Leshan Giant Buddha, China 2010

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We flew out from Jiuzhaigou early in the morning to explore one of the Buddhist wonders of the world: 樂山大佛 [le shan da fuo]. 樂山大佛, the Leshan Giant Buddha, was a large sculpture carved out of a cliff face during the Tang Dynasty. This masterpiece is the largest stone Buddha in the world and the tallest pre-modern statue in the world–it even survived the 2008 Sichuan earthquake with nary a scratch.

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Because the line would have been impossible to get through, our tour arranged for us to view Leshan Giant Buddha from the water. That way we would not have to deal with the rain or be standing on weathered, stone steps dug into the sides of the mountain. The statue stands 233 feet tall and the Buddha’s shoulders reach as far as 91 feet wide. To put that into perspective: 23 stories high and 9 stories across.

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What a feat of engineering.

Locals have a saying that goes, “the mountain is a Buddha and the Buddha is a mountain”. This arose partly because the mountain in which Leshan Giant Buddha resides is also thought to be shaped like a slumbering Buddha when viewed from the river and 樂山大佛 sits as its heart.

The Chinese monk who led construction of the Maitreya Buddha in 713 hoped that the presence of Buddha would calm turbulent waters that plagued shipping vessels traveling down the river. He was right. Leshan Giant Buddha sits at the intersection of the Minjiang, Dadu, and Qingyi rivers, and so much stone was removed from the cliff face and deposited into the river that the currents were altered and water became safe for passing ships.

Even more impressive is the drainage system installed into Leshan Giant Buddha–which operates to this day. The pipes carry away water after rain to reduce weathering.

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We returned to our hotel to dry off after the river cruise ended; our accommodation for the night was at Hongzhu Shan Hotel “红珠山宾馆”. A famous hotel regarded as one of the most beautiful places to stay in Mt. Emei, ” 峨嵋山” [e mei shan],  it’s hidden in the midst of dense forest and even has its own lake. Hongzhu Shan Hotel is famous because many Chinese dignitaries, such as Deng Xiaoping (who lead China towards a market economy after the death of Chairman Mao), choose to stay there when they are in the Emei area.

Although the rooms were huge, when we stayed there was a lot of construction going on and as a result our bathroom remained partly unfinished…certain tiles were missing and the handles on our sink sometimes came off. Sad. But there was a rather adorable note from the hairdryer that really brought everything together. It reads:

“I can help you to:

                                         – relief aching after climbing the Mt. Emei

                                         – dry your shoes

                                         – dry your hair

                                         – wish you have a nice day!

I was going to need all of that hairdryer’s help for the next day–a hike up Mt. Emei to Baoguo Temple.

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