Leshan Giant BuddhaThe Calming, UNESCO-Listed Largest Buddhist Structure In The World
“He sits with his hands on his knees looming over ships that pass beneath and when seen from the water is really an impressive sight.”
IMAGE || Leshan Giant Buddha, Sichuan Province, China. September 20, 2004.
Leshan Giant Buddha, China
Dafo, a.k.a. the Leshan Giant Buddha, is a large red sandstone Buddha that has been carved out of a cliff face at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers, just outside Leshan in Sichuan province, Central China. Make no mistake, it’s a bit out of the way and it took some effort to get here, but Dafo was worth it.
– UNESCO commenting on Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area
Dafo || The (Calming) Giant Buddha
Dafo is pretty imposing. He’s 71 metres tall, his shoulders are 28 metres wide and his smallest toenail is large enough to easily accommodate a seated adult. It’s therefore not surprising that he’s the largest Buddhist structure in the world. Oh & he’s also old. Construction was started in 713 AD, led by a Chinese monk named Haitong. When funding for the project was threatened, he is said to have gouged out his own eyes to show his piety and sincerity. Construction was completed by his disciples some ninety years later. Haitong hoped that the Buddha would calm the turbulent waters that plagued the shipping vessels travelling down the river, a hope that was somewhat realised by the massive amounts of rock that were deposited from the cliff during the construction phase – seemingly it calmed and altered the rivers currents sufficiently enough to improve the safety for passing boats.
Dafo, along with the nearby Mount Emei Scenic Area, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an honour bestowed upon him in 1996. He sits with his hands on his knees looming over ships that pass beneath and when seen from the water is really an impressive sight. It’s also a much more relaxing place to view the structure. The hordes of tourists swarming around the cramped viewing platform areas and clambering over Dafo’s toes does make visiting a slightly frustrating experience. Word of warning – bring your patience with you, or limit your time at Dafo himself to a minimum. There are plenty of escapes in the surrounding hills, in the Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area, including a few peaceful Buddhist monasteries.
Time to get high, and spend the night in a monastery, on UNESCO-listed Emei Shan, one of China’s four Sacred Buddhist Mountains.