Leshan : Doubling back for Buddha
Leshan Travel Blog› entry 164 of 268 › view all entries
Yesterday saw the conclusion of Joy, May and Iâs eventful journey from Lu Gu Hu to Chengdu. Forced to kill some time in Xicheng ahead of our long train ride to Chengdu we spent a pleasant few hours arsing about on a small electric boat on the large Qionghai lake that sits at the heart of the city. Lunch of spicy barbequed fish and beer on the large island that sits in the middle of the lake. [ photos included in last entry ]. We eventually arrived in Chengdu at gone midnight and as the lift doors closed to leave me on my floor of the âTraffic Hotelâ YHA, waving goodnight to the girls I realised with our divergent plans and me beinâ an early bird anâ all that would probably be my last glimpse of âem.
Today I am actually doubling back on myself a little to Leshan. 4 hours by bus 160km south east of Chengdu. Technically it would have been possible to hit this destination on route. This may also have been more logical. Getting off the train at Emei and catching a bus from there to stay overnight in LeshanâŚ but to be honest I just could not be bothered with the extra late night logistics last night. And was perfectly happy to continue - if only briefly - in May and Joyâs company and to dump my heavy bags in Chengdu to make Leshan a day trip from there.
Leshan is the famous seat - quite literally - of The Leshan Grand Buddha or âDafoâ as he is nicknamed by the local populace.
The project was initiated by the monk Hai Tong who wished to create the Buddha where he sits facing the confluence of three rivers ( the Min, Qingyi and Dadu) in order that he would appease the violent waters therein that claimed many, many lives of the local fishing community and were believed to be possessed of an evil spirit.
My visit to meet âDafoâ doesnât get off to the super best start as I have to fight through another âChina Momentâ. The tickets for the site are clearly split into two separate areas of ticketed entry. The Grand Buddha himself (along with the Tomb of Hai Tong, the sacred Lingyun Temple, the Mahao Cave Tombs & the Wuyou Temple âŚ basically all you will want to see) for 70RMB ( $10) and the Eastern Village complex for an additional 50RMB ( $7.30). But can I get the flippinâ cowbag behind the ticket counter to sell me just my desired ticket for the Buddha? Can I f**k! She is super surly.
I am forced to concede to this dragon lady but take my two separate tickets to the entrance and through pointing endlessly at the ticket only with the Buddha image on it and motioning I wish to drop/ tear up/ throw away the other ticket the gate people finally understand me, take the second ticket back to the dragon lady and get my 50RMB refund for me.
âDafoâ is an impressive chap it has to be said. Iâd been fascinated to see him ever since he was included in a TV series in England, Dan Cruikshankâs âAround the World in 80 Treasuresâ and itâs pretty awesome to be stood right besides him now, staring at his super-size lug holes, fingers and toes. Zillions of visitors crowd around the viewing platforms at the cliff top to get as close as possible to their Main Man and all jostle and pose to get snaps with them either seeming to touch his head or nose or cup his chin with their palms upturned. It all makes for very amusing people watching.
Once youâve had your fill at top level there is the vertiginous stairway referred to as the âPath of Birdsâ that zig-zags with (I think?) nine turns down one of the inner cliff faces all the way down to ground, or Buddha feet level. Very narrow but safe. Many smaller buddha images carved into the bright stone walls. This slow procession down offers fabulous close encounters with the various super-size aspects of Buddhaâs carved anatomy. The sandstone peach-flesh tones of his face and shoulders soon give way to the multi-coloured palette of natural incursion and erosion as your eyes move down his body. The centuries of exposure to wind and water (and nowadays air pollution and acid rain) of course take their heavy toll on such a structure and so Dafoâs robes, arms and legs these days are a treacle-drop patchwork of mossy greens and browns and grey-black stain tattoos.
There are many other sights to take in at the Grand Buddha complex but I shall not trouble you with recollection of those. Time for me to head back to Chengdu where I meet my room mates for the night, Sun from South Korea and âJapan Girlâ who is lovely and we chat for some time about Nepal and earthquakes and her home nation but who in one of those curious moments of travel interaction I neglect to ask of her name. The phone in our 3 bed dorm rings. I pick up. Silence. It rings again a few minutes later. I pick up. âWoo you like body massage sir?â.
[ Buddha Info : Travelling from Chengdu to Leshan you need to take a bus from the central bus station (besides the river) and this will cost 44RMB ($6.50) each way. When the bus drops you in Leshan donât take a taxi, just walk straight to the local Number 13 bus that should practically be waiting for you there whereby you will be taken to the Grand Buddha entrance for a mere 1 RMB. A return coach direct back to Chengdu from the same entrance spot should be easy to get on (removing the need to return to the main bus station on the #13) for the aforementioned 44RMB. Again, just be firm about what entrance ticket you want ]