We dutifully put on our life vests before boarding the ferry that took us to the Cliff where the Giant Buddha was carved.
The Leshan Giant Buddha is situated in the eastern part of Leshan City which is about 150km south of the capital city of Sichuan Province, Chengdu.
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD), the tempestuous waters in this area resulted in many casualties & deaths of the local people who made their living around the 3 rivers. Today, we see an astonishingly calm & peaceful river. It is believed that the rubble carved away from the cliff would likely have been deposited into the Minjiang, altering & taming the currents.
An altruistic monk by the name of Hai Tong was so concerned for the safety of the people that he initiated the project to build the statue of a Buddha facing the river to control the water spirit that he thought was harming the common folk. Begging alms for over 20 years, he painstakingly accumulated enough funds to get the project kickstarted.
Hai Tong passed away when the construction was underway but his disciples & thousands of other artisans & workers tenaciously labored on to realize his dream & completed this humongous project in 803AD.
On the right cliff of the Giant Buddha is a steep flight of steps that takes one from the top, down to the foot of the Buddha. As the name so suggests, there are nine turns & the widest part of the path is 1.45m & the narrowest part 0.6m. There are altogether 217 precarious stone steps which the serious devotees would embark on without second thoughts.
Lingyun Mountain has long been recognized & venerated as a Buddhist religious site in the world & draws both the pious & the curious. It has been a Buddhist shrine since the Tang Dynasty & over the years many other monasteries & temples have been built on this mountain.
The Giant Buddha was carved out of the waterfront cliff, Xijuo Peak of Mount Lingyun with its back facing Mount Jiuding & face towards Mount Emei directly in the West. Though it is colossal, the carving is elegant, detailed & well proportioned.
On the left hand side of the Giant Buddha is the Lingyun Cliff Road seen here; some have deemed it both fun & scary & it also descends to the foot of the Giant Buddha. This road was built much later by a different generation using steel-bar reinforced concrete.
Looking closer at the little rectangles carved into the cliffside are some poems by prominent Chinese literary figures & inscriptions by outstanding noblemen.
Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area together with Mount Emei Scenic Area were listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1996. The Giant Buddha was built from the time of Tang Emperor Xuanzong in 713AD & completed in 803AD during the 19th year of the reign of Tang Emperor Dezhong.
Viewing the world’s largest Buddha from the ferry has its merits. It saves having to queue for hours in line to have a go at the Nine Bends Plank Road. If you have bad knees or do not have the luxury of time, then this is really a good way to enjoy your visit for an overall view of the Giant Buddha. The entire Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area covers 17.88ha & consists of many temples, parks, pavilions, pagodas & religious buildings that you may visit if you have a longer stay in Leshan.
Maitreya is a Bodhisattva that is usually represented as a stout monk with a broad smile, with his naked breast & paunch exposed to view in a sitting posture. Here he looks like he is seated on a chair.
Ingenious architectural artistry includes 1,021 coiled buns embedded in the head of the Buddha; 7m long ears made of wood & plastered with mud & a drainage system that helps to dispel rainwater & keep the inner structure dry to slow down degeneration of the structure. The Chinese government has taken steps to protect the area in the form of laws that subject the area to regulations from the national, provincial & municipal governments & has a plan to guide its conservation under the auspices of UNESCO to ensure that this site preserves its Buddhist culture & ancient architecture for the benefit of posterity.