- The World’s 5 Best Buddha Statues
- Leshan Buddha Statue – Sichuan Province, China
- Tian Tan Buddha Statue – Hong Kong, China
- Buddha Entering Nirvana – Ta Cu, Mountain, Vietnam
- Pakse Golden Buddha Statue – Pakse, Laos
- Xieng Khuan Reclining Buddha Statue – Vientiane, Laos
The World’s 5 Best Buddha Statues
Leshan Buddha Statue – Sichuan Province, China
The Leshan Buddha is the brain child of a Chinese monk named Hai Tong. Hai Tong had great compassion and he endeavored to improve the lives of sailors making passage through the confluence of 3 rivers in China. As a result, he chose to construct the world’s largest Buddha statue in the side of a cliff overlooking this dangerous waterway. By constructing a Buddha statue of such incredible size and beauty Hai Tong hoped to improve the karma of the traveling sailors. Construction was begun in the year 713 ACE during the time of the Tang Dynasty.
Unfortunately, funding for the project was threatened during the early years of construction. As a result, Hai Tong is said to have gouged out his own eyes to show his unwavering commitment to the project. Although funding for the project was to eventually be restored, Hai Tong would die before it’s completion. The project was finally completed by the disciples of Hai Tong in 803 ACE.
The Waters Remain Calm
Ironically, the enormous amount of rubble that was deposited into the river during construction altered the flow of the rivers. As a result, it calmed the dangerous water and made passage safe for the ships. In present times, the view from the riverside cliffs is filled with serenity and indeed the water remains calm.
Dimensions of the Leshan Buddha
The Leshan Buddha is 71 meters tall and it is still the most impressive of all the world’s large Buddha statues. Furthermore, it is the largest pre-modern Buddha statue still existing in the world today. Additionally, the unwavering compassion and resolute dedication of Hai Tong has changed the course of history and saved many lives. As a result, the Leshan Buddha Statue is #1 on my list of the world’s greatest Buddha statues. Plus, this is surely one of the world’s best global travel destinations!
The Meaning Behind Leshan Buddha
Visitors to this destination may find it interesting that the venerable Leshan “Buddha” statue is actually a bodhisattva. However, in Mahayana Buddhist belief bodhisattvas carry great significance. The bodhisattva is a someone who has achieved enlightenment. However, in a gesture of great personal sacrifice they chose to delay entering the state of Nirvana. Instead, they will indefinitely delay their awakening and assist others to achieve the highest level of spiritual accomplishment.
The Significance of Maitreya
Mahayana Buddhism is predominant in China and therefore bodhisattvas are central to their beliefs. However, the Leshan Buddha is a depiction of a very important bodhisattva named Maitreya. Maitreya, is known as the future Buddha who will come to the earthly realm in the future and achieve enlightenment. Additionally, he will come at a time when the human race has long forgotten the Dharma teachings of Gautama Buddha. It is believed by Mahayana Buddhists that Maitreya will replace Gautama Buddha and he is therefore the Buddha of the future. As a result, Maitreya is left with the enormous task of leading all of humanity to their awakening.
Additionally, Maitreya is the only “Buddha” who is depicted seated in a chair. This is in contrast with other Buddha statues who are either, reclining, standing, walking or depicted in some variation of the seated lotus posture. It is also of note that some of the ancient Maitreya statues are not depicted using any mudras. Perhaps this practical matter factored into Hai Tong’s thinking because the stone face of the cliff was so unyielding. Therefore, it would have been impossible to depict any of the common mudras displayed by other Buddha statues. Nonetheless, Maitreya is a most significant feature of Mahayana Buddhist belief and he is therefore well suited as the subject of Hai Tong’s monumental Buddha statue.
In China, an incarnation of the Maitreya bodhisattva is believed to be Budai or “Happy Buddha”. Happy Buddha is very popular in China as a symbol of prosperity and wealth. Additionally, jade Buddha statues of Budai are very popular and are considered very auspicious.
Tian Tan Buddha Statue – Hong Kong, China
The Tian Tan Buddha is located on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. Construction began in 1990 and was completed 3 years later in 1993. Furthermore, the Tian Tan Buddha is constructed entirely of bronze with a height of 34 meters and weight of 250 metric tons. The statue is the center of Buddhism in Hong Kong and it is a major attraction for local Buddhists and also global travelers.
Additionally, it is located on top of a mountain and it is claimed that the statue can be seen all the way from Macau on a clear day.
The Mudras Displayed by Tian Tan Buddha
The Tian Tan Buddha statue is depicted using a common Buddhist gesture called the Abhaya mudra. Although this is a common mudra associated with Shakyamuni (a.k.a. Gautama Buddha), it is not exclusive to Shakyamuni Buddha statues. Additionally, the Abhaya mudra is not exclusive to Buddhism and it is also used by other Indian religions such as Hinduism and Jainism. The Abhaya mudra gesture is most commonly depicted with the flat right hand held at shoulder height with bent elbow. Additionally, the fingers are closed and the palm is facing outwards as a gesture of fearlessness or protection. Some variations of Mahayana Buddhism also display the Abhaya mudra with the left hand.
The Abhaya mudra became associated with Shakyamuni Buddha because at one time he was attacked by a large elephant. Instead of fleeing in fear, he raised his right hand in this same manner and the attack was abated. This incident is documented in several Buddhist texts and it is also depicted in frescoes.
Additionally, the left hand of the Tian Tan Buddha statue is displaying the Varada mudra, also known as the gift giving or boon granting mudra. This mudra is a depiction of generosity that is expressed with a flat open palm facing away from the body of the statue.
How To Access Tian Tan Buddha Statue
Similarly, as with some of the other large Buddha statues getting there is almost as much fun as viewing it. Fortunately, there is a cable car that takes visitors to the top of the mountain. Therefore, they only need to walk up the final path of 268 steps to get to the Buddha statue’s perch on top of the mountain. At the top, the great Buddha is enthroned on a lotus flower situated on top of a 3 platform altar. The 3 floors beneath the statue are the halls of the Universe, Benevolent Merit and Remembrance.
The Offerings of the 6 Devas
Additionally, the Buddha is surrounded by 6 smaller bronze Deva statues on all sides that are offering gifts to the Buddha. The 6 gifts represent the perfections that are necessary to reach enlightenment – morality, patience, generosity, zeal, meditation and wisdom. Furthermore, the altar contains an important relic of the Buddha that is reported to be some of his cremated remains.
Buddha Entering Nirvana – Ta Cu, Mountain, Vietnam
Dimensions & Location of the Ta Cu Buddha
The Ta Cu statue is one of the world’s largest reclining Buddha statues. Additionally, the location of this large Buddha statue is in Binh Thuan Province in Vietnam on top of Ta Cu Mountain. Furthermore, construction of the statue was begun on 1963 and completed in 1966. Additionally, it is known as the largest lying sculpture of a Buddha on top of a mountain in Asia. It is 49 meters long and 11 meters in height. To put things into perspective, I am 6 feet tall and I look like a little speck lying down in front of this Buddha statue.
The Meaning of Reclining Buddha Statues
Reclining Buddha statues have meanings which carry great significance to the Buddha’s devotees. The Ta Cu reclining statue depicts Gautama Buddha entering parinirvana. Parinirvana is the final stage for those who have obtained enlightenment during their lifetime. Therefore, this statue represents a significant event in Buddhist history by depicting the Buddha as he departs the human realm.
As a result of his enlightenment the continuous cycle of rebirth known as samsara has ended. Gautama Buddha had been the first to walk the Dharma path and he then obtained the fruits of enlightenment. It is therefore of great significance to Buddhists that he chose to delay his entry into Nirvana and teach the Dharma to the human race. However, the time has come for the Buddha to accept his delayed entry into Nirvana.
Access to Ta Cu Mountain
Fortunately, there is cable car access to the top of the mountain although it is also possible to hike to the statue. The mountain path is well maintained and it passes through pristine jungle. Ta Cu mountain is located fairly close to Mui Ne and it is accessible by motorbike. Furthermore, the giant reclining Buddha statue lies behind the Linh Son Truong Tho Pagoda at the base of a cliff. Also, there are amazing mountain top views from the base of the pagoda.
Pakse Golden Buddha Statue – Pakse, Laos
The Golden Buddha is located in Southern Laos on a hillside adjacent to the Mekong River. Additionally, this meditating Buddha statue is a prominent feature on the horizon as seen from the city of Pakse. Pakse, Laos is the capital of Champasak province and it sits on the opposite side of the Mekong river from the giant Buddha statue. The economy of Pakse has been slowly improving in recent years. As a result, the city has been able to fund projects such as large Buddha statues. Although, construction was only recently completed in 2013.
Access to the Pakse Golden Buddha Statue
It is easy to find, simply get a motorbike and cross the Japanese Bridge towards the gleaming spectacle on the horizon. Then the monument is accessible by a long stairway from which the golden meditating Buddha statue subtly reveals itself through the trees.
Sweeping Views of the Pakse Golden Buddha
The iconic location of the statue was an important consideration for it’s placement on this list. As a result, the sweeping views from the hilltop where the Pakse Golden Buddha sits compelled it’s inclusion among the world’s best Buddha statues. This statue has the best sunset view of all the world’s Buddha statues. Therefore, it is best visited in late afternoon to enjoy the sweeping sunset views over the Mekong River.
Mudra Depicted by the Pakse Golden Buddha
The Dhyana mudra is also commonly referred to as the meditation mudra. This mudra is depicted by a combination of both hands. Therefore, the left hand is underneath the right with the palms flat and thumbs touching. Additionally, the hands are gently placed in the lap of the statue while seated in the lotus position. This is a common mudra that is depicted by Shakyamuni Buddha statues but it is also frequently seen depicted by Amitabha and Medicine Buddha.
Xieng Khuan Reclining Buddha Statue – Vientiane, Laos
The Xieng Khuan Buddha Park is located about 25 kilometers outside Vientiane, Laos. The Park features another of the world’s best giant Buddha statues that is situated on the banks of the Mekong river.
This reclining Buddha statue is the largest statue in the park and it is 40 meters in length. The mastermind that developed the Xieng Khuan Buddha Park is named Luang Pu. The artist was a priest-shaman who had integrated a unique mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism. This mixture of religions was contrived while studying Hinduism in Vietnam. As a result, the park is a mixture of 200 Hindu and Buddhist statues. This would seem to convey mixed meaning for the Buddha statues that are located in the park. However, this dilution does not seem to detour the local Buddhist monks from visiting.
Pretentious Genius of Luang Pu
The statues in the park would appear to be centuries old. However, their construction was actually begun more recently in 1958. Therefore, when compared to the most venerable Buddha statue such as the Leshan Buddha, his statues are really a bit impetuous. However, the sculptors who were working under Luang Pu were all novices! This is a testament to the great skill of the grand master. As a result, he carries the honorific title of Bunleua Sulilat. This means “venerable grandfather”.
The Levity and Originality of Luang Pu
A controversial aspect of the park is that it brings a certain element of levity to Buddhist art. Buddhism is similar to most other religions in that it is taken very seriously by its followers. Certainly, Luang Pu was also very dedicated to his beliefs. However, these statues convey an element of originality that deviates from the very conservative nature of the other Buddha statues included in this list. Additionally, his inspiration also wanders from the conservative design of Hindu statues that are found throughout Asia. Nonetheless, the parks originality will enhance and inspire appreciation for other religious artwork.
The Best Buddha statues for your home are derived from the same inspiration that the ancient sculptors followed in antiquity. Therefore, while you are traveling in Asia it is highly recommended to bring a small Buddha statue home with you. Buddha statues convey a variety of different virtues which are certain to enhance the tranquility of your life. This is true even if you are not a practicing Buddhist.