Looking down on the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu, and Qingyi rivers in the Sichuan Province of China, the “Leshan Giant Buddha” is the largest cliff rock carving Maitreya Buddha statue in the world. “Da Fo,” as this stone behemoth is also known, measures over 233 feet (71 meters) tall. The statue’s head is 48 feet (15 meters) in height and 33 feet (10 meters) in width. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, the “Leshan Giant Buddha” is carved into the hillside of Xijuo Peak.
In AD 713, Hai Tong, a Chinese monk, believed a statue of Buddha overlooking the rivers would provide safety for the ships traveling through their waters. Hai Tong traveled the country to raise funding for the project, and he is even said to have gouged out his eyes to show his devotion to his cause.
A lack of funding caused the project to languor, and Hai Tong did not live to see his statue constructed beyond the shoulders. It was one of Hai Tong’s disciples who finally paid to complete the Buddha. In AD 803, 90 years after construction had begun, the stone Buddha was finally complete.
How to Get to the Site
Once you have arrived in Leshan, you can visit the statue with local buses, taxis or pedicabs. Boat tours are more scenic as they allow travelers to see the full scope of “Da Fo” from the water. Once there, take the narrow stairway bolted to the cliffside to see the statue up close.