Leshan Giant Buddha
Leshan Giant Buddha In Sichuan Province.
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Situated at the confluence of Minjiang 岷江, Qingyi 青衣山 and Dadu大渡河rivers, on the western slope of Lingyun Mountain 凌云山east of Leshan City, the sitting Giant Buddha (Maitreya 弥勒佛) is carved into a cliff overlooking the three rivers. Legend has it that an eminent monk Hai Tong 海通 of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) often saw boats capsize in the turbulent river. Shipwrecks were a common place. Wishing to protect passing boats and tame the rough river currents, the monk vowed to build a Maitreya Buddha. He made great efforts to collect the funds for the construction. The Giant Buddha, also known as Lingyun Giant Buddha 亦称凌云大佛, the biggest of its kind in the world, was carved in the period 713 to 803 in the Tang Dynasty, lasting as long as 90 years. A local saying goes: “The mountain is a Buddha, and the Buddha is a mountain 山是一尊佛，佛是一座山” It is 71 meters in beight, its head being 14.7 meters high, the width of the head 10 meters and the hair coils totaling some 1,021, each being 40 centimeters in diameter. Its shoulder is 28 meters in width, its eye being 3.3 meters long, eyebrow length 3.7 meters, its ear 7 meters, and its nose, 5.6 meters long. Its ear hole can accommodate two men standing abreast. Its toe length is 1.6 meters and its instep can hold over 100-seated people. For the convenience of the tourist, a Nine-Turn Path 九曲栈道 was hewn to wind up the nearby cliff. The path leads up 250 stone steps along the Maitreya’s height, a half kilometer long. When the tourist walks along, it seems dangerous but exciting. Just above the Nine-Turn Path, there is a pavilion for the tourist to relax, a wonderful place to observe the Buddha’s expressive face, UNESCO inscribed the Giant Buddha of Leshan together with Mount Emei on the World Heritage List in 1996.
When it was carved, a huge 7-storey wooden structure sheltered it from rain and sunshine for 500 years. The end of the Yuan Dynasty destroyed the structure in wars. Since the 15th century, the stone statue has had to weather extensive exposure to monsoon rains and winds in the subtropical region. Over the years, plants have begun to grow out of the Buddha’s lead, while garbage has been thrown over his face, neck, shoulder, breast and feet. Water from the three rivers that converge before the stone statue keep washing ashore, eroding the lotus foundation underneath the Buddha’s giant feet. In fact, over 30 holes have been discovered in the foundations.
The largest Renovation job of the Leshan Giant Buddha started on March 25, 2001 and last until April 30, 2001. Historical records show the renovations have been done several times in its life. It is the sixth Renovation of the statue since 1914. The ancient statue was renovated twice in the 1990s, as its face and breast suffered wind erosion. Due to years of wind and water erosion and industrial pollution, the face of the Buddha had become dirty and some parts of the body had weeds growing on them. According to the local tourism department, 40 workers involved in the Renovation project were employed advanced techniques to return the Buddha to its original glory. They used traditional materials originally used on the statue during the work. The ambitions project was funded with an initial investment of US $ 700,000 from the Italian Government and a further non-interest loan from the World Bank. The experts said that they worked out a comprehensive plan so that the ecological, natural, human and archaeological factors have been taken into account. According to the initial plan, workers removed grass and garbage amidst the coils on the Buddha’s head, and repaired the “head skin” and crevices with the cement concoction. After cleaning the Buddha’s face, neck and chest, the workers repaired the broken parts, and applied skin-coloured putty over the surface. The previous cement to the Buddha’s shoulders was replaced with cement and rammed earth that was covered with red-coloured mortar. All the materials used in the repair work are traditional materials as that the work restored the Giant statue’s original appearance. Actual repair work constituted only a part of the preservation plan. The Giant Buddha was also damaged by industrial development in the area. Industrial emissions and human activity—including 2 million annual tourists—led to a deterioration of the statue’s surface. Since 1995, that year when the Giant Buddha was listed as World cultural heritage, factories producing pollutants have been moved away, and emission from restaurants and shops have been monitored. The activities of boats on the rivers have also been supervised. The local government has also decided to build a new highway to replace the National Highway 305 which runs close to the Buddha, to remove the emissions from some 10,000 vehicles a day that pass along the highway. The restoration work was also carried out to clean the rivers, which are currently polluted and add to the erosion of the giant Buddha’s foundations. The entire project required 500 million yuan (US $ 60 million). It is the largest statue of Buddha in the world, followed by one in Bamian, Afghanistan 阿富汗的巴米安 a high cliff more than a mile in length had been hollowed out into cave shrines decorated with frescoes and bracketed at either end by colossal standing Buddha figures carved out of the rock, plastered and painted. The Buddha’s ears are 7 meters long, his insteps 8.5 meters broad and his toenails are so big that there is space enough to have a family picnic on them. The spectacular project was begun in 713, initiated by a Buddhist monk called Haitong who organized fund-raising and hired workers. It was completed 90 years later.
A high-tech Monitoring system 高科技含量的“电子保镖” has been has been installed to guard the world’s tallest statue of Buddha in Leshan. The system has not only prevented disastrous fires and floods, but also helped visitors in order and stopped damage to the statue from outside forces. At a cost of 2 million yuan (US $ 240,000), the system was completed in 2002. In 2001, Leshan invested a total of 6 million yuan (US $ 730,000) to build more facilities to improve security for the statue. A pipeline network was developed to sent river water to the mountain, which not only provides water for tree around the statue, but is aalso used for fire fighting. More than 2 million visitors both from home and abroad come to See the Leshan Buddha each year, which adds about 700 million yuan (US $ 84 million) to local tourism earnings.
On September 2, 2002, the Renovation of a platform at the foot of the world-famous Leshan Buddha was completed. Renovation of the platform, which serves as a passageway for visitors, was part of the section-phase maintenance project to restore the 1,200-year-plus old Buddha. The project cost an estimated US $ 30 million, including US $ 2 million in World Bank loans. Water erosion and damage by an annual influx of more than 1 million visitors had led to more than 10 cracks appearing in the base of the Buddha, with the largest at 4.7 meters deep. These posed a significant threat to visitors crowding the platform. Renovation work, which started in mid-May 2002, has widened the platform by 120 square meters and increased its area by nearly 300 square meters.