A and I wanted to go see the world’s largest Buddha statue, carved into a cliff along the river in Leshan, an hour by train from Chengdu. Legend has it that the place where 2 rivers meet was the site of many boat accidents, causing loss of goods and lives, so people decided to make a giant Buddha to watch over the ships. After the statue was finished, the boats no longer sank. You can chalk that up to the Buddha or to the large displacement of rocks into the river, causing a shift in tides and currents. Your choice.
After buying tickets the night before, we took the high-speed train to Leshan, leaving around noon. We were told that the busy time is in the mornings and to go after lunch (and to eat before going, since the restaurants have outrageous prices). After arriving at the train station, we took the bus to the park and walked around.
The statue itself really is impressive. It’s 71m/233ft tall, carved into the side of the cliff. There are viewing platforms around it, as well as steps to go down to the feet (since you start at the head, at the top of the cliffs). There’s also a statue of a monk who lived in this cave during the entire construction, watching over the project.
The walk through the rest of the park was really interesting, but we didn’t see any of the other sites, because they all require a separate entrance ticket. However, the tombs/mausoleum were free, so we enjoyed that and the oddly-placed signs & fire hydrants in the woods.
We had entered from the East gate and then up to the North gate but wound up exiting from the South gate, so we took a pedi-cab back over to the bus, bus back to the train station, and then back to Chengdu. Leshan is a weird city. They built tons of buildings, preparing for a population explosion that never happened. Underground walkways have flooded over time, and the city never did anything about it, because they’re not necessary. There are 8-lane roads with barely any cars. This is a common thing in China, and it blows my mind.
The trip to the Giant Buddha of Leshan was really cool, but the temperature was not. We were DRIPPING sweat from the heat and humidity. It was 33ºC/92ºF with 94% humidity, then we froze to death on the train coming back, but it was a great day trip from Chengdu and something really cool to see. Glad we went.
Next post: Chengdu’s famous Giant Panda Breeding Center
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