advertisement

On foot from the entrance, it's a 10-minute walk along a stone path to the Great Buddha. When the road forks into two staircases, take the staircase to the right. This leads around the side of the mountain looking back at the town. It also affords a panoramic view of the three converging rivers, the Min Jiang, the Dadu He (Chang Jiang), and the Qingyi Jiang. The path leads to a terrace and souvenir area beside and around the back of the Buddha's head. From here you can look into his ear and over his shoulder. For a variety of views of Da Fo, descend the zigzag staircase called Jiuqu Zhandao (Path of Nine Switchbacks) by the statue's right side. This leads to a large viewing platform that puts visitors at toe level.

Da Fo (The Great Buddha) -- At 71m (233 ft.) tall, Le Shan's Da Fo -- hewn out of a mountain -- is similar in size, subject, and artistic medium to the recently demolished Bamiyan Buddhas in the Hindu Kush. Carved some 500 years later, between 713 and 803, Da Fo is one of the world's largest stone sculptures of Buddha. It was the inspiration of the Buddhist monk Hai Tong, abbot of Lingyun Monastery, who hoped that a giant Maitreya Buddha (Future Buddha) overlooking the water might subdue floods and violent currents. In 1996 it was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List, and in 2001 large-scale repairs were started: The Buddha's head, shoulders, and torso were cleaned up and repaired and a cement coating (added in modern times) was removed. The next stage took 10 months and was completed in 2002. Repairs were made to the statue's ingenious, hidden drainage system that slowed, but could not stop, erosion; and cracks as deep as 4m (13 ft.) in the base of the Buddha were filled in. For an idea of how massive this statue is: Each eye is 3m (11 ft.) long; each ear, 7m (23 ft.); and his middle finger is 8m (27 ft.) long. His head is covered with 1,021 buns of coiled hair, carved out of tapered stone blocks that fit into his head like pegs in a cribbage board.

Wuyou Shan -- After viewing the Great Buddha, there isn't a lot more to do, except stroll the park grounds and enjoy the views. To reach the adjacent southern hill, Wuyou Shan, cross the Haoshang Da Qiao footbridge on the south side of the Great Buddha. The plain, six-hall monastery by the same name, built in the Tang dynasty and rebuilt many times since, sits atop the hill. The Luohan Tang contains an army of terra-cotta arhats, each in a different pose. Most impressive is the view of the rivers from the top of the complex.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.