Advertisement Under Ancient Buddha Criticized

The local government's plan to erect the world's biggest advertisement on the riverbank at the foot of the world's highest Leshan Buddha Statue has drawn sharp criticism in the region, local newspaper reported Thursday.

According to Thursday's edition of Sichuan Daily, the Leshan municipal government is negotiating the plan with a company, and is likely to give its approval soon.

The advertisement under discussion, a 40,000 square meter hoarding, will be placed at the foot of the statue, and the local government will invite bids for the right to use the structure for a minimum of 5 million yuan a year.

Located in Leshan city in Sichuan province, southwest China, the 1,280-year-old statue, sitting on a cliff and 71 meters high and 28 meters wide, was put on the list of the United Nations' World Heritage List in 1996.

An expert with Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics Department said the project does not help in the protection of its cultural heritage, adding he could not understand the move.

Dr Yang Zhenzhi, a tourism expert from Sichuan University, described the plan as short-sighted.

He said the value of the Buddha statue lies in the cultural setting of the statue, the planned ad will "spoil the beauty."

An expert from the Leshan Municipal Tourism Bureau said Leshan is not the first to plan the world's biggest ad, giving nearby Chongqing Municipality as an example.

Chongqing set up what it called the world's biggest ad board near the 6,300 km Yangtze River five years ago, but had to dismantle it as no-one had expressed real interest in using it, since heavy fog in the city made the hoarding almost invisible a few hundred meters away.

The carving of the Buddha began in AD 713, and was completed in 803, during the prosperous period of the Tang Dynasty.

The head of the Leshan Buddha, 14.7 meters by 10 meters, is covered with 1,021 curls, each of which is large enough to support a big round table.

Its seven meter long ear can fit two people in its opening. Over 100 people can sit on the 8.5-meter-high flat and smooth instep.

(Xinhua News Agency June 23, 2002)

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