Sitting on a river two hours south of Chengdu is the world’s biggest Buddha sculpture. Leshan is a well-known destination in Sichuan province, so naturally I had to go while I was on my impromptu trip to the Panda Capital.
This thing is literally a monster. As I approached it, I exclaimed, “GOOD GOD!” and then clamped my hand over my mouth thinking maybe that wasn’t the best expression to be shouting while in a religious sanctuary.
The Buddha, or “Dafo”, is enclosed in a compound as it is part of a much larger UNESCO site. The site includes the famous Wuyou Temple, a couple of really cool monasteries, a rather serene and super Chinese garden and goldfish pond, and this place called Oriental Buddha Land (which you have to cough up extra money to see – cheap skates).
I started off my day pretending to still be a student as I handed them my university card that actually explains – in Chinese, I might add – that I work there. The woman (bless her soul) still gave me the student price, so while all the other people had to pay 90 RMB to see the massive Buddha, I only had to pay 50 RMB. BOOM.
There was an extra spring in my step as I walked up the stairs upon stairs upon stairs in the site, as the thought of saving six dollars made me truly gleeful.
After spending the morning wandering around the fishing village and having all the fishermen gawk at my white, white skin and blue, blue eyes and ginger, ginger hair, I headed back to Dafo Land and stood in awe at the Buddha.
I was quite tired by the time I made my way back to the Buddha. And as I was about to have a pity party for one, I stumbled across a monument that detailed the story of the monk that built the sculpture of the Buddha for years and lived in a hole in the wall (no joke) for the entirety of the time that he was there doing that construction. Pity party over. And mad respect for that guy. I get cranky when I don’t have a bubble tea for a couple of days, and I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t sipping on some bubbs while he was carving the Dafo’s toe nails in the massive stone.
This place was really one of the coolest sites I have seen. Anyone who makes their way to go see the pandas in Chengdu should definitely add in another day to go to Leshan.
(In a new attempt to provide some useful information on my site, I have decided to include some travel details on how to get to these places that I am writing about in my blog posts. It’s difficult to add snark to directions on what bus to take, so if you don’t plan on going to Leshan in the near future, you can stop reading now, but for those of you who want to experience this place, read on my friends, and repost, and share, and help my blog grow!)
1. Head to the Xinnanmen bus stop in Chengdu. The bus booth is to the left immediately after the entrance. A one way ticket to Leshan is 47 RMB. Buses leave very regularly, so no need to get there with loads of time to spare. My bus left 15 minutes after I bought my ticket. The bus ride is approximately 2 hours.
2. When you arrive in Leshan, walk to the bus stop directly next to the bus stop and take bus 13 to the Dafo stop (2 stops in from the entrance to the compound where you will see the massive mill and the fake Sichuanese village on your right). The bus will cost 1 RMB.
3. At the entrance to the Leshan Dafo, you can pay 90 RMB for an entrance ticket, 50 RMB for a student ticket, and 70 RMB for disabled individuals, seniors, and veterans. The Dafo and several other sites are well marked in the area covered by your ticket. If you want to leave to see the Wuyou Temple, you can leave the compound and use your ticket to see the Wuyou Temple which has a separate entrance. You can use your ticket to re-gain entrance to the Dafo area after you visit the temple. The Oriental Buddha Land is an extra 90 RMB or so, and is probably not worth the extra cost. You can see loads of small Buddhas if you just walk around and look at the carvings by the Dafo. This blog post has a good history and information about the Buddha and the site in general!
4. The Dafo compound shuts at 5:30pm so be sure to see everything before that time. Do the reserve of steps 2 and then 1 to get yourself back to Chengdu city center.
Have fun and comment below if you have any questions on how to get to Leshan and what to see while there!