Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Big Buddha We Can Show You A Picture Of

As we have traveled around China, we have encountered many big Buddhas. There is one at Yonghegong in Beijing that is made of a single piece of sandalwood. There is an even bigger one in a Tibetan temple out in Chengde, the old imperial summer resort (that we, naturally, visited in the dead of winter!). While we have cool memories of looking up at these dusty old statues, we haven't been able to share any pictures, being that these icons have all been located inside active religious sites.

And so it was with slightly mixed feelings that we set out for Leshan Da Fo, a big Buddha statue located in the countryside a couple of hours outside of Chengdu. On the up side, here was a Buddha we would be able to photograph, as it is located outside, carved right out of the rocks of a cliff. On the down side, as non-believers, how many statues of Buddha can we visit before becoming jaded?

Well, walking to the end of the cliff, I peered over the edge and got my first look...An absolutely breathtaking combination of...

The statue itself. Here are the basics. 233 feet high. Ears that are 23 feet long and can hold two people inside each of them. 1,021 rolled buns for hair. (I'm waiting for Desi to try that style on Julie!)

The stairs at Cirith Ungol. At least that is what the winding steps down the cliff reminded me of, with views not only of Buddha from a variety of dizzying heights, but also straight down into the surprisingly fast current of the river.

Actually, the confluence of three rivers. The city of Leshan, located across the water from Buddha, is actually built where three rivers come together (no, not the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monangahela!)...The Min River, the Qingyi River, and the Dadu River (which I believe is actually the great Yangtze).

Once again, we were thankful not to be on the "march and shoot" tour group circuit. As Desi put it, "If you're going to come all this way, why just take a picture and rush on by?" Sitting at the bottom, we were rewarded when there was a break in the action, and it was just the four of us and a truly impressive thirteen hundred year old Buddha. (Yes...I said thirteen hundred years old!)

~Steve

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