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.
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.Once 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.
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.
There are 1,021 buns in the Buddha's coiled hair. These have been skilfully embedded in the head.
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.
The smallest toenail can easily seat a person.
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.
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.
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.
Also, if you have time before going back to Chengdu, you can take a leisurely stroll through the city and try some delicious street food.
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!
- Published by Anita on July 13, 2017
Author: Anita Sāne
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveler, passionate photographer and a mature career woman from Latvia, traveling mostly solo for more than 10 years. She is a skilled travel planner planning and executing her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her also on Instagram and Pinterest.