The hot and humid July weather of China was something I just couldn’t get used to while on our fabulous China Odyssey. So I was quite glad that we started most days early, before it got too hot to even breath properly and I still had the energy to walk up countless of stairs.
We climbed up the 300 steps that lead to the top of Mount Emei which houses the Leshan Giant Buddha and DafuTemple. Mount Emei has been a place of human activity for as much as 10,000 years. The architecture of the temple at MountEmei directly reflects the culture of Buddhism in the area.
Greeted by the magnificent Leshan Giant Buddha everybody joined the line to descend the long staircase down to the feet of this masterpiece.
Mom and I opted not to punish our knees so went and explored the surrounding temples and shrines instead. The steps were very steep and personally I don’t think I would have made it back up within the time we had to spend exploring the great Buddha and its surroundings.
The Leshan Giant Buddha is a statue of Maitreya (a Bodhisattva usually represented as a very stout monk with a broad smile on his face and with his naked breast and paunch exposed to view) in sitting posture. It is the biggest Buddha statue in the world with body dimensions of 59.97 meters and a height of 71 meters.
Construction on the Leshan Giant Buddha started in 713, led by a Chinese monk named Haitong. He hoped that the Buddha would calm the turbulent waters that plagued the shipping vessels traveling down the river. When funding for the project was threatened, he is said to have gouged out his own eyes to show his piety and sincerity. After his death, however, the construction was stuck due to insufficient funding. About 70 years later, a jiedushi decided to sponsor the project and the construction was completed by Haitong’s disciples in 803.
Apparently the massive construction resulted in so much stone being removed from the cliff face and deposited into the river below that the currents were indeed altered by the statue, making the waters safe for passing ships.
When the Giant Buddha was carved, a huge thirteen story wooden structure, plated in gold, was built to shelter it from rain and sunshine. This structure was destroyed and sacked by the Mongols during the wars at the end of the Yuan Dynasty. From then on, the stone statue was exposed to the elements.
At the Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic area is the Lingyin or Lingbao Pagoda, also called the Dafo (Giant Buddha) Temple. This pagoda is situated on the LingbaoPeak and was created in the 800s. It is made up of brick and reaches 13 stories with a height of 38 meters. The current building dates from the Qing Dynasty, from 1644 to 1911. The first LingyunTemple was constructed in the middle of the Xiluan and JifengPeaks in the 600s. However, it was demolished two times in the 1200s and again in the 1600s. It has a spectacular setting on the side of the hill.
The WuyouTemple is also situated on the same mountain. It was constructed during the 600s and was called the ZhengjueTemple. Within its walls are two statues of significance: the iron cast and gilded Amithabha statue group built in the 1000s and the Dashi Buddha of bronze built in the 600s.
The temples are quite old and large and were made in the traditional method of the local area. A majority of them were constructed on the hillsides so as to utilize the natural landscape. These buildings are considered to be master works of impressive ingenuity and creativity. What greatly contributes to this is the aesthetic quality of the terrain and the solemnity of the temples.
In the Mount Emei Scenic Area, there is the Feilai Hall that was constructed during the 1200 to 1300s. It is named after the hill that it was built upon. Initially, it was called the JiaquingTower and functioned as an Imperial abode. Later on it assumed the title of TianqiwangTemple.
At the base of the Guanxi Ridge is the WannianTemple, the primary structure of the MountEmei group. It is home to numerous objects of cultural significance including the Puxian bronze Buddha that was cast in the 900s and weighs 62 tons.
At the base of the Niuxin Ridge is the Qingyin Pavilion. It originates in the beginning of the 500s and contains a collection of towers, pavilions and platforms. It was given the name “The Mountain Garden” because beautiful mountain streams pass through it.
At the top of the Golden Summit is the HuazangTemple that was originally made as the Puguang Hall in the 1st century. It was given the name GuangxiangTemple in 1614. By the time I had climbed all the steps to reach the temple I was so glad that I didnt try going down to the Buddha which had way more steps than these. After I made it back down I was quite glad that we were heading back to the hotel for a lovely cold shower.