Ohh My, You are a Big Boy
Trip Start Jul 11, 2004
19Trip End Oct 10, 2004
Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation
- Elizabeth Drew
Here at Last
Boy was I glad to finally get to Leshan, in Sichuan Province, Chinas most populous province. I finally got to a hotel (see the pictures for more on that place), finally got to have a shower and finally got to sleep in a stable bed. I'd pretty much been on the move ever since leaving Ping An village, about 700km southeast from here in Guangxi Province, a little over 2 days earlier (I left Ping An on Friday afternoon and arrived in Leshan on Sunday evening). To get here I had to endure an overnight bus trip (from Guilin to Guiyang) on which I barely slept, had to kill 12 hours in Guiyang being the object of intense curiosity to the locals, another overnight trip (this time by train) from Guiyang to Chongqing, to be followed by a rough 8-hour bus trip (advertised as 5 hours) sitting down the back of a bus that had seen better days, sandwiched between 3 elderly Chinese, one of which used me as a pillow for most of the trip. Now I'm not looking for sympathy here folks. Nope. This is fun, and it would have to get a whole lot more arduous than this for me to seriously complain. It's much better than working.
So why go to all that trouble? What am I doing here? Why, to see Dafo of course. Who? Dafo, The Giant Buddha. He's 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. He's 71m tall, his shoulders are twenty-eight metres wide and his smallest toenail is large enough to easily accommodate a seated person. It's therefore not surprising that he's the largest Buddhist sculpture in the world. And he's old too. Construction was started in 713AD, 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 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 clamed and altered the rivers currents sufficiently enough to improve the safety for passing boats. Well done guys. The Giant Buddha is now UNESCO declared 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 it really is an impressive sight (see the pictures). It's also a much more relaxing place to view the statue. The hordes of tourists swarming around the cramped viewing platform areas, and clambering over his toes at the base of the statue, do make visiting here a slightly frustrating experience. Word of warning - bring your patience with you, or limit your time at The Giant Buddha himself to a minimum. There are plenty of escapes in the surrounding hills, an area called the Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area, including a few nice Buddhist monasteries..... with real life, albeit normal size, monks.