The Leshan Giant Buddha statue was the brain child of a Buddhist monk named Hai Tong. Some believe that it was intended to be the greatest Buddha statue ever built. However, the purpose of the statue was not for fame or other worldly ambitions. Indeed, Hai Tong wished to transcend the material world and use Buddhist virtue to perform a great miracle.
The Divine Purpose of the Leshan Giant Buddha
The divine purpose of the Leshan Giant Buddha would be to protect the sailors of China’s inland waterways. Indeed, in ancient times countless sailors had lost their lives navigating the rough waters which flowed off the Tibetan Plateau.
The grand ambitions of Hai Tong would be to pacify these dangerous waterways. Therefore, the location chosen for the grand statue was in the side of a cliff overlooking the confluence of the three most dangerous rivers in China. From here, the Leshan Giant Buddha would perform its miracle.
The Miracles of the Leshan Giant Buddha
Hai Tong had unwavering faith and compassion for his project. For example, when funding was threatened during the early years of construction, Hai Tong is said to have gouged out his own eyes to show his unwavering commitment to its completion!
Although funding for the project was to eventually be restored, Hai Tong would not live to see his miracle take place. Nonetheless, the miraculous qualities of the Leshan Giant Buddha statue were very effective in accomplishing the objective of Hai Tong. As such, the water flowing through the river passage became calm and therefore safe for the ships passing below.
Miraculously, the enormous amount of rubble that was deposited into the river during construction had altered the flow of the rivers. As a result, it calmed the dangerous water and made passage safe for the ships.
Indeed, in present times the view from the riverside cliffs is filled with serenity and indeed the water remains calm after many centuries.
Leshan Giant Buddha Location
The Leshan Giant Buddha statue is located in Leshan city of SW China in Sichuan Province. Additionally, the nearest major city is Chengdu. The Leshan Grand Buddha Scenic Area is located about 150 kilometers from Chengdu. As a result, by car it will take you about 1.5 hours to drive there.
To be sure, a visit to the Leshan Giant Buddha should take at least half a day. This is because there are temples, walking trails and a beautiful natural environment. Also, there are an abundance of hotels and restaurants located nearby.
The True Identity of the Leshan Giant Buddha
Visitors to this destination may find it interesting that this iconic “Buddha” statue is actually a Bodhisattva. Nonetheless, in Mahayana Buddhist belief Bodhisattvas carry great significance – especially this one.
Indeed, a Bodhisattva is someone who could have achieved enlightenment. However, in a gesture of great personal sacrifice they vowed to delay entering the state of Nirvana. Instead, they will indefinitely delay their awakening and assist others to achieve the highest level of spiritual accomplishment.
Mahayana Buddhism is predominant in China and therefore Bodhisattvas are central to their beliefs. However, even more important is the fact that the Leshan Giant Buddha is a depiction of a very important Bodhisattva named Maitreya.
The Buddhist Prophecy of Maitreya
The divine inspirations of Hai Tong were based on the Buddhist Prophecy that is revealed in the “Maitreyavyakarana Sutra“. In the sutra, it was foretold that Maitreya would become the final Buddha of the future who would lead all sentient life to achieve enlightenment. For now, Maitreya sits on his throne in the Buddhist heaven called “Tusita” waiting for his time to come.
The Time of Maitreya
At the time of his return, the landscape and inhabitants of earth will be vastly different. Indeed, the planet’s oceans will have greatly receded and India will be 30,000 square miles in breadth. The land will be a utopia with flowers and fruits growing from all of the trees. There are no crimes or immorality here and it is a time of great peace and happiness. Additionally, all human beings will have great life spans of up to 80,000 years. Their skin will have many beautiful colors and they will have great size and strength.
It is here, in the great city of the future called “Ketumati” that Maitreya will be born. Indeed, Maitreya will grow to 150 feet in height and his chest will be 40 feet in breadth. Furthermore, his skin will radiate with six colors like a rainbow. As a result, he will radiate so brightly that he will block out the light of the sun and the moon.
Maitreya will have a retinue of 84,000 persons and he will teach the Dharma for 60,000 years. After the end of his life, he will enter Nirvana and his Dharma teachings will survive him for another 10,000 years.
Leshan Giant Buddha Facts
Similar to the description of Maitreya in the Maitreyavyakarana Sutra, the Leshan Giant Buddha is of great size. At over 230 feet in height (seated), he is over 80 feet taller than Maitreya himself! Certainly, visitors will get a real life perspective of what people look like in the future city of Ketumati.
Construction began in 713 A.C.E. and was finally completed after much hardship in 803 A.C.E.. As a result, the Leshan Giant Buddha exceeds 1,400 years or age. Furthermore, it is the world’s largest pre-modern Buddha statue and also the largest stone Buddha statue in existence.
Unique Leshan Buddha Features
Statues of Maitreya are the only Buddhist sculptures depicted seated in a chair. In comparison, other Buddhist sculptures are depicted reclining, standing, walking or in different variations of the lotus pose. As mentioned in the prophecy, Maitreya is depicted sitting on his throne waiting in Tusita Heaven.
It is also of note that the Leshan Giant Buddha statue is not depicted using any Buddhist mudras. Perhaps this practical matter factored into Hai Tong’s thinking because the stone face of the cliff was so unyielding?
Indeed, it would have been extremely difficult to depict the stone Leshan Buddha statue displaying any hand gestures. However, more conventionally sized statues of Maitreya historically depicted him using the “Dharmachakra Mudra”. Also, known as spinning the “Wheel of Dharma”.
Discover The World’s Best Buddha Statues
Maitreya is one of the most prominent symbols of Mahayana Buddhist beliefs. As such, he is well suited as the subject of Hai Tong’s monumental Leshan Giant Buddha statue.
The unwavering compassion and resolute dedication of Hai Tong has changed the course of history and saved many lives. As a result, the Leshan Giant Buddha Statue is #1 on my list of the world’s best Buddha statues. Plus, this is surely one of the world’s coolest travel destinations!