Leshan Giant Buddha: The Ancient Buddha Statue of China

Older than a millennium, Leshan Giant Buddha is one of the tallest Buddha statues in the world. It is located in the city of Leshan in China. The statue is a highly important place for Buddhists and shows the stunning craftsmanship of the Ancient Chinese. The site has been on the UNESCO Heritage List since 1996, further proof of its value for the world.

leshan giant buddha
Ancient History

The construction of the Leshan Giant Buddha was during a peak time for Buddhism in China. In the 8th century, the Tang Dynasty controlled the empire. The emperors of the dynasty very much favored Buddhism. They even gave legal statuses and titles to monks and monasteries. Consequently, the interest in Buddhism increased, and so did the number of Buddhists.

the town of leshan

One of the Tang Dynasty empresses, Wu Zeitan, even claimed that she was the reincarnation of Maitreya, a popular Buddha during the time. Moreover, she wanted people to build statues and sculptures of Maitreya as many as possible. Consequently, many Buddhist statues, sculptures, and temples were built during a short time period.

the forest of lehan

Despite the popularity of Buddhism and encouragement by the empress to build statues, the story behind Leshan Giant Buddha involves both tragedy and perseverance. In the mid-700s, there lived a Buddhist monk named Hai Tong in today’s Leshan. Tong was very upset because many people who earned their livelihood from the rivers would die by capsizing and drowning.

lehan giant buddha head

Tong believed that if they built a Buddha statue near the river, Buddha would show mercy and settle the water. He tried to gather enough money to build the statue for 20 years and refused the officials’ help because he believed that they just wanted to help for the fame and profit. Tong even stabbed his own eyes in order to protest the Chinese officials of the time.

the lehan view from the top of buddha

Hai Tong wanted to build the statue by himself and with his followers only. Even though he died before seeing the statue complete, his followers finished it in 803, many decades after the construction started. Moreover, the stones and rocks that fell from the cliff during the carving of the statue fell down into the river. These rocks actually made the water calmer, so Tong achieved what he wanted, in a way.

staircase of lehan giant buddha
Lindsey Burrows

Today, the Leshan Giant Buddha is one of the biggest attractions for foreign and local tourists. Moreover, it still remains a place that the Chinese respect greatly. In the city of Leshan, the tallest building is 68 meters, 3 meters shorter than the Buddha statue. As an unspoken rule, the city pays attention to not making any building taller than the statue.

tourist tours
Grit Wattanapruek

Aside from the statue itself, the drainage system inside it and the quality of the said system really impress people. Since the statue is in a location that gets a lot of rain, they built a drainage system that covers the entire body of the Buddha statue to keep the inside dry. Therefore, the statue maintains and preserves itself without much help.

lehan giant buddha entrance
Douglas Jiang