It is a statue of Maitreya in sitting posture. A Bodhisattva usually represented as a very stout monk with a broad smile on his face and with his naked breast and paunch exposed to view. The Leshan Giant Buddha is located to the east of Leshan City, Sichuan Province, at the confluence of three rivers, namely, Min River, Qingyi River, and Dadu River. The figure makes itself the most renowned scenic spot in Leshan City. In 1996, the location of the Buddha was included by UNESCO on the list of the World Heritage sites. The statue took people more than 90 years to carve, begun in the year 713 in the Tang Dynasty, and finished in the year 803. And thousands of workers had expended their efforts and wisdom on the project. Leshan Giant Buddha as the biggest carved stone Buddha in the world is featured in poetry, song and story.
The Buddha has symmetrical posture and looks which have been beautifully captured in its solemn stillness. The statue is about 233 feet high, and has about 11 feet long fingers. 27 feet long instep is big enough for one hundred people to sit on and the 92 feet -wide shoulder is large enough to be a basketball playground.
The project was initiated by a monk called Hai Tong. It was for the safety of the long-suffering people who earned their living around the confluence of the three rivers. Wild waters ensured that boat accidents were numerous and the simple people put the disaster down to the presence of a water spirit. And the monk decided to carve a statue beside the river thinking that the Buddha would bring the water spirit under control. Moreover, the fallen stones dropped during the carving would reduce the water force there.
The magic of the Buddha is not only in its size but also in its architectural artistry. It has 1,021 buns in the Buddha's coiled hair that have been skillfully embedded in the head. And the 1,021 buns seem integral to the whole. One more architectural highlight is the drainage system. It is made up of some hidden gutters and channels, scattered on the head and arms, behind the ears and in the clothes. This drainage system, which helps displace rainwater and keep the inner part dry, plays an important part in the protection of the Buddha. The statue’s large pair of ears, each 23 feet long, is made of wood and is decorated by mud on the surface. It was not easy for craftsmen of thousands of years ago to fix these to the stone head.
The renovation of the Buddha has received extensive attention both at home and abroad. The Leshan Giant Buddha was nearly destroyed by the erosion of wind and rain before 1963 when the Chinese government began the repairing work. Today the maintenance work is in progress under the instruction of experts from UNESCO.