Self guided tour of Leshan Buddha

The first reason for my visit to Chengdu in China a few years ago was pandas of course. Chengdu is maybe the only place where you can see so many pandas in their own park at Giant Panda Breeding Research Base‎, but there are many other things around Chengdu worth seeing. One of the most known is a giant Leshan Buddha, the largest Buddha in the world. The Giant Buddha at Leshan has for decades been one of the brightest stars among Chengdu’s tourist attractions. It’s located in a beautiful park setting in Leshan, about a two-hour drive from Chengdu. Leshan Giant Buddha sits at the confluence of the Minjang, Dadu and Qingyi. The Giant Buddha, known as Dafo by the Chinese, is carved on the side of the hill, where he sits tall 71 meters high (233 feet) overlooking the river. It took more than 90 years to carve a long time ago. Now it is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.9 leshan buddha 1010372

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Story of Leshan Buddha

The Leshan Giant Buddha is a statue of Maitreya in sitting posture. As the biggest carved stone Buddha in the world, the Giant Buddha or Dafo is featured in poetry, songs and stories. It was a monk called Hai Tong who initiated the project. His concern was for the safety of the long-suffering people who earned their living around the confluence of the three rivers. So Hai Tong decided to carve a statue beside the river thinking that the Buddha would bring the water spirit under control. The project was half done when Hai Tong passed away, and two of his disciples continued the work. After a total of 90 years' hard work, the project was finally completed in the year 803. Apparently, the massive construction resulted in so much stone being removed from the cliff and deposited into the river below that the currents were indeed altered by the statue, making the waters safe for passing ships.

How to get to Leshan Buddha by public transport

The transport to Leshan is quite convenient. If you want to travel on your own, that is okay. It is about 160 kilometres (100 miles) from Chengdu City to Leshan City if one travels by the expressway. Visitors can take a long-distance bus from Chengdu Xinnanmen Bus Station to Leshan Xiaoba Bus station, and then change to city bus. Buses leave from Chengdu's Xinnanmen Bus Station every 20 minutes or so. The bus station is located on the southern side of the river on Lin Jiang Zhong Lu near Xin Nan Lu. The journey takes about 2 hours. Once you arrive in Leshan Town you need to catch a local bus 13 to Big Buddha.13 leshan buddha china 1010644Once you arrive at the entrance of the park, you’ll pay entrance and collect a ticket before climbing steps to reach the famous Buddha. On weekends and holidays Leshan can get quite busy, so it’s recommended that you visit on a weekday if possible.14 leshan buddha china 1010346

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In addition to the actual Buddha, there are dozens of pathways around the mountain to explore and it’s a good idea to dedicate at least a few hours to the visit. Bring your camera because many sights are quite beautiful.

The statue itself

Facing the river, the Buddha has symmetrical posture and looks which have been beautifully captured in its stillness. It is 71 meters (about 233 feet) high. The head of the Leshan Giant Buddha is 14.7 meters tall and 10 meters wide.16 leshan buddha china 1010360

There are 1,021 buns in the Buddha's coiled hair. These have been skilfully embedded in the head.17 leshan buddha china 1010364

Each of the 7 meter wide wooden ears can accommodate two people. The 9-meter-wide (about 30 feet) instep is big enough for one hundred people to sit on and the 24-meter-wide (about 79 feet) shoulder is large enough to be a basketball playground. Buddha has 8.3-meter-long (about 27 feet) fingers.18 leshan buddha china 1010372

19 leshan buddha china 1010489The smallest toenail can easily seat a person.20 leshan buddha china 1010499

Another architectural highlight is the drainage system. The system is made up of some hidden gutters and channels, scattered on the head and arms, behind the ears and in the clothes. This system, which helps displace rainwater and keep the inner part dry, plays an important part in the protection of the Buddha.

How to see Leshan Buddha

It is so big that it’s not so easy thing to do. To see it all, you have to have some distance to make. Make sure you look at Buddha in four ways: from the top, from sides, from the bottom and from the distance taking an about 15 minutes boat ride. As you come through the park entrance, you walk through a short trail and come to a viewing platform where you are face to face with the Giant Buddha, then take a narrow stairway on the right side of the Leshan Buddha, with rails, that brings you down to Dafo's feet after 250 steps.22 leshan buddha china 1010368

You can go back to the park entrance the same way, or follow the opposite trail which takes you along the river bank and gets you back up to the park. Afterwards, make your way to the boat station on the river for a boat ride. As the capacity of the boat is 35 passengers, you may wait for a while on board.

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What else to see in Leshan

There is a lot to see in the Scenic Area Park beside the Giant Buddha. The entire park is dotted with numerous temples and beautiful views. You can bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds if it’s not raining.

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28 leshan buddha china 101043629 leshan buddha china 1010467Also, if you have time before going back to Chengdu, you can take a leisurely stroll through the city and try some delicious street food.30 leshan buddha china 1010656

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What would you need to visit Leshan Buddha as a self-guided tour?

Firstly, a bit of courage, then being located in Chengdu and having one day of time, a prepared list with all the names of your destinations written in English (for you) and in Chinese ( to ask the locals for directions). You’d better know the names of numbers from 1-10 in Chinese and maybe a few other words. You may also find helpful my other tips of solo travel in China found by clicking this link. Good luck!
Have you been in China? Share your experience in the comments section!

The Giant Buddha at Leshan in #China has for decades been one of the brightest stars among Chengdu’s tourist attractions. It’s located in a beautiful park setting in #Leshan, about a two-hour drive from #Chengdu. Here is how to do a self guided tour of Leshan Buddha. #travel #traveltips #travelphotography

  • Published by Anita on July 13, 2017

Author: Anita Sāne

Anita 03 18

About the author
Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia, 
travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years. She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterestTwitter and Bloglovin.


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Appreciating the time and energy you put into your blog and detailed information you present. It's nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the same unwanted rehashed information. Fantastic read!I've bookmarked your site and I'm adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.
Saved as a favorite, I love your site!
I'm kicking myself for not making it here last time I was in Chengdu! That city is so warm and friendly. We were there right after the devastating earthquake in 2009 for a singing tour. I'll have to make it back before leaving Korea!
That first photo really grabbed my attention right away. The Leshan Buddha is MASSIVE! Pretty incredible feat for 90 years worth of work and will have to check it out when I get to Chengdu.
I'd seen photos of the Leshan Buddha before but had no idea where it was! It's incredible to think that such an amazing and intricate sculpture was made my humans before forklifts and cherry pickers and mechanical tools existed. So much hard work, dedication and graft must have gone into this!
Wow, what a helpful guide! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this and I know it will be very useful to anyone traveling there. I absolutely loved the photos and you have a great eye. Thanks again for sharing :)
This is so good to know! Like you, I've had Chengdu on my list for a while because I'm dying to see pandas, but I'll be adding this to the list too. Thank you for sharing! :)
WOW. What a giant! And such a beautiful place. Your photos really shows the amazing views. I could go there immediately :-)
That's a big buudah! I love all the colors of your photos too. Also some grreat advice, thanks for providing a public transport, I love experiencing life like a local when I travel.
Wow! What a view!Good to get all the details on how to get there and what to do. So often it's a mystery for the traveller, and local guidance like yours is very very welcome!
This place has been on my list for a long time. Your photos have made me want to get there even more
What a beautiful place to explore! I recently saw a modern artist's rendition of a Buddha's head at the sculpture park in Grand Rapids - it's so inspiring to see the real deal!
Really really helpful advice, especially on transport options, and the tip to see it from four different perspectives. Beautiful beautiful photos!
What a magical and mysterious place ! Undoubtedly, I'm impressed by the Giant Buddha and the story behind it. This massive stone statue of Buddha carved directly into a cliff looks beautiful.
I'm always amazed by how much time is spent creating and perfecting sites like this. 90, and your photos really show off the detailing and workmanship that went into carving and designing Leshan Buddha. Great post!

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