Leshan | The Giant Buddha
The Mount Emei Scenic Area, including the Leshan Giant Buddha has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. This area of natural beauty contains a high plant species diversity and a large number of endemic species. The Mount Emei (Emeishan) area is also of great spiritual and cultural importance due to its role in the introduction of Buddhism into China.
The Mount Emei and Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Areas cover an area of 15,400 hectares. The Leshan Giant Buddha is a 71 metre tall stone statue, built during the Tang Dynasty. It is carved out of a cliff face that along the Minjiang river. The stone sculpture faces Emei Mountain with the rivers flowing below his enormous toes! It is the largest stone Buddha in the world and it is by far the tallest pre-modern statue in the world.
Fun Fact: ‘Leshan’ translates to ‘Happy Mountain’!
You can (as I did) take a boat trip out on the river to get a great view of the Buddha, and to wear a rather stylish life jacket…
Climbing Mount Emei
At the beginning of the day, our tour guide Frank let us know what are options were – we could pay £25 for buses and cable cars to reach the top, or we could trek the route on foot. We all opted for the trek – the first tour group of Frank’s to do so! We trekked up through the beautiful scenery along the mountain’s path to reach a ‘monkey park’ near the top. Wildlife is abundant throughout, but there are a large number of macaque monkeys that congregate near the top of the mountain. We were all given ‘monkey sticks’ – large bamboo canes – which we were told we would need to use to hit the monkeys away if they got too aggressive (errrr… WHAT?!).
When we had reached the top, I instantly had a bad feeling and didn’t want to go on the monkey walkway – a path that curves round in a loop and monkeys are everywhere! Everyone else was heading off and after being reassured it was fine, I followed in suit. My uncertainties were realised within the first 2 minutes when a large male monkey approached me. They warned us not to touch our pockets or even make it look like we were as the monkeys think you have food and will go for it. Same goes with backpacks – no food allowed! However, this doesn’t stop the monkeys unzipping your bags… just to check! The male hung off my pocket and and people surrounding me were all saying ‘hit it!’.. ‘hit him away!’. I’m a massive animal lover and didn’t like the idea so gently tapped my bamboo cane against him. More ‘Excuse me Sir, kindly remove yourself from my pocket’ than a firm ‘Piss off!!’ – big mistake. Suddenly, a very sharp set of jaws clamped on to my leg.. The bastard bit me! After yelping in pain/ shock I was faced with the task of hobbling around the rest of the circular one way path (through a wall of monkeys..) to get to the main pathway – traumatising! Once sat down, I realised the need for the Medical Centre, conveniently situated next to the monkey park…
Luckily, the monkey was just giving me a good telling off and didn’t do any damage, aside from an impressive tooth-marked bruise that spanned the width of my upper thigh! Pic below is after nearly two weeks…
Whilst in Emeishan, we stayed in a Buddhist temple which was pretty cool! The grounds were continuously filled with the smell of incense and you could hear the gongs in the morning (around 4am!) as the monks began to start their day. The weather was starting to warm up at this point and the temple grounds looked very pretty with flowers blooming everywhere and amazing clear views of the mountains. The ‘shower’ left a lot to be desired and consisted of a very small outside shed with a rusty hose pipe spraying icy water in every direction! Despite this, everyone commented on how relaxed and peaceful they felt – a really lovely atmosphere. We even held ping pong contests with the monks on site, which was a lot of fun!