2023 / 3:03 am

    Very Beautiful Pagoda and location. First time I see the statue of Rahula in Aahart Garden.

    • Zhanna
      July 9, 2023 / 6:30 am

      Thank you, Sanjay!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.