It was only by pure accident, while trying to stay busy while in Chengdu, that I learned of the existence of the Leshan Giant Buddha. This Buddha statue, the biggest in the entire planet, measures an astonishing 71 meters tall and took close to 90 years to be completely carved on the mountain it now sits.
So why was it that my first reaction upon coming to its side was: that’s it???
I woke up feeling extremely groggy that morning, my body fighting a cold as best it could. The weather in Chengdu had already started to get colder, with the temperature dropping down to 10°C. With a runny nose and a small headache, I managed to get out of bed as best I could, dressed up, and made my way to the Chengdu East Railway Station to take a train to Leshan.
The ride from Chengdu to Leshan did not take longer than 1 hour by fast-speed train. Once the train arrived to the Leshan train station, I saw a number of people lining up besides a counter which had a poster of the Leshan Giant Buddha. Realizing that it was a transport bus for the Giant Buddha site, I approached the counter and on my best broken Chinese I asked:
– Duoshao qian? (how much?)
– “Mianfei” (free)
Thinking that there had to be a catch, I asked again:
– Duoshao qian che dao da fo??? (how much the bus for the Giant Buddha???)
– “Mianfei” (free)
So I lined up, knowing very well that a sales pitch would come sooner or later….. and I was right! No sooner the bus left, that a lady started pointing out the prices for guided visits of the Buddha, boat tours, and what not. When it was my turn, I simply looked at the lady and gave her my most I’ve-got-zero-clue-what’s-going-on-here look, which she quickly understood and moved on, leaving me alone.
As the bus dropped everyone in front of some restaurants a bit far from the entrance, I sneaked past the crowd and made my way to the north gate, where I paid my ¥90 entrance fee.
I began to climb the starts which would ultimately take me “face-to-the-side-of-the-face” with the Giant Buddha. Passing through a few temples and shrines along the way, the sun had finally decided to come out, so I unwisely decided to strip down to a t-shirt to continue the somewhat long way up.
And that’s when I saw it….. first its massive ear, then the side of an eye. It took me 4 seconds to realize what I was actually looking at, and it’s only when I noticed all of the Chinese tourists trying to take the same picture by the face, that I realized that I had finally made it to the Leshan Giant Buddha.
And yeah, it is definitely massive, and it was certainly as big a statue as I thought it would be. Having seen it in pictures a few times now, I certainly knew what to expect, and maybe that was what played a factor in my being not-that-impressed. I recall my first reaction being, that’s it???
But it was only once I began to go down the stairs by the side of the statue that I could truly appreciate the how truly detailed the statue was. From the detail on its face all the way down to its toes, it is easy to see why this statue took about 90 years to be carved from the side of the mountain, and how it possibly could not have taken more.
At the feet of the statue, people can pay their respects to the Giant Buddha by lighting a candle and praying. On the side of the river, boats line up for a maybe-not-so-better view of the Giant Buddha (a different option than hiking all the way up and down the statue).
As the awe of the statue began to fade, I began to make my way out towards the south gate, one opposite to the one I entered. Along the way a beautiful scenery dotted by a fishing village and one of the most beautiful bridges in Leshan on one side of the river, and the Leshan buildings on the other side of it.
After some wandering around I finally made my way back to the Leshan train station, only to realize that I had purchased a train ticket for 7:50PM…..it was 4PM. Resigned, I waited, as the temperature got colder inside the tiny train station. I continued to sneeze, headache made a comeback, cold sweats…..
Yes, by the time I made it back to Chengdu….I was totally sick.
So, is the Leshan Giant Buddha statue overrated? Maybe a little bit, but it’s still worth the visit if you’re in the Chengdu area. What are your thoughts?