Leshan Giant Buddha (Photo: Shenzhendaily.com)
Listed as a World Heritage site in 1996, Leshan Giant Buddha and Mount Emei in Southwest China's Sichuan Province draw tourists and Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world.
According to historical records, the first Buddhist temple in China was built in the beautiful surroundings of Mount Emei in the first century, shortly after Buddhism was introduced from India.
The addition of other temples in later centuries turned the 3,099-meter-tall summit into one of China's four most sacred Buddhist mountains. The others are Mount Wutai in Shanxi Province, Mount Jiuhua in Jiangxi Province, and Mount Putuo in Zhejiang Province.
Over the centuries, the cultural treasures in the fertile Sichuan Basin region have grown in number. Among them, the most remarkable is Leshan Giant Buddha.
The Giant Buddha lies to the east of the city of Leshan in Sichuan Province at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers. The statue faces the sacred Mount Emei with the rivers flowing below its feet.
The statue depicts a seated Maitreya Buddha. Maitreya is the Buddha of the future, who will appear to preach dharma when the teachings of Gautama Buddha have faded away from public consciousness.
Worshiping Maitreya was especially popular between the 4th and 7th centuries, and Maitreya's images are found throughout Buddhist temples in China, conveying his characteristic air of expectancy and promise. The Leshan statue is the most spectacular of them all.
According to records, it took 90 years to carve the huge Buddha, starting from the first year (713) of the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to the 19th year (803) of Emperor Dezong’s reign.