China is home to a couple giant Buddha's. And when I say giant, I mean giant. I guess to be sure that the Buddha will look kindly upon your mortal soul, you better build (or carve) him big enough to be spotted from space. There are for example some huge Buddha carvings in Datong (near Beijing (hint hint), Luoyang, and in Leshan.
Just south of Chengdu (meaning a two and a half hour drive), visiting Leshan was a perfect day-trip on our recent visit to Sichuan Province and Chengdu, and of course we went to see the famous and humongous "Leshan Buddha."
What I loved about this place was actually the story surrounding it. The version that I was told--as we were climbing down on the right side of his body--is that a monk, Mr. Haitong, with great energy and inspiration started raising funds in 713 AD for his idea to build a Buddha, which he thought would bring calm and safety to the wild and crazy water currents of the convergence of the Ming, Dadu, and Qingyi rivers in front of it.
Lo and behold, after many years of work and 71 meters of carvings, a benign and rock-solid Buddha appeared on the shore. And as the works had progressed, the rivers had actually calmed down because of all the rocks and sands sliding into the river from the construction. A miracle! The Buddha didn't even have to use his build-in safety features; the mere construction of him already had brought peace to the river.
What a great story. However, when I just read this other version, A Short History of the Leshan Giant Buddha, I realized that Mr. Haitong might have started the whole project knowing very well that the construction of it would slow down the river. Or as the article says, it was a "half-flood control, half-religious project." I suppose that takes a little bit away from the miracle of the Buddha, but it does show incredible foresight by the monk (not to mention an apt for marketing techniques, if you read the article) to be able to solve a flood-control problem and at the same time use it as a way of funding his desire to honor the Buddha!
The monk didn't live to see the final result, but exactly 90 years after the project was started, the statue was finished in 803 AD. In 2012 AD, a bunch of Dutch tourists came see it with their own eyes.
The three Buddha's.
For a sense of scale. The boat in the foreground is not a toy.
Captain Haddock and the Buddha.
Buddha and Goofball.
In het Nederlands: Van de zomer waren we op bezoek bij de Grote Boeddha van Leshan, in de provincie Sichuan in het mid-westen van China. Wat een monster! Samen met nog zo'n duizend andere toeristen daal je een smal trapje af, van het rechteroor van de Boeddha naar z'n teen, en dan weer omhoog. Maar mooi is het wel. Ook leuk is het dat door de constructie van de Boeddha, en dan met name door alle stenen die in het water vielen, de rivier een stuk rustiger werd en er dus minder schepen vergingen dan voorheen. Dat is nog eens een effectief beeld!