At 71 meters high, the Leshan Buddha takes the prize for largest Buddha statue in the world.
Carved into a cliff overlooking the Min and Dadu Rivers in central Sichuan, the Buddha is said to offer protection to river travelers. Construction on the statue began in 730 AD under the guidance of the monk Haitong, and when the funding for the giant Buddha dried up, Haitong is said to have “gouged out his own eyes to show his piety and sincerity.” The project was finally completed in 803 by Haitong’s disciples, long after his death.
Boat tours give onlookers a chance to see the Buddha from a manageable distance, but many people choose to take a closer look. A narrow stairway is bolted to the cliff next to the statue, and from there visitors can appreciate the massive scale of the Leshan Buddha as they descend.
Unfortunately, the Buddha has been worn from weathering, and extensive pollution and currently suffers from a black nose and dirty face. The Chinese government has shut down nearby power plants and promised to restore the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Know Before You Go
There is no train station in Leshan, but you can get off at Emei Shan and then it is less than an hour on the bus. The bus ride is around 10 yuan and you will probably be dropped at the western long-distance station. From there you can take a local bus to the Buddha, a taxi, or a pedi-cab for 2-5 yuan. It won't be hard to find, since that is where everyone else will be going too, and the locals will be able to point out the statue from almost anywhere in town.
- Chinese Sculpture (book) by Angela Falco Howard, et al. Yale University Press, 2006
- Lonely Planet "China", 10th edition, edited by Damian Harper, et al.