Defo a Dafo! Great Big Leshan Buddha!


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April 10th 2013
Published: April 28th 2013
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It turned out that although our trip notes said the huge Leshan Buddha (or Dafo or Great Buddha - wish they'd make their minds up!) was in Chengdu it was actually a one hour drive south of the city. On the coach we were treated to the very same video we'd had on the ferry out of Hong Kong. Remember? The chef and pretty girl who gets revenge on her ex by getting the chef to help her bake a cake with the delightful addition of poo to give to her ex? We had the same scenes, the cursed lift, the handing over of the poo cake and the added complications of another pretty girl vying for the handsome chef's attention. As for the conclusion we'd missed the first time round...well of course it all ended happily with the chef proposing to the pretty girl (the original one) and they all lived happily ever after - apart from the ex who is probably STILL cleaning his teeth!

When the coach stopped there was a taxi ride to get us to the actual site and there we got to see why it's a good idea to get to these sites early as there was a zig-zag queuing system being set up for when the hoards were expected later in the day. We got our tickets then started up the steps stopping to look at some small Buddhas on the way (those that hadn't been smashed up during the cultural revolution that is). I spot a great warning sign on the way up where there is a big drop over the edge of the hillside 'Not to parabolic'. Fortunately I manage to stop myself from chucking things over the edge parabolically and carry on further up the hillside. We also see a cool dragon pool with his tail skirting the front of the pool and his head and claw emerging towards the back of the pool out of the rock face. There is also a lovely spot to stop and have a breather and I find out it's called the Drinking Pagoda which was first built in the 16th century, it's name taken from a Su Dong Po poem 'Nice to be governor of Jiazhon (Leshan); more enjoyable to drink wine on Lingyun Hill!' Too right, get the rioja out 😊 The present building is a reconstruction.

Before visiting the main man, we checked out the temple at the top of the hillside. The first entrance had a happy Buddha guarded by a couple of amazing wooden carved warrior dudes. Further inside the temple we saw places where worshipers were burning incense or candles or lamps. Each part of the temple housed a different type of Buddha. When we reached the final area there was a lion and a tiny Buddha figure.

And then to the main attraction - Dafo, the Leshan Buddha - now a UNESCO world heritage site. Boy is he huge! He has been carved out of the red, sandstone rock face and is an incredible 71 metres high. Story has it that a monk called Haitong decided that the treacherous conference of the three rivers Min, Dadu and Qingyi needed a really big Buddha to safeguard the passing boats and so in AD 713 work began. Funds were raised for the project by public subscription and regional government funds from salt revenues. Haitong lived in a little cave behind the Buddha's head. At one point his integrity was challenged by a government official wanting to take a cut from the funds who threatened to blind Haitong if he didn't comply. Haitong gouged out his own eyes to prove his sincerity! The Buddha was eventually finished in AD 803, after Haitong's death. Now Dafo gets a 10 yearly spruce up to survive plant invasion and pollution.

After taking a few photos from the very top and finding out that his many tight curls of hair signify great wisdom (Renee liked this as she has very curly hair!) I went with the others down the narrow staircase attached to the side of the rock with metal railings to stop you plunging to your death at Mr Dafo's feet. There were two passenger boats in the river at the foot of the massive Buddha, full to the brim with people looking at the huge stone Buddha from the water.

At the bottom, the true scale of this enormous carving becomes apparent when we posed for photos next to Dafo's foot and were completely dwarfed by it. Utterly awesome - the word used in its truest sense.

Climbing back up to the top at the other side of the Buddha we passed some more calligraphy tablets and a canon and then came to the beautiful Haoshang bridge that links to some other temples on the adjacent hills, We went to see some of the Mahao rock tombs carved into the hillside and saw some of the artifacts taken from these tombs. We discovered that the tombs, dating from the Han dynasty (AD 25 to 250), number over 500 in the Sichuan province and were used to house the remains of noble families. Thinking they might be lonely or hungry in the afterlife many of the artifacts show food or cups and plates or even servants.

Back in the taxi to the coach stop the driver doesn't stop talking animatedly to Dennis the whole way and we find out afterwards that he was having a right go at the Chinese government and things it has done that have affected him.

Aside: As we walked back to our hotel from the coach drop off point we saw an addition to the weird rope bandaging for trees - unbelievably they had IV drip bags attached to feed them medicines!! Dennis explained that the Government realised that amongst all the mass construction work going on in big cities there was little in the way of greenery so they began transplanting big trees from the countryside. Their transplant techniques must be a tad suspect as a good third to a half of the trees I saw hadn't survive the move.

As we got near to our hotel we passed shop after shop of gaudy, flamboyant fancy dress clothing, the set shop type for this street. We'd noticed that the Chinese tend to group shop types together, so hairdressers would all be together, shoe shops similarly etc etc. It may make it easier to find a certain item but can't be very good for the businesses who are all competing with each other.

After a bit of quiet time at the hotel we got ready to go out for our famous Sichuan hot pot experience. Dennis decided we needed to go for the split pot version, one side no spice and the other mild spice (he couldn't take the hot one, so figured we definitely wouldn't cope with that!). We then went over to a table set out with spices and other condiments that you chose from to make up your own individual pot of delicious smells and tastes. I went for corriander, spring onions, chillies, crushed peanuts, sesame oil and some mushed bean thing. Back at our table the pot had been lit and the soup had started to bubble away. We then added our vegetables and meat to the hot pot to cook. Once these had cooked for a while we started dipping into the steaming pot with our chop sticks to fish out the tasty food to go with our spices bowl and rice. The mild completely blew our socks of it was so hot!! Noses and eyes were streaming. Luckily we had beers and bowls full of raw diced white sweet potato that cooled our mouths down in between hot pot forays! We finished off the meal with some dough balls dipped into condensed milk - basically donuts I guess. What a great experience!

Another great day in China and a happy Lottie Let Loose 😊


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