Visiting the awe inspiring Leshan Giant Buddha, the largest pre modern Buddha in the world!

 A magical and mysterious place this ancient wonder left us in awe. The sheer scale of this enormous place almost too much to take in, the 90 year project of a dedicated monk it is still one of China’s most sacred Buddhist locations drawing in the faithful, intrigued and enchanted from all over the world! The Leshan Buddha from Chengdu is a wonderful day trip that will leave you in awe and exploring the Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area will be something you remember forever!

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The history of this strange and wonderful creation.

Built between 713 and 803 this 233ft tall Buddha is carved out of the rock face in which it sits. Depicting Maitreya the huge stone statue sits at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers. Facing the peak of Mt. Emei it is the largest pre modern statue in the world as well as the largest stone Buddha. Its shoulders are over 28 meters wide and his ears 7 meters long, his smallest toenail could comfortably sit a seated adult within its outline! The history alone makes the Leshan Buddha from Chengdu day trip worth while, never mind the amazing Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area in which it sits!

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Built by the monk Hai Tong he hoped that the Buddha would protect the many who perished on the turbulent water that run at the feet of the statue. Many travelled and worked on the river and Hai Tong felt something should be done. Ironically, depending on how you look at it, the amount of stone removed from the cliff and subsequently deposited into the river to create the Buddha actually changed the currents and made the water safer!

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Hai Tong is said to have gouged his own eyes out when the funding for the project was under threat to show his commitment to the cause. However the project took over 90 years to finish due to financial issues and it was only finally completed by Hai Tong’s disciples after sponsorship from a Jiedushi.

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A protected relic of China’s past.

Being carved out of the soft sand stone of the area the Buddha over the years fell into disrepair. The huge 13-storey shelter originally built to cover it was destroyed by the Mongols which left it exposed to the elements. Sunshine, rain, wind and more recently pollution and mass tourism had its effect on this magnificent structure which was almost lost before efforts to save it began in 1963. 

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Now a UNESCO world heritage site it is under the observation and maintenance of specialists and many parts of the sculpture have been heavily restored over the years. However those who constructed it also did their part to ensure it was a lasting legacy. Inside the sculpture lies a hidden network of drainage and gutter systems intended to keep the main structure as dry as possible, especially the head which is in fact wooden and covered in mud!

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Visiting the amazing Leshan Giant Buddha.

Entering the park with the mid morning fog still enveloping the city and entangling itself in the high bamboo forest there was an eeriness to the area. Taking the steep steps up through the walls of sandstone we had little idea of the magnificent about to be bestowed upon us. It was still quite early in the morning which makes the day trip to the Leshan Buddha from Chengdu even more convenient and gives you plenty of time to explore.

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In actual fact it took much less time to make it up to the Buddha than we expected, having stopped of only a few times along the way we were finally here, at this place I had dreamt of visiting since I saw my backpacking cousin visit here many years ago. We could have even got an afternoon train here such is the ease and of getting to the Leshan Buddha from Chengdu. 

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Poking up above the trees we caught our first glimpse of the head of the Buddha. Getting closer we finally peered over the edge, the enormity of just the huge grinning face becoming clear. The orange hue of the sandstone standing out against the forest of green that surrounds it.

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From the other side of the huge cavern in which it sits we were more able to take in the sheer scale of the Buddha. Despite the name you really cannot prepare yourself for just how big this thing is. It is no wonder people fall to their knees in awe at its feet!

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From here the next step was to traverse the narrow and steep track carved into the cliff wall down to the base. Taking our time on this precarious route we were able to get a much clearer view of the entire statue, from head to toe this grand sculpture felt almost unbelievable! The gargantuan effort required making it almost intangible!

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Standing at its feet, looking up at toes almost as tall as a house it is easy to be completely dumb stuck by this enormous Buddha. With incense burning and pluming sweet smelling serpent like smoke into the atmosphere as monks chanted, bells rang out and the river rushed by this place felt magical. Even the passing tour groups couldn’t spoil this most wonderful place.

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A monk looking out over the Buddha

Having plenty of time here instead of rushing though and waving selfie sticks around like many of the others we decided to sit and just watch. Taking in the unique atmosphere of the Giant Buddha as birds circled its head and the faithful came to pray. You could if you wanted just spend half a day here but we decided to make it the full day trip to the Leshan Buddha from Chengdu to take in the surrounding Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area too. 

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What else is there to see in the Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area? 

The giant Buddha might be the main attraction here, and rightly so, but it isn’t the only one. The Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area is filled full of beautiful examples of nature and history. This means that you can make it a full day trip to the Leshan Buddha from Chengdu if you like. 

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From peaceful gardens, bamboo plants over 100ft high and serine waterfalls wandering around the maze of paths in here is a great way to escape the crowds gathered around the Buddha. There are a few note worthy sites to look out for in the Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area. The Mahaoya tombs and the Wouyou temple amongst the most impressive and historically important.

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Around here you will also likely run into some of the many monks who still live and pray at the site. The Buddha and the surrounding temples are not just for show, but an important religious centre of Chinese Buddhism. The temple just at the top of the Buddha is also home to some amazing statues and in here we also saw a collection of monks at afternoon prayer, a quite mesmerising experience. This makes the trip to the Leshan Buddha from Chengdu much more than just seeing the Giant Buddha itself, the whole Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area is quite an amazing place to explore. 

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How to get there and cost:

Leshan Buddha from Chengdu

Getting to The Leshan Buddha from Chengdu is quite easy.

From Chengdu take the express bullet train to Leshan. This takes 1 hour and costs roughly 54 Yuan each way.

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Then take the number 3 bus for around 40 mins to the entrance to the
Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area. This costs 1 Yuan.

From here the Buddha is well marked and only a half an hour walk up several sets of stairs!

Entrance to the Leshan Giant Buddha scenic area is 90 Yuan / 50 Yuan for Students and OAPs.

The Leshan Buddha from Chengdu is a great day trip out of the city.

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Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.
  • I wish I knew all of this history when we visited the Giant Buddha. Maybe we would have enjoyed our visit as much as you did. Fabulous photos to support the story.

  • Elisa Subirats

    Amazing, isn’t it? This is the kind of place we all have seen on pictures but we should also see by ourselves. A pity that when I was there it was too foggy to enjoy the surrounding landscape

    • Yes, a really cool place to see with your own eyes, photos never do the scale justice!