Leshan is home to the largest stone Buddha in the world, the Leshan Big Buddha. At 71m tall, it was carved out of a cliff-face overlooking the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu & Qingyi Rivers near the city of Leshan during the Tang Dynasty between 712 & 803 AD.
IT IS BIG.
We befriended a young tourist guide who gave us a brief history of Buddhism and the Chinese monk who led the construction.
Your first glimpse is from the top, as you walk around it’s head. Then you lean over the railing and its true scale is revealed. Wow. Biggest feet we’ve ever seen!
Following the steep stairs along the carved cliff-face down to the feet level, you realise just how huge this Big Buddha is. Lucky we were there early and in the tourist off-season as it was fairly empty and we could linger on the stairs with our mouths gaped open. We had read it can be absolutely packed with people on normal days. We didn’t bother catching the ferry to see it from in front on the water, as it was hazy across the river and the view from it’s feet was awesome anyway.
We bid farewell to our guide and strolled through some nice pathways out the exit, across the street to the restaurant our guide had recommended. We couldn’t go past the Kung Pao Chicken on the menu, however it wasn’t exactly what we expected. Small cubes of chicken and beans with peanuts swimming in a sea of oil. We would soon have to get used to the super oily Chinese food.
After a confusing time figuring out the bus system to get back, we were on our way to Zigong, a smaller city famous for two things: Dinosaurs and salt.
Zigong is renowned as the “Salt City”, due to its brine extraction techniques and salt trading history. Andrew, being the civil engineer that he is was intrigued with the salt history and ancient technology used and was determined to visit the somewhat famous Salt Museum. Lakshi on the other hand couldn’t give two hoots about salt.
Although housed in a nice building courtyard, unfortunately the Salt Museum was fairly boring. There were nice models displaying the various techniques used to mine salt, but no English captions. It took less than an hour to see everything anyway.
The Dinosaur Museum, however, was much more exciting. In the 1980’s, vast dinosaur fossils were excavated in down-town Zigong with some of the most unique and intact fossils ever found. Dinosaur fossils from the Mid to Late Jurassic Period are rare enough in the world, in fact, many new dinosaurs found here were named with Chinese names. Most we saw were from the Middle Jurassic Period, 160 million years old.
The museum is built around an open dinosaur fossil excavation site with fossils still left in the ground. Most of the skeletons are incomplete, and hence left there to witness what they look like when they were uncovered. The roofed over area is massive.
In a very darkened room of the museum they hold their prized possessions: some of the best preserved dinosaur fossils in the world. Some of the skulls found are in impeccable condition, considering they are a casual 160 million years old!
There are plentiful English captions and the displays are really nice to look at. One of the better museums we would visit in China. Dinosaur lovers should not miss arguably the best dinosaur museum in Asia.
Visited 16th and 17th December 2013.