White elephant statues at the Golden Summit, Sichuan

Sichuan and the Man-made Wonders

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 humans. Most of them are located around Mount Emei (峨眉山), 150 kilometers south of Sichuan’s capital, Chengdu.

1. Mount Emei

Soaring 3099 meters above sea level, Mount Emei (or Emeishan) is the central piece of Emeishan National Park. The very first Buddhist temple in China was built near the summit of this mountain in the first century, marking Buddhism’s arrival in the Eastern world. Today, the mountain houses more than 30 temples and is considered one of China’s holiest sites.

Atop this sacred mountain is the epic statue of Samantabhadra or Puxian in Chinese. It is said that the Samantabhadra has meditated here. Hence he/she has become the protector of the area, as well as the patron Buddha of monasteries in the region. The towering statue reaches a height of 48 meters and is covered thinly with gold. With massive graven heads faces in ten directions, the statue represent Samantabhadra’s ‘Ten Truths of Universal Worthiness’.

Samantabhadra Statue at the Golden Summit

2. Leshan Giant Buddha

Facing Mount Emei is the remarkable Leshan Giant Buddha (乐山大佛). At 71 meters high (equal to a 23-story 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 Mount Emei, Leshan Giant Buddha has been declared as a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1996.

Leshan Giant Buddha. It seems that he is smiling at visitors.

Tips for visiting 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 two hours, up steep stairs and winding through the valleys. A more comfortable way is using the cable car. For me, 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 mystical touch to the whole area.

42 thoughts on “Sichuan and the Man-made Wonders”

  1. Bama – Jakarta, Indonesia – Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.
    Bama says:

    I just realized that there are two smaller statues at the base of the Giant Buddha. One question though… shouldn’t we be worried about the vegetation that covers some parts of the giant statue itself? As far as I’m concerned it will damage the structure in the long term.

    1. Spot on! There are two other Buddhas standing at either side of the statue. But their faces are not visible anymore. I think the plants might be a threat for the statue. But pollution, for example, the acid rain and hordes of tourists pose a bigger problem 🙁

  2. Julz – Hi! Hope you are enjoying my travel blog about Mauritius! I am a Danish Expat, mum of 2. Currently we live in Mauritius and we absolutely love it. I am taking you around this beautiful island and also other travels we enjoy!
    Julz says:

    Absolutely wow! the pictures are great!! The Giant Buddha is just so impressive. Thanks for sharing.

  3. How beautiful! The fog and plants really make it look mystical.

    1. Yes, it is! But walking around with this thick layer of fog is not really easy 🙂 And because of it, I could not see the sea of cloud which is also one feature of the Golden Summit.

    1. Many thanks! The food is good but deadly spicy haha. I remember that my tongue was numb after trying the special Sichuan’s pepper. But the Mapo Tofu is really good 😉

  4. avoyageonearth – I'm the writer behind travel site avoyageonearth.com. I'm based in Melbourne, Australia and I divide my time between my two greatest passions; art and travel.
    avoyageonearth says:

    I’d never even heard of Emeishan but now I’ve seen pictures I’m very keen to visit! Looks amazing 🙂

  5. Very interesting account of a place still on my wish list yo visit. Its amazing how the bullet trains in China have really opened up China for travellers in recent years.

    1. Indeed. It saves a lot of time and makes the trip more pleasant. I have read that a new route from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou will be opened in 2019 or 2020. It will shorten the current perilous 10-hours bus trip to more than two hours 🙂

  6. Great shot of the giant Buddha at Lishan. Not crawling with people- amazing. I loved that area and it was one of the highlights of Sichuan province.

  7. Jolene – Sydney, Australia – Jolene is a banker by trade, a writer at heart, and is a contributor to Thought Catalog. You are welcome to peek into her adventures and reflections on films and life at "SoMuchToTellYou", her ultimate love affair with words.
    Jolene says:

    Serious, that’s china? Looks different (but not that I have been there…) Love the carving of Buddha in the mountain (accidentally typed bubba…) You are right, the fog gives a whole new meaning to living in the clouds.

    1. Bubba 🙂 Sounds like a sort of bubble tea. The giant Buddha is really enormous. You can only get a full view of the statue when you are on a boat. Even his toe is bigger than me 🙂 You cannot see it in this picture but there are a lot of people crawling on both side and on the shoulder of the statue.

      1. Jolene – Sydney, Australia – Jolene is a banker by trade, a writer at heart, and is a contributor to Thought Catalog. You are welcome to peek into her adventures and reflections on films and life at "SoMuchToTellYou", her ultimate love affair with words.
        Jolene says:

        Farout, crazy man made stuff everywhere in china… Oh I’m sure his toe will be enough to squash you! Love Sichuan food though 🌶 🌶

  8. ThatSweetGift – Teen lifestyle blogger. Londoner. Fashion and beauty lover. Jewellery addict. Boho witch queen wannabe. Well on the way to becoming Zen. While watching absolutely acceptable amounts of Adventure Time and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. I'm a lot nicer than I look, and I love to chat with other bloggers, so just drop me a comment if you have any questions :) personal twitter: @youmustbehighxo
    youmustbehighxo says:

    How beautiful! Bit of a shame about the fog though 🙁 Gorgeous photos btw

    1. Yes, it was a pity that I could not see the sea of cloud at the Golden Summit. But the fog was not so bad either 🙂 Many thanks for visiting!

  9. Nano @ Travels With Nano – Tokyo, Japan – Hi, I'm Nano! Welcome to my site! Travels With Nano is filled with everything I am passionate about: uncovering the world one sight, bite and cultural experience at a time. I'm here to share savvy travel tips and inspire (not influence!) your future travel adventures. Needless to say, I am thrilled to have you here reading!
    Nano @ Travel With Nano B. says:

    I’m about to board the plane to China as I’m reading this. Sadly we’ll only be hitting Shanghai & Beijing, but China has so much more to offer!

  10. Dustin – Tampa, FL – I love exploring the world and taking pictures. I lived in the south part of China for the last two years teaching English.
    Dustin says:

    Great pictures! Sadly we never visited Sichuan during our time in China, but it’s a place that I would love to see.

    1. Such a pity! Maybe a reason to return to China, don’t you think 😉 Politics aside, I found China is a very interesting country. Each region has its own beauty, and it takes month (or even years) to see them all.

      1. Dustin – Tampa, FL – I love exploring the world and taking pictures. I lived in the south part of China for the last two years teaching English.
        Dustin says:

        I would definitely like to return to visit. The variety of landscapes in the country adds to the beauty as well.

  11. Megha's World – I’m a mother of a smart and energetic seven-year-old. I started expressing myself creatively since the last two years. Since then I have been continuously inspired by events in my life and around me which has helped me in penning my thoughts. I’m an avid reader, loves to sing, an ardent lover of poetry and sometimes can scribble few lines too. Loves to dance in the rain, have an undying love for nature, can watch the beautiful sunset for hours. Love to kiss and hug my loved ones. I have worked in the IT field for almost a decade as a manager, worked crazy hours and traveled around the world. In that busy schedule, I never got the time to creatively express my thoughts. Now every time I finish a poem, free verse anything it fills me with so much happiness and excitement and a feeling to have created something of my own. I’m planning to post at least one creation of mine weekly. Lastly, a million thanks to all who visit, like or follow my tiny bits of creation. Every time you do that, I get to know one more beautiful person in my life and get the chance to see their creation too.
    Megha's World says:

    The picture of giant Buddha is amazing and wonderous. I guess you did justice to the daily prompt today more than ever.

  12. I have seen some tacky-looking giant Buddhas in my travels but these are are grand not just in scale but in design too. The ten heads are striking and the cliff just accentuates the size of the carving. I like the gnarled trees too.

    1. Many thanks, Caroline! Those statues are indeed impressive. They are enormous yet so delicate.

      I think I know those tacky-looking (and often awkwardly colorful) Buddha statues that you mentioned. We also have some here. True thorns in the eyes 🙂

      1. Sorry, I thought after I wrote that comment that calling some Buddha statues tacky-looking might not have been appropriate. Didn’t mean to single out Buddha statues.

      2. Don’t worry, Caroline. I understand what you mean. As a (moderate) Buddhist myself, I was annoyed when seeing all those “confusing” statues 🙂 I think religious artworks should be done with care and respect.

  13. Alison and Don – Occupation: being/living/experiencing/travelling In our sixties, with apparently no other authentic option, my husband Don and I sold our apartment and car, sold or gave away all our stuff and set off to discover the world. And ourselves. We started in Italy in 2011 and from there have travelled to Spain, India, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, SE Asia, South America, Egypt, Japan, etc. - you can see the blog archive. We travelled full-time for nearly six years, and then re-established a home in Vancouver. We now travel 2-3 months per year. We are interested in how the world works, how life works, how the creation of experience works, how the mind works. As we travel and both "choose" our course, and at the same time just let it unfold, we discover the "mechanics" of life, the astounding creativity of life, and a continual need to return to trust and presence. Opening the heart, and acceptance of what is, as it is, are keystones for us both. Interests: In no particular order: travel, photography, figure skating (as a fan), acceptance, authenticity, walking/hiking, joy, creativity, being human, adventure, presence, NOW. Same for Don except replace figure skating with Formula One motor racing.
    Alison and Don says:

    Gorgeous photos LEN. This post brought back some wonderful memories – of climbing up to Samantabhadra, and of hiking to, and staying overnight at one of the smaller monasteries on Emei Shan and another night in a monastery at the base of the mountain as well as visiting the Leshan Buddha. It’s a fabulous part of China.

    1. I remember reading about your hike (and admire your photos), Alison 🙂 Actually, it was one of the first posts that I’ve read on your blog. The hike was challenging but the view was rewarding, right?

      My trip was not so lucky. I could not see anything from the cable car because of the fog. Only when I reached the summit, the sky was clear for a brief moment 🙁

Leave a ReplyCancel reply