The following is a true story. A magical tale about faith, Buddhism and religion, and leads us to question – do miracles really happen?
The Leshan Giant Buddha
During my travels in Asia, I spent almost a month in China. I visited various spots and did the usual touristy things like the Great Wall, The Forbidden City, saw some pandas, etc. But one lesser known attraction is something which I found pretty damn impressive…a 71m (233ft) tall Buddha statue carved from a cliff. A CLIFF!? Yes that’s right, a cliff.
The thing is absolutely huge. It is the world’s largest stone Buddha, and is located near the city of Leshan where the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers meet in the southern part of Sichuan province in China. The statue faces Mount Emei and is the tallest pre-modern statue in the world. Amazing. And not just that, there is a super interesting and intriguing story behind the construction of the Buddha.
But let’s start from the top to get an idea of the scale of this beast…
Look at the teeny, tiny people behind his head!
The Magic Behind The Story
So the construction of this statue began in 713 and was led by a monk called Haitong. The reason for the construction of such a large statue in this particular place was so that the Buddha would calm the rough waters below the cliff, allowing safe pass for shipping boats on the river. This river:
When the construction of the statue was threatened due to lack of funding, Haitong apparently gouged out his eyes as an act of sincerity and devotion. Madness if you ask me! But all for a good cause I guess…this man had pretty much devoted his life to the construction of this massive structure. He clearly believed that it would work. He had faith!
But inevitably Haitong died, possibly as a result of gouging out his own eyes, I’m just not sure on that one. But I can’t imagine that the healthcare back then would have been very good, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this was the cause. So construction was halted.
Before I continue with the story, let’s have a few more photos from the walk up to where the Buddha rests:
Some Chinese text carved into the wall. Maybe someone who reads Chinese will be able to translate?
More Chinese text carved into cliff faces.
Although this Buddha is pretty big, this is NOT the Leshan Giant Buddha. This thing is tiny compared to the real thing just around the corner. Let’s hope he doesn’t know otherwise he might start to feel inferior. Then again, this is Buddha…Buddha does not feel inferiority!
A couple of Chinese tourists posing next to a white tiger statue.
3 Hours With Mr Bean
One of the most bizarre things about this experience was that whilst I was queuing (for over 3 hours in the cold!) to see the Buddha, a huge screen was playing episodes of Mr Bean on repeat. All of the Chinese tourists were loving it!
I guess the good thing about Mr Bean is that anyone can understand it.
Back To the Magical Story About A Man Who Gouged His Own EyeBalls Out And Then Died
So unfortunately Haitong died and construction was still not finished. Fast forward 70 years and a military commissioner from the Tang Dynasty enters the story. This was clearly a man with loads of money and so he sponsors the project allowing Haitong’s disciples to finish the statue’s construction in 803.
Let’s have a few more pictures before I reveal the true magic of the story:
Tourists descending the steps to see the Buddha.
Ok, So Where Does The Magic Of The Story Come In?
So as I said in the beginning of this story, the Buddha was originally constructed in order to tame the rough waters below Buddha’s feet…and did it work? Of course it did! It turns out that so much stone was removed and then deposited into the river below that the currents were altered and the river became safe for passing ships.
Now a Buddhist would tell you that this was all down to Buddha.
An atheist would tell you that it was all down to the massive amounts of rock deposited in the river and has absolutely nothing to do with faith, religion or any kind of miracle whatsoever.
I know where I stand. What about you?
Does this make you question your own beliefs? It makes sense that the rocks changed the currents but who is to say that it is not down to Buddha? Who says that Buddha didn’t make the rocks fall specifically where they did, causing the change in the rough conditions?
Regardless of your opinion, the Buddha served its purpose and the story has a nice end. Hearing this definitely made my visit to see the giant statue that little bit more special.
I would definitely recommend going to see this incredible structure. I mean, it is a Buddha carved out of a cliff! A CLIFF! Let’s have some more photos to finish up:
GoPro + GoPole selfie! Hey, I was taking these photos before the ‘selfie stick’ was even a thing, so don’t be hating on my selfie skills!
And as you exit the grounds where the Leshan Giant Buddha watches over the calm rivers below, you will come across this lovely bridge which I thought made a very nice photo. Don’t you think?