Many years ago I saw Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel visit this colossus and I told myself I would go there someday. That day has come and gone and it was pretty darn cool. It is the biggest Buddha statue in the world ever since the Taliban destroyed a bigger one in Afghanistan, and it is more than 1,200 years old.
We arranged to take a van with some other travelers from the hostel to Leshan getting us there a bit faster and earlier than if we had taken a bus. This got us there before the crowds making it easier and less stressful to see the big guy.
This statue was carved into the side of a cliff overlooking the confluence of three rivers in order to calm the rapids that were hazardous to fishermen and other boatmen. A monk decided to have a Buddha carved into the mountain to have a calming effect and it worked. Many say it is due to the debris from carving the statue that calmed the river by adding loads of boulders to the river.
Whether it was a blessing from Buddha or natural coincidence doesn’t matter because the Buddha is impressive either way. His ears are about 17 feet tall and his toenails are about 1.5-2 meters squared, and it is a real miracle he hasn’t eroded more since he was carved into a soft sandstone hill. This is partially due to the hidden irrigation system inside the statue.
When you first see him, you are at eye level. From there you can wind down some narrow stairs to get a Lilliputian view of this Gulliver, as it says in Lonely Planet.
Along the path down and all around the mountain are other smaller carvings and statues. There is also a temple, a really old and awesome looking pagoda and some beautiful semi-tropical scenery. There was a lot of going up and down stairs and hiking about but it was a delightful morning.
After exploring the park, Aaron and I made our way to the boat dock up the road to get on a tourist boat for seeing the Buddha from the river with his two guardians on either side. On the way to the docks we encountered the area’s crazy lady who grabbed Aaron’s water bottle out of his hand and started drinking from it. After we yelled at her she got crazy and started throwing the water all about while yelling back. We saw her again later and she started smiling, laughing and yelling again. Nothing happened but it is a fun story to tell.
Back to the boat ride, it was a short trip just long enough to go past him and hover in front for ten minutes to get pictures. This really completes the scene seeing him carved into the cliff flanked on either side by guardians and overlooking the river.
The drive back took us through hills and farmland. My favorite crops to see are the fields of lotuses of which the Chinese eat the pods, seeds and roots. We made it back to Chengdu and we’re welcomed by severe traffic jams that took nearly an hour to maneuver through. After a short nap we headed out for some dinner near the U.S. Consulate, an adventure that would lead to some delicious food including bacon wrapped mushrooms, freshly made tortilla chips and salsa, and confirming my adoration of Dr Pepper.
All in all it was a great day punctuated with a titan, a crazy lady, ridiculous traffic, and some reminders of home.