Sacred Sites in Southern Sichuan

After we got back from Jiuzhaigou we once again stayed at our “home base”, Chengdu, for a day to relax in the Wuhouci temple and the neighbouring park with its nice tea house where we spend some hours.

The next day I took the bus to Leshan, location of the world’s largest Buddha statue. Together with Jiuzhaigou and Emeishan it is one of Sichuan’s three UNESCO world heritage sites and the title caused the Chinese to come in big groups to this Buddhist place – foreigners on the other hand were quite rare. So when being in the line to make the small slope down along the figure that is facing the river everybody was eager to chat with me. Unfortunately it was very hazy that day so I decided to not take the boat cruise passing the statue since I was not even able to clearly see the other bank of the river.

Great Buddha at Leshan
The 71 meter high statue in Leshan.

I decided to go to the Wuyou temple that was included in the entrance fee of the Great Buddha (大佛). After crossing the bridge to the temple area it was suddenly quiet as the tourist groups seemed to avoid the “ordinary” temple. But I was lucky as I bumped into some locals that I had met earlier when they helped me take a picture of me in front of the Buddha statue. They simply showed me around the temple, so I had my private tour guides. The same has happened to me when I was still on the areal of the Great Buddha when I had a look at the more remote temples and pagoda.

Another famous Buddhist site in Sichuan is Emeishan (Mt. Emei 峨眉山), about 45 minutes from Leshan by bus. We spend the night on the foot of the mountain and started the exhausting climb up the mountain the next morning. Well, we cheated a little bit, as we took a bus for the first some miles but then we resisted to cable car that most of the Chinese took. We made our way up literally about thousands of steep, it is not a difficult climb but is exhausting. In the evening we were going to sleep at one of the monasteries along the path, but we had to make some seven extra kilometers as we found out the it was subject to construction and we had to go to the next one. There we met a monk from Chengdu who was taking a pilgrimage to the sacred Buddhist mountain and we saw him again the next day quite often: Every time we chatted a bit, took a photo or were subject of a photo being taken by a Chinese because both a monk and foreigners seems to be the ideal object to appear in a photo to take home.

Night at Emeishan
The moon above the monastery where we spend the night.

The next morning we could feel the nearly 30 kilometers and more then 1500 meters of elevation we had mastered the day before, but on the second day we made it to the top in the early afternoon. While the weather was not that good during the first day, it became much clearer on the second day and the clouds around us were just beautiful. We had plenty of time at the summit because we originally planed to take the monorail to the 3099 meter high “Tenthousand Buddha Summit”, but it was out of service.
On the way up we also saw another attraction of the mountain: the monkeys that were really clever when it comes to food. When taking a rest and having a snack at a small restaurant we were witnessed how a monkey stole some noodles from the restaurant and were eating them high up in a tree without the reach of the stones that the angry shop-owner throw after the monkey.

Top of Emeishan
The top of Emeishan in the evening sun.

In comparison to the youth hostels that we had mainly stayed during our trip, we stayed at a rather crappy (and expensive) hotel, but it was near the top of the mountain so after we got up at 5:00 a.m. in the morning we only had a short walk for the platform to see the sunrise. As a matter of fact, a beautiful sunrise on the 3077 high summit is pretty rare and we were satisfied with what we saw: The sun was making it’s way through the clouds near the horizon and send us some warm sunrays.

Sunrise at Emeishan
The sunrise at Emeishan.

The so-called “sea of clouds” (云海) must be amazing and on clear days one can see Mt. Gonga (7556 m) rising from the clouds. But this day we were more bathing in that sea, so we were in the clouds ourselves up to the neck. After the sunrise we made our way back to the foot of the mountain by bus, changed into another bus to Chengdu and arrived there in the afternoon. Once again we were in Chengdu, at the hostel we were even greeted “welcome back home”…

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