Leshan Giant Buddha - The Biggest Colossus in the World

Leshan is 162 kilometers (about 100 miles) from Chengdu. East of Leshan City, is home to the Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Spot, which was named after the giant statue of Buddha. It is actually a statue of Maitreya, a fat laughing Bodhisattva who symbolizes brightness and happiness. It was included on UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1996. Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Spot is full of beautiful natural and historical sites, with the Giant Buddha being the most distinguished one. The best place to view the Leshan Giant Buddha is Mt. Lingyun, so the giant carving is often called the Lingyun Giant Buddha.

Carving of the statue was begun in the Tang Dynasty and continued for 90 years. The river below the statue's location was a very dangerous one for ships going down river, and many people were killed each year. The monk Hai Tong believed that by building the statue, the river gods would be appeased, and it would save many lives. Hai Tong begged for 20 years to acquire enough funds to carve the statue. According to legend, when some local government officials heard of a large amount of money Hai Tong had acquired, they tried to get it from him. He told them that he would rather remove his own eye than give the money. The greedy officials did not believe him, so he took out his knife and dug out his own eye, which scared the official into leaving him alone, and so his money was saved. The statue was only half finished when Hai Tong passed away, and work was continued by his two students.

There is a local saying about the giant Buddha: "the mountain is a Buddha and the Buddha is a mountain". This refers not only to the Buddha's great size but also to the importance that the statue has in the Buddhist world. The giant sculpture stands where the Minjiang, Daduhe, and Qingyi Rivers meet. Over 233 feet in height and 28 feet in width, the Leshan Giant Buddha is the biggest colossus in the world. Depicted barefoot, with drooping ears and an exposed chest, the Leshan Giant Buddha was designed with his 11-foot-long fingers resting on his knees, making it look gracefully relaxed. Another marvel of this sculpture is its invisible drainage system. The hidden gutters and channels which were scattered on its head and arms, behind its ears, and inside its clothes were specially designed to prevent the giant Buddha from weathering.

Worshiping Maitreya was especially popular between the 4th and 7th centuries, and Maitreya's images can be found throughout Buddhist temples in China. The Leshan statue is the most spectacular of them all. As the largest stone sculpture in the world, the Leshan Giant Buddha has received extensive attention both in China and abroad. It has long drawn people to climb the mountain to experience nature and Buddhist culture, as well as worship the Buddha. Though it was designed to withstand harsh weather conditions, erosion did become a major threat to the statue. Fortunately, the protection of the Leshan Buddha has drawn global attention. Experts have been dispatched by UNESCO to investigate and oversee the protection work and the World Bank has offered US$ 8 million in interest-free loans for the work.

In addition to the Leshan Giant Buddha, there are numerous famous sites located in the scenic spot in which the Leshan Giant Buddha is located including Mt. Lingyun, Wuyou Hill, Guicheng Hill, Moruo Hall, Qianfeng Cave, and the sleeping Giant Buddha. There are many Han Dynasty cliff tombs, where many mortuary artifacts have been found making this area particularly important for archaeologists.  

Located around the Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Spot are several local restaurants, where the visitor can enjoy the local dishes of Leshan City. Xiba Tofu, a kind of Tofu that is specially made with the sweet-mellow water in Xiba Town, and Minjiang River Fish, a super fish living in Minjiang River which is free from pollution, are the two most famous. These wonderfully spicy dishes have become famous.

The Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Spot has been a draw for Buddhist pilgrims for centuries and has become a draw for visitors as well.

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