A Review of Leshan's Giant Buddha and Its History
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A Review of Leshan's Giant Buddha and Its History

After a recent visit to the ancient site of the Giant Buddha close to the city of Leshan I thought I would write a review of that visit and include a little about the history behind this monument included as a World heritage Site since 1996. Leshan is located in the south of the Chinese province of Sichuan and about 120 kilometres or 80 miles south west of the provinces capital city of Chengdu.

After being driven directly to the east entrance of the site (there are three entrances, the others being south and north), and attempting to negotiate my way in the entrance fees are listed in both Mandarin Chinese and English and options range from 70 RMB (£7 or about $US10), 90 RMB up to 160 RMB. I wanted to see the statue of the Big Buddha or Giant Buddha as it is called and the most expensive option allowed the visitor to tour the Oriental Buddhist Park. At this entrance the only price available was the most expensive one so I then had to walk back along the road to the north entrance where the 90 RMB price was available.

On paying for my ticket and following the many Chinese tourists along the path that quickly began to climb the side of the mountain the many steps brought you to several sections where it was possible to look out over the rivers Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi where they merge below. The further views look across to the city of Leshan although on that day it was hot but not clear skies so the far bank of the rivers were in a haze.

As the pathway continued to rise there were many inscriptions written in Chinese script carved into the rock face and then painted, it was clear that these inscriptions had been in place for many centuries with some having weathered the erosion over time better than others.

There are monasteries and temples situated on the mountain as well as countless miles of pathways that snake their way through the forests and cliffs to bring an ever changing view around each change in direction. There is a lot of climbing both up and down along the pathways and some sections the steps are extremely steep, sensible footwear I would consider a must although some people visiting on the day I was there were dressed more for a fashion display than for negotiating their way along steep walkways.

Eventually you will find your way to the top and the beginning of the cliff road as it is called, it is a steep pathway of mostly steps both up and down to view the statue of the Buddha up close. The lines of people waiting their turn to walk along this path stretched back over a vast area and I would estimate at least 3 or 4 hours of waiting in line before they would be able to begin their way along the pathway. Rather than wait so long in that line I took whatever pictures I could from one of the vantage points available and vowed to return on a day when hopefully the crowds will not be as large. It was a national holiday in China during the time of my visit and this led to the huge numbers of visitors on that day.

The Giant Buddha is the largest stone statue of this type in the world. It was constructed during the years of the Tang Dynasty lasting from 618 to 907 AD. Since 1996 it has been one of China’s 41 structures to be listed as World Heritage Sites.

The once turbulent waters of the rivers below were thought to be of a great hindrance to the ships using the rivers centuries ago so a Chinese monk, Haitong began to construct the statue in 713. Reports claim that he gouged out one of his own eyes when funding for the project came under threat, after his death construction stopped due to a shortage of available funding and it took another 70 years before some of his disciples were able to complete the project in 803AD. The belief that a Buddha would help to calm the waters below was partly correct as the stone removed from the cliff was deposited into the river and this over time changed the currents of the water and made it a safe point for ships.

Among the attractions to visit upon the mountain is the cave in which Haitong lived for many years during his time constructing the statue.

Pollution has affected the statue as well as the weathering over the centuries and the influx of tourists. The tourists help to contribute to the decline in the site although the entrance fee each are charged helps to cover the cost of restoration work that has been ongoing since 1963.

The statue measures 233 feet or 71 metres in height and shows a Buddha seated with his hands upon his knees. The smallest of his toenails is large enough for a person to sit within the area covered. The structure is 28 metres wide at the shoulders, about the length of a basketball court. The fingers are three metres or 11 feet in length and the statues instep is large enough for 100 people to sit there and look out over the river waters as the statue has done for many centuries.

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Comments (3)

Awesome, in my next lifetime; I hope to come back as you!! xoxoxo

You make me want to live in another country!

I agree with Diane and Sandy! Your articles transport me :)