With its picturesque scenery, Jiuzhaigou is certainly a natural wonder of Sichuan. However, this mysterious land also boasts some overwhelming man-made beauties in which the human element has been skillfully integrated with nature.
From a gigantic Buddha statue carved out of a stone cliff to a golden temple at the summit of a sacred mountain, these masterpieces reflect the connection between nature and the human. Most of them are located around Mount Emei (峨眉山), 150 kilometres south of Sichuan’s capital, Chengdu.
Stunning Mount Emei (or Emeishan) is 3099 metres above sea level and it is the centrepiece of Emeishan National Park. In the first century, the first Buddhist temple in China was built near the summit of this mountain, marking Buddhism’s arrival in the Eastern world. Today, Mount Emei is home to more than 30 temples and is considered one of the holiest sites in China.
Atop of this sacred mountain is the Golden Summit Temple where an epic statue of Samantabhadra or Puxian in Chinese is located. According to legend, the Samantabhadra has meditated here and thus has been dubbed the protector of the area and patron Buddha of the monasteries in the region. The towering statue is 48 metres high and is covered thinly with gold. With massive graven heads faces in ten directions, the statue represent Samantabhadra’s ‘Ten Truths of Universal Worthiness’
Leshan Giant Buddha
Facing Mount Emei is the remarkable Leshan Giant Buddha (乐山大佛). At 71 metres high (equal to a 23-storey building), it’s the largest Buddha on the planet. The gigantic sculpture was carved out of a cliff face overlooking the confluence of three rivers. The construction began at the beginning of the 8th century and took 90 years to complete. Together with Emeishan, Leshan Giant Buddha has been declared as a UNESCO Heritage since 1996.
Practical information in Sichuan
- Mount Emei and Leshan Giant Buddha are accessible by buses and bullet trains from Chengdu. It is possible to visit both sites as a day-tripper, but it could be exhausted, especially if you intend to hike Mount Emei.
- To Mount Emei: Take the Chengdu-Leshan-Emeishan Intercity High-Speed Train to Emeishan station. Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes. Then, change to bus 5A, 8, or tourism bus. The buses also stop at various stations on the mountain.
- To Leshan Giant Buddha: Take the same bullet train but to Leshan station. Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes. From there, take bus 3 or 601 to reach the site.
- The journey on foot to the Golden Summit takes more than 2 hours, up steep stairs and winding through the valleys. A more comfortable way is using the cable car. For us, it was the only option because the weather was so bad and hiking in the fog is not really wise. The fog, somehow, did add a touch of mystic to the whole area.