Text from the sign at the entrance:
Leshan Grand Buddha sits at the confluence of the Mingjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers. It is a UN-claimed world cultural and natural heritage. State-protected site of cultural relics, State-ranked scenic spot, and one of the "Best Forty" tourist places of China.
The Grand buddha, sitting 71 meters high, is well-known as the largest ancient sculpture of Maitreya. According to the records, the construction of Leshan Grand Buddha began in the first year of the Empire Tang Xuanzhong (713 AD), and was completed in the 19th year of Tang Dezhong (803 AD), taking 90 years in all. This striking statue successfully conveys the wisdom and vast creativity of the ancient people.
Leshan Grand Buddha has beautiful surroundings of green hills and vast waters. Around it are numerous cultural and scenic spots. There are Mahao Cave Tombs of the Han Dynasty, Lingbao Pagoda of the Tang Dynasty, Lingyun Temple, Dongpo Tower Study, Yijing Annotation Cave, Moruo Memorial Hall, Wuyou Temple, and the Heavenly-Buddhist Kingdom. All there present us with a great painting of the nature. Visitors, no matter in boats or on the hill paths, will all enjoy it, I am sure.''
[September 26, 2002]
Leshan Grand Buddha (Da Fo) is the largest buddha in the world. The building project was begun in 713, and engineered by a monk called Haitong. The statue has undergone a large amount of weathering over the years, and has had many "face lifts" and repairs added, including a water drainage system hidden on the inside. There is still a great deal of erosion, and officials are worried about possible collapse.
It's possible to walk from top to bottom (and back up again) along a staircase carved in the wall overlooking the Buddha. A popular activity near the head is for people to have their photo taken "touching" the nose or sticking their finger in the ear of the buddha, supposedly for good luck.
We took the bus from Chengdu to Leshan (about 2 hours). The bus drove by Da Fo and stopped outside the Buddha-replica park down the street. It's probably worth a look around if you have time after seeing the big Buddha. We tried to take a cab back to Da Fo, but he drove right by and insisted on dropping us at the boat dock. While it is possible to take a boat for a view of works from the water, it wasn't what we wanted to do, so we gave up and walked back by ourselves to the entrance to Da Fo.
It's a nice park. Lots of padlocks with prayer flags locked to the chains. There's a museum with pictures and descriptions of other big buddhas. This is allegedly the biggest, and it is a big one. It looks like its been repaired several times in the 20th century, 1930's, 60's, 80's, and presumably there have been many more repairs going back to 713.
There's a huge crowd visiting today, and we walk down to the feet among them. Then we walk back up the other side like so many ants. We're getting hungry and there's no food to be found in the park so we head out. We start to head to the bus station when an old woman insists we get on a parked bus heading to Chengdu. The bus waits until the last two seats are filled by other passengers and then gets underway. We not sure, but it seems that this is a tour bus making some extra cash filling the last few seats with paying riders going to the same destination.
See more of our Tibet journey in our travel log: Trip to the Roof of the World