Is there anything else worth going to Leshan for except to see the Grand Buddha of Leshan? Given that I doubted it, I stopped off in the town on the way back to Chengdu after my painful enlightenment on Emei Shan to check out the largest stone Buddha in the world.
Dafo, or the Grand Buddha, is carved straight out of the cliff face overlooking the confluence of three rivers. It faces Mount Emei 35km back down the road, and at 71m tall, with ears 7m long and fingernails bigger than your average shutter-snapping tourist, I doubt he had trouble making the school basketball team.
Construction on the Grand Buddha was started in the year 713 by a Chinese monk named Haitong, who hoped he would calm the waters which were the wrecking of many a ship attempting to navigate their path. Indeed, it is said that so much of the sandstone removed during the construction of the Buddha was flung into the river below, the currents were in fact altered and the waters made safe enough for ships to pass as Haitong had wished. The statue was eventually completed 90 years after Haitong’s death in 803.
The Grand Buddha of Leshan and his surroundings are part of the Emei Shan Scenic Area which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. The site also includes temples, tombs, a monastery and other ancient carvings which offer a couple of hours pleasant strolling and snapping before heading back to Chengdu or onwards to Mount Emei itself.
How to get there
The best way to get to Leshan from Chengdu is by bus. Buses leave Chengdu from Xinnanmen bus station every 20 minutes or so between 7am and 7pm. They take about two hours to get there depending on the traffic. They will generally arrive at Xiaoba bus station from where it is necessary to take another local bus for the ten minute ride into Leshan town centre. Buses 1 and 6 will be the ones to take when you reach Xiaoba.
If you are travelling to Leshan after visiting Emei Shan, buses leave from Baoguo at the foot of the mountain regularly between around 7.30am and 6pm. From Emeishan city, they tend to leave every hour between 8am and 5pm. Like the bus from Chengdu, you will arrive in Leshan from both destination at Xiaoba bus station.
Travelling from Leshan, as well as buses back to Chengdu, there are also buses to Chongqing, Yibin and other neighbouring cities, usually departing from Leshan central bus station.
There is no train directly to Leshan. The nearest station is in Emeishan city (31 km away) from where you will need to get the bus as outlined above.
When you are in Leshan itself, bus 13 is the bus you need to be taking. It runs from Leshan town centre to the Grand Buddha scenic area.