The Leshan Giant Buddha is a monumental statue of Buddha carved in the cliff of Lingyun Mountain (in Chinese: língyún shān means “the mountain that rises in the clouds” ). The statue is located on the east bank of the Min River in the Mount Emei region, south of Sichuan Province, China. As the legend says, it owes its existence to a Buddhist monk, named Hai Tong, who wanted to protect the sailors taking the perilous confluence of the three rivers (Dadu he, Qingyi Jiang and Minjiang) and to prevent flooding in the city of Leshan.
History of Leshan Giant Buddha
In the ancient time, the water at the joint of the three rivers was very intense and there were always capsized boats. To slow down the water flow, Monk Hai tong recruited artisans to build the Giant Buddha.
Construction of the Leshan Giant Buddha was started in AD 713, led by Hai Tong. After his death, due to insufficient funding, the construction was suspended. About 70 years later, Wei Gao, one of the apprentice of Hai Tong, decided to sponsor the project; the project was suspended again when the knees were just completed. 40 years later, so in AD 803, the project was continued again and the disciples of Hai Tong completed the construction.
This site is the first place of establishment of Buddhism in China (from the first century of our era). Inscribed in the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1996, The Giant Buddha is, by its dimensions, the largest Buddha in the world prior to the twentieth century, and the highest statue of Maitreya. (Maitreya be the next Buddha to come when the Dharma, or the World in the Indian religions, will have disappeared).
Facts About Giant Buddha in Sichuan
Leshan Giant Buddha is famous for its incredible size. Indeed, this seated Buddha, carved into the red rock wall on the hillside and turned face to the river, is 71 meters high and 28 meters wide at the shoulders.
The head of Buddha is 14.7 meters high. Each eye measures 3 meters long and each ear is 7 meters. The middle finger of Buddha’s hand is 8 meters long. Between knees and insteps is 28 meters. Its insteps can hold over a hundred people. 1021 small hair buns rolled up adorn the head. The head reaches to the mountaintop and its feet stands next to the river. There are 1051 spiral loops on the Buddha head, and they were all inlayed onto the Buddha head.
On each side of the statue are warriors, much smaller since they are only 8 meters high. Behind them, a set of two hills, with subtropical vegetation and coniferous forests, that are over 100 years old, contain caves, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and other temples. One of the most spectacular of the pavilions is the Lingbao Pagoda, dates back to the time of the Tang Emperor. The diverse environment, both in terms of fauna and flora, different from Mount Emei, is also rich in tourist and cultural sites.
Design Features of the Giant Buddha
The weather of Leshan is always humid. The statue of Giant Buddha is located in the open air. But how the statue is preserved under this condition? Artful design is the answer! There is a delicate and invisible drainage system which has played an important role in protecting the Giant Buddha from corrosion. On the Buddha head, there are 18 layers and the 4th layer, 9th layer and 18th layer have one cross drainage; the drainage from the left side in front of the chest is connecting to the back drainage of the right arm; a cave on the back side (the side near the mountain) connects the two ears. These caves and drainage have composed the scientific drainage, moisture proof and ventilation system.
How to Visit Leshan Giant Buddha
You have two ways to go to visit the Giant Buddha:
- The first is climbing on the mountain and watching the Buddha from a very close distance. In this way, you enter into the scenic area and, through Nine Bends Plank Road, you get to the Buddha feet.
- If you don’t want to climb on the mountain, or want to see the panoramic view of the Buddha, you can take boat to see the Giant Buddha. For taking boat, there are two ways:
- First one is to take a boat at Tieniumen Pier to Sun Island, a little isle facing the Giant Buddha. The distance between them is only about 500 meters, and the ticket for the boat is ¥1 per person. Sun Island is very popular among local people; they love to barbecue and just drink tea on the island, enjoying the good weather. This way would be the cheapest choice for tourists to see the Giant Buddha. Nevertheless, travelers can’t see the Giant Buddha in a close distance, and if they travel in the rainy season, the water level will rise and some of the island will be submerged, so it’s not easy to see the whole Giant Buddha.
- Another way is taking steamship or speedboat. By that, travelers arrive to the front of the Buddha can enjoy the panoramic view from a very close distance. To take the steamship and speedboat, there are two piers: One is Baxiandong Pier, which is next to the scenic area, and travelers can go there by Bus No.3, and get off at Baxiandong station, the last station of Leshan Giant Buddha scenic spot. Another one is Leshangang Pier, that you can find it across the river facing the Giant Buddha. The ticket for steamship is RMB 50/person, speedboat is RMB 70/person. The cruising time is about 30 minutes; so, we only recommend this way for those who have few time or who prefer a very easy trip.
The site of the Giant Buddha is open every day from 9:00 A.M through 16:30 P.M
The entrance fee is 90 RMB per person.
Best Time to Visit Giant Buddha of Leshan
The best time to visit the Leshan Giant Buddha is from March to November. Spring is very beautiful as many flowers will blossom and the cloud sea on the mountaintop is extremely impressive and attractive. From May to June, the area has many sunny days, the weather in this time is not very hot, but delightful; and the temperature on the mountain is cooler than the city center. The weather in autumn is very clear and it is a great time to see cloud sea, sunrise and sunset on the summit.
We recommend you to avoid the “Golden Weeks” in China, including Spring Festival, May 1 to May 7 and October 1 to October 7. During these times, the domestic tourists visit the site and the scenic spot is crowded, and travelers usually will have to queue for hours to get to the Buddha feet.
Local Food of Leshan
Leshan’s local snacks are very famous and delicious for tourist; so, why not to taste the local food if you have enough time? Just outside of the scenic spot, there is a 500m street called Jiading Fang. Tourists can find all kinds of local snacks and local specialties there. The street also has many tea house and bars and it’s a good place to take a rest. For those who have more time or will stay overnight in Leshan, it’s highly recommended to search delicious local food in the city center, like Zhanggongqiao Snack Street Fujie and People’s Park. The bean curd jelly, Malatang, Leshan barbecue and Qiaojiao Beef and spiced crispy duck are some the delicious local food of Leshan.
In the entrance of Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area, both Chinese and English tour guide can help tourists. Normally, the price for one tour group is about 100 RMB.