About Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area

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emeil summit view

Background of Mount Emei and Leshan Giant Buddha Statue

In the 1st century, the first Buddhist temple of China was completed on the top of the scenic Mt. Emei. As other temples were gradually built on this mountain, Mt. Emei became one of the most sacred Buddhist places. Now, many centuries have passed, and a lot of cultural assets have massed on Mt. Emei. Of them, the most renowned is the Leshan Giant Buddha which was carved in the 8th century out of a giant mountain rock. The Buddha seems to be overlooking the spot where three rivers meet. With a body height of 71 meters, the Leshan Buddha is the largest Buddha statue in the world. Mt. Emei is also renowned in the world for its abundant plant species. From subtropical plants to sub-alpine coniferous forests, the plant resources on Mt. Emei are plentiful. The age of some trees has exceeded 1,000 years.

Mt. Emei is one of “the Four Renowned Buddhist Mountains of China.” Buddhism and its numerous temples built there have brought the mountain a lot of mysterious elements. Religious culture, especially Buddhist culture, is the main part of Mt. Emei’s historical culture, and the buildings, statues, instruments, ceremonies, music and paintings of Mt. Emei all have strong religious culture characteristics. There are many temples standing on Mt. Emei, of which, the most renowned are the “Eight Great Temples on the Golden Top” including the Baoguo Temple and Wannian Temple.

The Leshan Giant Buddha is located on the Xiluan Peak on the eastern side of Mt. Emei, and was called the “Giant Maitreya” and “Jiading Buddha” in ancient times. The carving of the Buddha statue started in the Kangyuan first year (713) and took 99 years in total. The Buddha leans on the mountain and faces the rivers, and is the largest cliff statue in the current world. It is usually described as “the mountain is a Buddha; the Buddha is a mountain.” The Buddha is a sitting Maitreya Buddha facing west. It is 71 meters high and has a very calm expression on its face. The carving is delicate, the outline is natural and smooth, the body proportion is proper, and the entire statue looks splendid. It reflects the magnificence of the prosperous Tang Dynasty culture. On the southern and northern walls of the Buddha, there are also over 90 stone statues from the Tang Dynasty, and many of them are excellent works.

The Universal Values of the property

Due to its special geographic location, Mt. Emei (including the Leshan Giant Buddha) has majestic, elegant and fantastic natural sceneries, typical landforms, and a well-preserved ecological environment. In particular, since it is located in a transitional area between biological systems, it owns abundant animal and plant resources including many rare and endangered species which all have clear regional characteristics.

During the past 2,000 years, numerous cultural assets, especially the cultural assets with Buddha characteristics, have been created and massed on the mountain. The natural and cultural heritage has a very high value in the realms such as history, aesthetics, scientific research, popular science, and tourism, and is the commonwealth of the entire human race.

(1) The status of Mt. Emei among China’s renowned mountains

Mt. Emei, which enjoys a high reputation in the world for its beautiful natural sceneries and thick Buddhist atmosphere, is a very outstanding among China’s renowned mountains for its “majestic, elegant and mysterious” characteristics.

The majestic, elegant and mysterious natural sceneries and the centuries-old historical and cultural contents harmonized with each other and gives Mt. Emei the title of “the Most Elegant Mountain in the World.”

(2) Mt. Emei has unique geological characteristics

Mt. Emei has preserved a relatively complete sedimentary stratum from the Precambrian period, providing precious geological data for the biological evolution research of the earth’s crust. The intrusive rock and volcanic rock generated by the intrusion and eruption of magma have provided typical examples for the research of the mechanism of the upper mantle, the tension fracture of the lithosphere and crustal transformation. The complex structural deformation of crust caused by the Yanshan Movement and the Himalayan Movement has provided sufficient basis for researching the surface structure of the crust.

Meanwhile, the Neotectonics, which caused the magnificent and spectacular geological structure of Mt. Emei and the typical and multiple modern landscapes, provided the prerequisites for biological reproduction and breeding, as well as the establishment of peculiar middle and high mountain ecological kingdoms. The background and conditions have formed an organic whole, creating the aesthetic image and scientific content of Mt. Emei and its special and dominant status in the world’s mountain landscapes.

(3) Mt. Emei has a variety of plants and typical subtropical vegetations.

emei nature

The vegetation on Mt. Emei has a unique position and significance in the world:

(I) Mt. Emei has the world’s most typical and best preserved subtropical vegetation and a original and complete subtropical forest belt, including evergreen broad-leaved forests, a mixed forest of evergreen broad-leaved forests and broadleaved deciduous forests, as well as a mixed forest of coniferous forests and broad-leaved forests from bottom to top.

(II) The plant species are abundant, with more than 3,200 known higher plants from 242 families growing in the peculiar and diverse forests. The mountain which is only 154 square kilometers is unique and the only one in the world’s subtropics regions. Not only are the plant types and species rich here, but the animal species are also extremely rich.

(III) There are also numerous original and endemic species, including over 100 higher plants. There is a variety of ancient and endangered plant species, among which, 31 are under national protection.

(IV) The flora of Mt. Emei is located in the Himalayas in China and the China-Japan floristic sub-region, and has important value for researching the world’s biota.

(4) Mt. Emei is a bank of animal genes

Animals on Mt. Emei are from the transitional zone between the Palaearctic realm and the Oriental realm, but are closer to the Oriental realm with significant and typical characteristics. First, it has complex fauna, complete and rich species, and is a concentrated distribution area which is rare in the world. Second, it has significant regional distribution with clear horizontal and vertical belts, and has fauna from East Asia, South Asia and from plateaus. Third, it has many ancient, rare and endangered species, endemic species, type species and species from the Oriental region. Fourth, the effective conservation of the ancient and rare species has retained the original ecosystem and is an existing gene bank of animals. It also has high scientific value and is worthy of being protected.

(5) Mt. Emei has abundant relics of historical and Buddhist culture.

Mt. Emei has a long cultural history. According to available archaeological data, ancient ancestors had engaged in activities here about 10,000 years ago. Entering civilized society, there is more than 2,000 years of human history verified based on historical documents and relics. In such a long period of history, ancient ancestors have created glorious historical culture, leaving behind rich historical heritage. The introduction of Buddhism and the construction and prosperity of temples have added magical color for Mt. Emei, a magnificent and beautiful mountain. Religious culture, especially Buddhist culture, is the main part of the history and culture of the mountain. Buildings, statues, Buddhist implements, rituals, music and paintings all show the strong religious cultural flavor and vibrant color.

The art of temple buildings has fully highlighted the Buddhist culture of Mt. Emei and are special landscapes integrated with the natural environment and landscapes on the mountain. The mountain has more than 30 temples including 10 large scale temples with a long history. These temples have local architectural styles and are elegant, simple and unique in the light of local conditions. The location selection, design and construction all show the ingenuity, dignity and beauty of the buildings. Therefore, they can be called the model of the temple architecture in China’s famous mountain landscapes.

Compared with other mountain landscapes in China, it is rare that Mt. Emei has abundant historical and cultural relics and Buddhist heritage, which is the crystallization and treasure of the long historical culture of Mt. Emei. Among them, many Buddhist relics and temple buildings have provided valuable information and evidence for researching the prosperity and development of Mt. Emei Buddhism, as well as the entire Buddhist history.

The Leshan Giant Buddha is characterized by the organic combination of human heritage quintessence and natural heritage, integrating the mountain with water. There is one historical relic under first-grade national protection and four that are under second-grade national protection within 2.5 square kilometers in the scenic spot, which is across Leshan City, a well-known historical and cultural city in China. Centered on Buddha statues, the bas-reliefs on precipices from the Tang Dynasty, is a museum with 2,000 years of history, preserving the meander core dug by Li Bing, an official from the Qin Dynasty, the cliff tombs of the Han Dynasty, the Buddha statues, pagodas and temples of the Tang Dynasty, and the architectural complexes of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The cultural relics related to China’s famous historical figures are very rich and unique. It is an abundant museum and has 7,226 collections, among which, many are rare collections from home and abroad.

Buddhist culture

Massive statue of Samantabhadra

The splendid and fantastic Mt. Emei attracted a large number of followers, pilgrims, literatus, scholars and Buddhists throughout the ages. They all marveled at the beauty of Mt. Emei and left a lot of works and created the excellent Mt. Emei culture, which is famous around the world.

In the middle of the first century, Buddhism was introduced to Mt. Emei from India through the southern Silk Road and Pu Gong. An herbalist established the Puguang Hall in today’s Jinxiang. In the third century, the theory of the Samantabhadra belief spread in the mountain and Huichi, a Chinese monk, established the Puxian Temple (today’s Wannian Temple) below the Guanxinpo. In the middle of the sixth century, the world Buddhist focus began to shift from India to China, and Sichuan became the center of Chinese Buddhism and temples began to appear everywhere. It is said that there are more than 100 temples in the history and in the eight century, the Chan sect was the most flourishing sect of Buddhists and unified the mountain. In the middle of the ninth century, Song Taizu Zhao Kuangyin sent a group of monks, which was led by Sheng Jiye, to visit India. When they returned, Jiye went to Mt. Emei to built temples, and translated and spread Buddhist scripture. At the same time, a 62 ton and 7.85 meters giant copper Samantabhadra Buddha statue was constructed and enshrined in today’s Wannian Temple, which has become an excellent piece of work among the Buddha statues on Mt. Emei, and has a great cultural and artistic value. For thousands of years, Mt. Emei, the Buddhist holy site, is as famous as the “Samantabhadra Taoist Rites” and Mt. Wutai in Shanxi Province, Mt. Putuo in Zhejiang Province, and Mt. Jiuhua in Anhui Province, which are known as the four mountains of Chinese Buddhism.

Throughout its long, Mt. Emei not only collected abundant Buddhist cultural treasures, but left many precious cultural relics. There are 30 temples that exist in the scenic spot, with an area of 100,000 square meters. They all have a variety of features and characteristics. The Feilai Hall of the 30 temples and the Wuliangzhuan Hall in the Wannian Temple are under the first and second grade state protection. There are many kinds of Buddhist cultural relics, for instance, the six meter high and seven square and 14 floors, and the inside and outside, casted the Avatamsaka Sutra and the copper Huanyan Tower, which has 4,700 Buddha statues, the copper-casted Buddha statues in the Ming Dynasty in the Wannian Temple as well as the Palmleaf Manuscript presented by the king of the Siam in the Ming Dynasty are all treasures. There are 164 cultural relics and historic sites on Mt. Emei, and the collections of the temples and museums have reached over 6,890, including more than 890 under state grade protection. They all have a different historical, cultural and artistic value.

Martial arts

Chinese martial arts, which has a long tradition and derived from the one branch of Buddhism and absorbed the dynamic exercise of Taoists and the skills of attack and defense from the military, has developed into one of the three schools of Chinese martial arts, the Emeiquan and passed downed until today.

Poems

Mt. Emei, as a world famous Buddhist holy site, has a close connection with the praise, narrative and transmission of celebrities, scholars and poets. Famous poets such as Li Bai and Su Dongpo wrote many poems that praised Mt. Emei, which are still very popular among people. Furthermore, there is also the former residence of Guo Moruo in Shawan Town, which is not far away from the Er’eshan Mountain (Suishan Mountain in ancient times). Guo Moruo wrote many poems about Mt. Emei and is indeed a poet of Mt. Emei. The autograph “world famous” signed by Guo has become a rare treasure.

Leshan Giant Buddha

leshan giant buddha

The Leshan Giant Buddha is located at the confluence of the Xiwan Peak on Lingyun Mountain, which is situated on the east of Mt. Emei, and the Binmian River, Dadu River and Qingyi River. The Buddha statue is a Maitreya sitting statue, which was carved around the mountain in the early eighth century and constructed over a period of 90 years. The Leshan Giant Buddha, which is 71 meters high and 60 meters high in sitting stature, is the tallest stone-carved Buddha around the world. The Giant Buddha carries the Jiuxiang Mountain on its back and faces the confluence of three rivers, the lines are smooth and its proportion is well-balanced. The Giant Buddha looks solemn and respectful and occupies the south-north walls and has 90 stone-carved statues from the Tang Dynasty. Among them, the “Pure Land” Shrine and the “Three Buddha” are excellent artworks and all have artistic value.

There are many historic sites in the scenic spot of the Leshan Giant Buddha including the meander core from the Qin Dynasty, cliff-tombs from the Han Dynasty, the Buddha, towers and temples from the Tang Dynasty and Jiuding City where the Song Dynasty fought against the Yuan Dynasty. The manmade landscapes are dense and integrated with the natural landscape, and both are glorious.

Four Wonders of nature

Cloud seas

Emei sea clouds

When it is clear and sunny, boundless, smooth, thick white clouds will rise from Mt. Emei. Buddhist called the sea of clouds the “Silver World.” The cloud seas on the mountain are formed by low clouds which are lower than the mountains. Therefore, the mountain looks like many islands surrounding by fog floating in the sea of clouds and the entire Mt. Emei is just like a Buddhist fairyland. The white clouds are also like rolling white waves and the “islands” also look like floating boats, just like the “graciousness goddess of mercy saves the living creatures.” Modern poet Zhao Puchu wrote a poem to describe the sea of clouds on Mt. Emei, “the sky wearing rosy clouds to witness the sunrise and the mountain looks like boats floating on the sea of clouds.”

Sunrise

emei sunrise

Mt. Emei is located on the western edge of the Sichuan Basin. People can overlook the “Tianfu Plain” and watch the sun come up on Mt. Emei. As the vision on the mountain is broad, it can cleanse people’s minds to allow them to feel the love between man and nature. As the sun is coming up from the east, the sky is full of morning clouds and thousands of golden lights shoot to the earth. Mt. Emei looks as if it is gradually covered by a golden overcoat from head to toe, and shows all the beautiful postures. A poem written by Su Dongpo, a poet in the Northern Song Dynasty says, “The valley is full of mist in autumn, the dawn makes all the species wake up.”

Light of Buddha

The light of Buddha, also known as the “Emei Baoguang,” is the light emitted between the brows of Samantabhadra by Buddhists. In fact, the light of Buddha is a natural phenomenon of light formed by the diffraction and diffuse reflection of sunshine irradiating on the surface of clouds. In the afternoons of the summer and early winter, a hollow rainbow aura with colors of red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue and purple will appear in the low clouds. A person will find that his or her shadow will appear in the rainbow aura if he or she is back toward the western sunshine and the shadow will move as the person moves. It is more curious that even if hundreds of people watch the rainbow aura at the same time and in the same place, the spectator will only see his or her own shadow. A poem from Tan Zhongyue says, “It is not clouds or fog in the sky, it has splendid colors and light; if you watch towards the top of the rock, you will see everyone in the light of the Buddha.”

Sacred lamp

In dark nights, sometimes a gradually increasing light will appear under the Sheshen Rock drifting from place to place in the dark valley. Buddhists called it the “sacred lamp.” The floating magical light points just like the “thousands of bright lamps toward the Samantabhadra.” The poem “Sacred Lamp” reads, “Uncounted red points flying from the eastern mountain, they fly back and forth; the cold lights may fired for thousands years on the rocks; in the stillness of night, only the lamps hanging on the Fanwang Palace.” Yin Shen, a poet in Ming Dynasty, also wrote in his poem “Sacred Lamp,” “Looking forward the night, lamps come down from the upper bound; the lamps lighten all over the valley and the fire shadows almost fill the sky; the lamps come down like uncounted stars and the golden lights can be seen everywhere in the dark valley.”

Category: Mount Emei&Leshan