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Sunday, May 16, 2010

No. 21: Wuyou Temple, Leshan, Sichuan

Skanda-Kumara (塞建那) rides a peacock (孔雀) in the entry to the 500 Arhats' Hall (五百罗汉殿) at Wuyou
Temple (乌尤寺) in Leshan, Sichuan (四川, 乐山市), near the state of the Great Buddha of Leshan.
A busy, big day! My wife and I left Chengdu by an early bus for Leshan, home to the world's largest carved stone Buddha. Despite its worldwide status, though, the colossus was not our primary goal.

Avoiding the nearby Disney-esque theme park, we made our way through the Stele Forest directly to the Big Guy himself. We visited the cave of the monk Haitong, who instigated the Big Buddha's construction in 713 as a means of ensuring safe navigation on the river, and peeked inside Lingyun Temple, which was under construction.

Down river a ways was Wuyou Temple, number 121 on my list of 142. Now, the Big Buddha was well worth the price of admission, and the temple (about which I'll tell you in a minute) was splendid. But the real treat of the day was the bridge between the two.

After wandering past ancient cave-tombs, and through a former fishing village now given over to selling souvenirs, we reached the Haoshang Bridge. Wuyou Temple is separated from the Big Buddha area by a river, creating a sort of peninsula, and Haoshang is the "shortcut."

I've seen a lot of bridges in my travels, but this one is by far the most beautiful, and all the more so for having been come upon unexpectedly.

After toiling up the steps to the top of Wuyou Mountain and the temple, we were delighted at the unusual design of the place.

A tiny ancient courtyard is its heart. To one side, up a hill, is a hall dedicated to the "Wuyou Buddha," a frightful-looking esoteric figure said to have been cast in India in the Tang Dynasty, and after which the temple was named. In the other direction from the main compound is a "500 Arhats Hall" with beautifully-painted life-sized clay figures of 500 of the Buddha's disciples.

A beautiful set of buildings with beautiful artifacts in a beautiful setting. Beautiful!

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily June 4, 2012.)

GPS Info:
  • Wuyou Temple: 29.537675, 103.771651
  • Leshan Great Buddha: 29.544125, 103.771569 (Click to view map)



Map:


(This may look blank, but it works--I promise!)



GALLERY

The Great Buddha at Leshan
Statue of Monk Haitong near the Great Buddha
Entrance to cave tombs at Leshan
Haoshang Bridge, the crossover to Wuyou Mountain
Entry corridor to Wuyou Temple
Tiny central courtyard of the temple
Hand-painted clay arhats
Hall of the Wuyou Buddha
BONUS IMAGE: Another view of the Great Buddha of Leshan rendered as a vintage postcard.

The Big Buddha (大佛) at Leshan, Sichuan (四川, 乐山市), built in the Tang Dynasty, is said to be the largest
Buddha statue in the world. It stands 71 metres (233 feet) tall, and is carved into a cliff above a river.

Click here to visit the next article in chronological order || Click here to view the trip details

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