Leshan Giant Buddha: the tallest and largest Buddha stone in the World
April 10, 2017
Leshan city is located in the southern Sichuan Province, about 120 km (75 mi) from Chengdu (click here to find out more). Whereas the Leshan Giant Buddha (also known as Dafo) statue is situated at the confluence of the Qingyi, Dadu and Minjiang rivers in the eastern part of Leshan.
Leshan has a humid and subtropical climate characterized by short winters, that are quite mild and dry (snow is rare, rainfall is light), with temperatures which have an average of 6°C. Summer is long, hot and humid (humidity can reach high levels, rainfall can be heavy), and temperatures can exceed 30°C.
With 71 meters (233 ft) and over 1,300 years old the Leshan Giant Buddha is the tallest and largest Buddha stone in the world. Completely patterned and carved out of a hillside was built to protect the travelers who cut through the river from the turbulent waters that every year plagued that zone. The architecture of this statue is extraordinary, it’s entirely made by stone, save for its ears which were created by wood and covered with clay. Researchers think the statue is “Maitreya”, a disciple of Sakyamuni and maybe the founder of Buddhism. The construction was started during the Tang dynasty by the chinese monk Haitong in 713, and completed after his death by his disciples in 803. Since 1996 the Leshan Giant Buddha scenic Area (included to Mount Emei scenic area) has been included to UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
If you are planning to visit Sichuan Province, Leshan Giant Buddha is beyond a doubt a place to visit. This site attracts millions of tourists and Buddhist pilgrims every year, and it’s considered one of the most important sacred destination of China. It’s not a lie if I say that Leshan Giant Buddha is one of the most stunning place I have ever visited during my long journey through this amazing country. A spiritual place in a great scenery where you can feel the real buddhism atmosphere, absolutely a suggestive and exciting experience.
I undertook this 1 day trip with 2 friends I met at Lazy Bones hostel in Chengdu: Moises, my mexican flat mate, and Cora, a nice chinese girl who helped us many times in more than one circumstance.
We woke up at 6.30 am and we went to catch the first bus at the Xianmen Chengdu Bus Station. After having arrived at Leshan bus station after 2 hours and 15 minutes and from there you have 2 options to get Leshan Giant Buddha:
Take a shuttle from the bus station directly to the Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area. Don’t worry to look for the shuttle, at your arrival a horde of chinese people will try to sell you their shuttle services, so no problem 🙂 . It costs 5 yuan and it is the fastest way to get there (recommended).
By Leshan city bus: take number 3 from Central bus Station. If you arrive from other bus stations, you can take number 13. The longest but cheapest way, only 1 yuan.
The smart shuttle drivers are going to leave you 100 meters before the gate, nearness to the stores and restaurants (they have a partnership). At ticket office remember to show your Student Card and Passport, the half price ticket for students is 90 yuan, instead the full price is almost the double.
As you can see from the map, Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area is really huge, so we decided to start our tour from Leshan Giant buddha gardens, close to the main gate. Located at the mountain feet, these wonderful gardens consist of a series of ancient sculptures representing Buddha, monks, and religious symbols in a real journey through the history of buddhism.
We started the second part climb up through caves digged inside the mountain, realized by monks and converted in a place of worship consecrated to Buddha. If you are lucky you’ll be able to admire buddhist monks praying in the caves, the echo effect is intense and suggestive, something really spectacular.
After passing through the caves we reached the first half of the mountain. We had to climb up an endless staircase which bring us at the first big temple, where you can buy fruit or burn an incense to pay homage to the buddha.
After climbing up through other caves we finally arrived at the famous Leshan Giant Buddha, located at the top of the mountain. I can’t explain my astonishment contemplating this masterpiece. From there you are at the same level of Buddha head, so you can take shots from the left and the right side but that’s not the best place. So you have to reach the Buddha feet using the staircase on the right side. I don’t know why but sometime the line of people is too long that you could take literally 3 hours to go down and a good half-hour to come back, so if you want to avoid the tourist groups you should go as soon as possible in the morning. At the moment it is forbidden to touch the buddha’s feet, due to the erosion and pollution first and uncivilized tourist later have caused many damages to the sculpture. Anyway this is the second best part where you can take shots of the Giant Buddha.
Before to come back at the main gate and reach the best place for your shot, you can visit the buddhist monastery and the Lingbao Pagoda just behind the Buddha’s head…yes, once again you have to climb up another staircase, but don’t worry, it’s not so long.
Once you come back at the main entrance, turn left and go ahead until you’ll be able to see a little harbor river. From there you can catch the boat (the price is 70 yuan) that brings you exactly in front of the Giant Buddha, and this one is absolutely the best view to take the best pictures, where you’ll be able to enjoy the sight of the entire statue.
I want to give you some advice:
The boat ride is only 10 minutes and you have more or less 5 minutes to take pictures, so don’t waste your time.
When you’re on the boat, remember to take place on the right side, in this way you’ll be in the front row, the best place to take an entire picture of the Leshan Giant Buddha.
I hope this post can help you to have a perfect day at Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area.
How to get there, best time and cost
There are many ways to reach Leshan, here you are a list considering the price and the means of transport.
From the Central Station of Chengdu “XinNanMen Chengdu Bus Station” to the Leshan “Xiaoba” Station, the cost is around 45 and 55 Yuan one way (approximately from 6,5 to 8 €, 7 to 9 $) . Of course it depends on the time you intend to catch the bus. So have a look to an updated timetable before to take a decision. If you catch the bus from the Central Chengdu Station you’ll arrive at Central Leshan bus station.
By High Speed Train
It takes just 1 hour and 12 minutes and the cost is about 55 yuan; you can catch it from Chengdu South Railway Station (you can get there by Chengdu subway blue line 1) and Chengdu East Railway Station 成都东站 (Chengdu Subway red line 2) to Leshan Railway station.
Best time to go
Spring is surely the best time and I recommend to to visit Leshan and Leshan Giant Buddha in April. Not as hot as May or June and just before the high season.
You can visit Leshan city and Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area in just 1 full day. Don’t worry about accommodations there, travelers use to stay in Chengdu, where you can reach every place in Sichuan Province.
Avoid weekends and festivity days, especially during High Season. Imagine thousands of chinese people queue up at the same time, and 3 hours to take a picture. If you’ve ever visited China you know what I mean.
Take your Student Card and Passport if you want to enjoy the half price discount for students.
Water and food inside the Leshan Giant Buddha scenery is much more expensive. Buy your supplies in Leshan City or Chengdu.
It’s highly recommended to go there with locals or chinese people in general. They can help you with simultaneous translations especially at the ticket office, and trust me you need it. Many times occurs they don’t speak english and don’t make the half price ticket if you are older than 24.
First of all check the weather conditions before to plan your visit to Leshan Giant Buddha. In my opinion is better a cloudy or a sunny day to get awesome photos, more scenic 😉 .
In conclusion, don’t trust hostel offers since most of the time the price is too expensive. Just buy their special offers if you have not too much time to spend in Sichuan. A good itinerary si when you can visit Chengdu Giant Panda Base (click here to see my post) and Leshan Giant Buddha on the same day.