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The Giant Buddha in Leshan

Updated on January 6, 2015

Historic Tourist Destinations of China: The Giant Buddha in Leshan

The city of Leshan, China is located within Sichuan Province at the junction of the Dadu, Minjiang, and Qingyi rivers. It is home to the world’s largest stone sculpture of a Buddha which stands 233 feet tall. The sculpture was meticulously carved out of Mt. Emei. Construction of the giant sculpture continued intermittently from 713 until 803; this period occurred during China’s Tang Dynasty (r. 618-907). It was built as a depiction of the Maitreya Buddha who according to the Buddhist faith will appear and achieve total enlightenment while teaching others the purest possible path to take in life. Since 1996 it has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The site is visited by approximately 300,000 tourists each year.


Leshan Giant Buddha, Sichuan, China

The History of the Giant Buddha of Leshan

In 713 an inspired Buddhist monk known as Haitong thought of the idea of carving a massive Buddha from Mt. Emei. During this period boats were regularly troubled by turbulent rapids which hampered the effectiveness of trade vessels. Many Chinese historians believe that when funding for the project was insufficient Haitong gouged out both of his eyes in an effort to show his undying sincerity and piety toward his faith. Haitong died around the year 733 as the sculpture’s construction was halted from lack of funds. It was not until approximately 70 years later when a local governor elected to fund and restart the construction efforts. The carving, completed in 803 was diligently performed by the disciples of Haitong. Amazingly, the structure required enough to stone from the mountain to alter the flow of the water as removing it did indeed cause an alteration of waters’ tides, making them safer for passing vessels. Unfortunately, throughout the centuries the structure has suffered from some degradation which has required restoration.

Serving as a testament to its brilliant construction, the sculpture was not damaged during a tragic earthquake in 2008 that killed roughly 68,000 people while displacing close to five million more. The statue displays the Buddha sitting with hands resting on his knees. The Buddha’s shoulders are 92 in width. Moreover, one eyebrow measures 18 feet in length. Modern times have brought a high level of industrial development occurring in surrounding areas which has contributed to a rising level of pollution throughout the region. This pollution, along with throngs of tourists has added to the weathering and general wear and tear of the sculpture.

The sculpture’s genius architecture has added to its longevity. This is evidenced greatly by its drainage system which consists of many hidden gutters spread throughout the Buddha’s head, arms, and ears. In spite of its built-to-last construction, the giant Buddha has undergone extensive renovation efforts beginning in 1963. It was during this period when the sculpture was nearly destroyed by centuries of wind and rain. Prior to 1996 restoration was performed by the Chinese government. Since then, UNESCO has assumed control of its maintenance under the guidance of expert instruction. The area encircling the giant Buddha is almost as picturesque as the sculpture itself. Consisting of unbridled terrain, this landscape is best traversed by tourists of at least a moderate physical condition.

Giant Buddha In China

Things to Know Prior to Visiting the Giant Buddha of Leshan

Admission into the Leshan Giant Buddha National Park is valued at approximately $14.27 or 90 Chinese Yuan. This fee excludes the necessary ferry ride costing $11.10 or 70 Yuan. This is the ideal tourist destination for those just passing through as only one day is needed for fully appreciating the splendor of this massive sculpture. The park is open daily during the hours of 9am-4:50pm. Arriving to Leshan City from either a major Chinese city or an international location is easily achieved by way of airliner. The nearest airport to Leshan City, the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU), is about 93 miles from the Giant Buddha National Park. This distance can be travelled via cab ride or the more inexpensive option of travelling by train. Many who travel by train often hike the six miles from the train station to the admission gates of Mt. Emei; this trek is about six miles in distance.

Travelling to the Giant Buddha from neighboring towns is best done by making use of the many ferry rides offered daily from all over Sichuan Province. These boat rides traverse through both small towns as well as miles of untouched nature. Taking advantage of these scenic rides along the Dadu, Minjiang, and Qingyi rivers is highly recommended for those who enjoy taking memorable pictures. From the ferry’s port to the Buddha is less than a mile’s hike. While on this route visitors pass a pink walled ancient Buddhist monastery that was founded in 742. This structure is equipped with attractive decorations including elaborately painted screens and a marvelous entrance gate. Near this building are path signs that point to Han Dynasty (r. 206 BC-220 AD) era tombs. These relics are evidence that the site was held in high regard for up to five hundred years before the construction of the Giant Buddha was completed.

The cliff sides surrounding the sculpture were designed for easy travel of many tourists easily and simultaneously. Well made stairs allow for a safe trip to the top of the Buddha’s head which is 233 feet tall in of itself. There is a staircase that descends alongside the giant head which offers the best view. At times, this particular staircase creates a long line of waiting guests which may last up to 90 minutes during peak visitation periods. To get more of an idea of exactly how massive this sculpture is, the Buddha’s middle finger is taller than a three story building; his big toe is more than six feet in length. The Leshan Giant Buddha National Park also contains an ancient Buddhist temple that dates back to the 8th century as well as another large Buddha sculpture.

Giant Buddha in Leshan, China

Conclusion

The awe inspiring Giant Buddha sculpture in Leshan National Park is a must see site for those who enjoy Chinese religious history and tradition. As is with other historical sites within China such as the Forbidden City or the Great Wall of China, the Giant Buddha of Lesha is a symbol of lasting pride for the Chinese people. While the sculpture is a bit off the beaten track, it is within

Leshan Buddha, China

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    • shai77 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chen 

      4 years ago

      Thanks for your comments, WiccanSage. Yes, there are so many beautiful works of art but I've always found this particularly striking.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 

      4 years ago

      That is beautiful. Awesome.

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