Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Leshan's Giant Buddha

The last leg of our tour in China was Chengdu in the Sichuan province, about an hour long plane ride from Xian. In 2008, this region of China suffered an earthquake that killed almost 90,000 people. That number is really difficult to comprehend. Therefore a lot of what we were seeing had been rebuilt or refurbished after that temblor. I'm glad the earthquake that struck a week after we left Chengdu wasn't anywhere near as devastating. And equally glad we missed the experience.

We kicked off our first day of touring with a 1.5 hr drive from the city center (picture creepy, crawly congested traffic) to nearby Leshan in order to see the giant buddha. Sightseeing in China is not for the fainthearted or folks in poor physical shape. This more southern part of China is warmer and definitely humid in comparison to arid Beijing in the north. 

It took us 10 minutes to climb up multiple sets of steps just to get to the top of the head of the buddha and here is what we saw along the way.

 Once we reached the buddha's head, we had to jockey for position alongside lots of Chinese folks wanting the buddha as their backdrop. And their hands - they were all holding them out towards the buddha's head in their pics. You can see them doing this in the shots below. Did they want it to look as if they were touching or caressing the big guy? I have no clue, but it was difficult dodging their hands to get them out of the pics I was taking.

Then the fun really started when we set off down this path carved into the face of the cliff adjacent to the buddha. It was the width of 1-2 folks for the entire trip down and had several switchbacks just to keep it interesting. Along the way we saw some carvings in niches, many that have worn away with time since the buddha was carved in the 8th and 9th centuries.

Here are some more buddha pics taken as we were descending and at the base where his feet are located.

Since I'm not buddhist, I have no idea what these followers are doing at the base of statue. It did kinda remind me of the Catholic practice of lighting candles (in this case incense) and kneeling at the altar (in this instance feet of the buddha).

Then we had the chance to really warm up, ie sweat, when we began the hike back up to the top of the buddha's head. The girls were having fun snapping cute pics, all before the climb really got started.

Once we had huffed and puffed and shed light jackets on our way back to the top, we had the opportunity to check out a buddhist temple on the same site.

After lunch in a nearby Leshan restaurant served on this really large and handy glass lazy susan, we went down to the river for a boat ride to see the giant buddha from the water. 

I had read articles on my CNN app about the poor air quality in Beijing, but had seen no evidence of it. However, I seem to have found it in the area around Chengdu. You can see proof of it in several of my pics above and most especially in the ones below... and these are after I've hit the enhance edit button to clean it up before posting it.

 Located near the confluence of three rivers, the best view really is from the water. You'll notice some other figures on either side of the buddha, but they seem to have suffered more severe weathering over the centuries.

One of my favorite pics in Leshan was an old lock I spotted on the trek down to the base of the buddha.

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