A three-day, exceptionally-grand ceremony began Sunday to mark the 1,200th anniversary of completion of the world's tallest Buddha statue, commonly known as the "Leshan Buddha".
Huang Mingquan, mayor of Leshan city, in southwestern Sichuan province, said the function was designed to tell younger generations more about Leshan Buddha and encourage them to contribute more to protect the statue.
The solemn event has drawn nearly 2,000 honorable guests, including officials from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Chinese cultural heritage officials.
During the festival, about 20 events, including an evening gala,a ribbon cutting to mark the completion of a platform, and a forumon the protection of prestigious world heritage sites, will be organized.
Carved into a cliff-face, the construction of Buddha, 71 meterstall and 28 meters wide, was took a period of 90 full years (from 713 to 803 a.d.) of Tang Dynasty at its zenith.
The Leshan Buddha is 18 meters higher than the huge Buddha statue which was destroyed by the former Taliban regime at Bamian Valley, Afghanistan, once thought to be the tallest in the world.
The Leshan Buddha, which was put on the United Nations' World Cultural Heritage list in 1996, has been weathered, eroded by wind,water and acid rain, and has been affected by a growing number of visitors. Some of the curls on the head of the statue have broken off and the face has lost its original complexion.
Two phases of major repairs were carried out on the statue in 2001 and early this year, during which experts cleaned the body and filled in the cracks, and installed drainage devices for protection against wind and water.
The entire facelift cost some 250 million yuan (30 million US dollars), including 2 million US dollars in World Bank loans.
( Xinhua News Agency September 2, 2002)