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Published: January 11th 2007
Dafo (the Great Buddha)
This enormous 230 ft. Buddha was constructed 1,300 years ago in Le Shan, Sichuan Province of China, near the city of Chengdu. Its creator was the brave monk Haitong.
Located on a sprawling UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sichuan Province of China, this impressive 230 foot high Dafo, or Great Buddha, has been carved into the red sandstone hill called Lingyun Hill, where 3 treacherous rivers confluence, the Min, the Dadu, and the Qingyi Rivers in the city of Le Shan, some 3 hrs from Chengdu's Panda Bears.
To safeguard the passing boats, the monk Haitong in 713 AD, (at a time before Charlemagne the Great created the Holy Roman Empire), decided to carve a protective icon into the sandstone cliffs as a public works project. No doubt, he wisely understood, that the resulting rubble would fill in the river-shoals, to calm the often raging waters, taking the lifes of many, and usually threatening the profitable, surrounding agricultural areas of the citizens.
Its construction took almost 100 years and beyond its value as a safeguard for ships, it has become a place of interest, which no visitor to Chengdu, Sichuan, China should miss.
During my visit, I climbed down and up both sides of this masterpiece, and it was as if walking back into history. Handcarved, narrow steps, called the Nine Turns Staircase, wind their way from
The visitors below dwarf in size.
Seen from the river, the sandstone statue can be admired best for its immensity on a boat. It was carved from the beautiful red sandstone Lingyun Hill and changes its hue with the sunlight.
the mountain-top, the site of the Great Buddha's head, 230 feet down to his huge toes, where each foot measures some 26 feet.
It is from this vantage point, that the immense statue can be appreciated most fully. Standing by the Buddha's toes, visitors and pilgrims dwarf in size.
Arthur and I made our journey from the city of Chengdu early in the morning, and therefore could admire and traverse Lingyun Hill and its temples and the Great Buddha (Dafo) without the throngs of tourists, who arrived in their caravans of packed busses a few hours later.
We practically had the site of this wonder to ourselves, whose climb left us both breathless and speechless. For a different perspective, we also hired a boat in the afternoon, to view the Dafo or Great Buddha from a river boat.
Though some smaller carvings into the sandstone, created along the time of the Dafo's (Great Buddha's) construction some 1,300 years ago, were sadly and severly damaged during the turbulent times of the Cultural Revolution, the drama of this vista has been deminished little.
For the 230 ft. sandstone statue to have survived the centuries, the remains of
And I thought my head was big.
At this point we started our descend down the torso of Dafo, the Great Buddha. It was one of life's great moments.
an ancient drainage system can be seen, and the statue must be cleaned and restored every 10 years in order to control the decay from pollution and plant invasion.
When the idea of this pious monk Haitong was accepted by the local officials, funds were raised by public bonds and through regional government revenues and taxes on salt. During the construction, the monk lived in a cave behind Dafo's head.
Through our local guide we learned, that when a local official threatened to blind the monk, unless he could collect a bribe and secure for himself a cut of the funds for the project, the monk did the almost impossible. To prove his sincerity and honesty, this pious monk gouged his own eyes out!!!
Both, his story and his accomplishment, will be remembered and revered with admiration and respect for the centuries yet to come, and visitors from around the world will continue to admire in reverence one of the great sight in all of China.
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