We’re going to Hell in a fast car and we know it.
In our defence, we don’t think it’s (totally) our fault. We blame Le Shan.
Apparently, the residents of Le Shan were correct. When it comes to Le Shan, it’s all about the Giant Buddha.
Some Background: The Le Shan Giant Buddha (乐山大佛) was carved into the western river cliff face of Lingyun Mountain (凌云山) overlooking the confluence of the Min River (岷江), Qingyi River (青衣江) and Dadu River (大渡河).
Construction of the Giant Buddha was started in 713 by a Chinese monk named Haitong (海通和尚). At that time, ships could not transit freely in the area because of the turbulent nature of the waters where the three rivers meet. The residents of Le Shan were also plagued by floods caused by the high influx of water during the wet seasons. For some reasons, Haitong believed that the waters could be calmed by the construction of the Buddha. In fact, he was supposedly so steadfast in his beliefs that he gouged his eyes out to show his piety and sincerity (?!?). I don’t want to speculate on whether it was intentional or not, but the construction of the Giant Buddha probably resulted in so much stone being removed from the cliff face and deposited into the river below that the waters did calm down.
From what we’ve read in the guide book, the main attraction of Le Shan was just that… a Giant Buddha.
What we did not anticipate was the effect the Giant Buddha had on its surrounding. It acts like a big Buddhist magnet. It induces Buddhist magnetism on the things around it. Buddha-inspired architectures pepper Le Shan, but it is exceptionally concentrated in the vicinity of the Giant Buddha. Granted, some of these buildings were pretty awesome, but a lot of them… not that much. As far as I know, it is the only place in the world with a (I shit you not) Buddha theme park.
At this point in the entry, I have to point out that in order to see the Giant Buddha, you HAVE to climb UP Lingyun mountain. It’s a a relatively long climb (for me), but you’d be forced to stop often because of the throngs of tourists in front of you.
Another point to note is the sides of the path leading up Lingyun Mountain is littered with statues of Gods and Deities.
On the way to the peak, you’ll hear the occasional tour guides bleating that many Chinese consider it bad karma to take photos of the likeness of Buddhas and deities. Some might even consider it a *gasp* sin! Almost without fail, the locals would show their unwavering support for the tour guide by asking him/her to stand aside so that they can have a better shot of the statue behind the tour guide.
We joined in.
You can’t blame them (ok… them AND us).
Some of the statues were really quite gorgeous.
Believe me… this was one of the milder photos we took on our way to see the Buddha. Don’t judge us! We had a lot of free time waiting for our turn to go up the mountain!
And yes… I do see the irony that we are the least respectful in the one place that is supposed to inspire devout awe.
Eventually, we reached the peak of Lingyun Mountain, and there we have it…. another impossible queue to go down the cliff-side steps so that we can get a full length shot of the Giant Buddha.
Most people would’ve been put off by the length of the queue,but not us. We are tourists!
One of the cool trivias about the Le Shan Giant Buddha is that it sits at the heart of the “Naturally formed Giant Sleeping Buddha”. Apparently the shape of Lingyun Mountain and Wuyou Mountain (乌尤山) beside it resemble a reclined Buddha. This “Sleeping Buddha” is best viewed from the docks of Le Shan.
This is what we saw.
It is an unfortunate position to place a tower.
That’s ALL I am saying.
Yup… I don’t think we are getting off easy if Buddha is the one that comes to claim us in the afterlife…. or Chinese tourism board officials for that matter.