Happy Mountain, Happy Buddha!
This morning, after meeting up at CEFLS, we headed out on our trusty bus to Leshan (乐山 —— literally translated to “Happy Mountain”), a city about 2 hours south of Chengdu if there is no traffic (which is never in China). After running into some traffic in Chengdu, we finally got on the highway and cruised the rest of the way to Leshan.
Leshan is situated at the confluence of two major rivers, the Dadu and the Min, which continue on to eventually join the Yangtze River.
Leshan is most famous for a Giant Buddha, 71 meters (233 ft) tall, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. He is built in the style of a Happy Buddha, although his countenance is more serious than a normal Happy Buddha because of the importance of his duty to protect Leshan from flooding.
Construction began in 713 AD and was completed in 803 AD (with a 40 year break because of some funding issues), over 1300 years ago! The Buddha is carved directly into the rock and there is a highly sophisticated drainage system within the wall behind Buddha and actually in the Buddha himself, to help to prevent water erosion.
The first thing we did in Leshan was get on a boat to see the Buddha from the water. We got some highly fashionable, and seemingly less than functional, life preservers, and headed around the river bead for our first views of the Buddha.
After a nice lunch of some local foods, we got our opportunity to have a bit of a hike and see the Buddha close up and personal. Well… a personal as you get with a 233ft tall statue.
You approach the Buddha at his head, and then have the opportunity to head down a crazy staircase to his feet.
Marita and I took these pictures at the same time… the scale of the Buddha is hard to comprehend.
After a bit more hiking, some exploring of the temple at the top of the mountain and some ice cream– it was a beautiful, balmy 70º+ today– we hopped in the bus to ride home.
We got back to school with some time to talk to our new friends at CEFLS and get some basketball in to stretch our legs after another 2.5 hour bus ride.
After play time, students headed out to their last dinner with their host families tonight. We can’t believe the week is already almost over.
Tomorrow we will got to see the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, built 2,000 years ago (and more interesting than it sounds from the name “irrigation system”) and to hike Qingcheng Mountain. Then we will have a final banquet with our hosts from CEFLS. Then Thursday, after a brief activity at the school, we head back to Beijing and then on to the US of A.