There’s one reason, and one reason only, that travelers flock to Leshan: The world’s tallest stone Buddha. The Leshan Giant Buddha is 71 meters tall, and at the time it was built, it was the tallest statue in the world. The Buddha was carved into a cliff face sometime during the Tang dynasty between 1400 and 1100 years ago.
When you enter the park, you have to first climb up to head-level through a pretty, verdant park. Then, after admiring the size of his nose and the coziness of his earlobes, you head down a narrow staircase along the Buddha’s right shoulder, all the way down to his feet. From the base of the statue, you can see the whole thing in all its glory. There is only one narrow staircase from the head to the feet, so you can imagine how crowded it can get. It wasn’t too bad when we were there, but they were set up to handle quite long lines, a la Disneyland. It’s a long slow progress down.
Admission to the Buddha costs 90 RMB, or 45 for students. The “Oriental Buddha Park,” which is filled with replicas of other famous Buddha statues, adds another 60 RMB to your ticket (35 for students). If you are dropped off at the east gate you have no choice but to walk through the Buddha Park, so try to get dropped off at the north gate, where you can avoid the extra ticket fee.
The Buddha can be visited easily as a day trip from Chengdu or as a pit stop on your way to Emei Shan. Buses to Leshan depart from the Xinnanmen bus station in the southern part of Chengdu. The statue itself lies in the southern part of town, so you can choose between buses to the Leshan bus station or, for slightly more money, to the statue itself. We chose to go directly to the statue for 52 RMB. From Leshan, you can catch a bus back to Chengdu or a minivan to Emei Shan (15 RMB). Bus and van operators flock to the exits of the park, so you may be able to avoid returning to the bus station.