The Lingshan Grand Buddha sits on the site of an ancient Buddhist Temple- Xiangxiang Temple of the Tang and Song Dynasties. The outdoor bronze statue of Sakyamuni Buddha is 88 meter high. It was set up at the same time when the temple was rebuilt.
The grand Buddha acquire its name because of the location on the small Lingshan Mountain. The Mountain was so named by Tang Xuanzang, a Tang-dynasty Buddhist Monk whose pilgrimage trip to India is well-known throughout the Chinese history.
The grand Buddha is made of tin and bronze, taking advantage of bronze’s quality of erosion resistance. Another concern is the bronze’s artistic value. Bronze material deriving from the essence of the classical art in the Stone Age, is an extremely splendid part of Chinese traditional culture itself.
The majority of the attractions extend along a southeast-northwest axis from the main gate to the Grand Buddha statue with some sights to the east. Here is a recommended itinerary for you to fully enjoy the scenic area.
Entrance → Grand Screen Wall → Altar of Buddha’s Footprints → Nine Dragons Bathing Sakyamuni → Buddha’s Hand Square → Xiangfu Temple → Ancient Ginkgo Square → Grand Buddha → Brahma Palace → Flying Dragon Tower → Five Mudra Mandala → Exit
Grand Screen Wall
A huge screen wall with inscriptions on both sides sits at the entrance. With a length of 40 meters (131 feet) and a height of 8 meters (26 feet), it greets visitors with its overwhelming splendor. Behind the screen are the Five Learning Bridges respectively standing for self-awareness, linguistics, logic and vindication, medicine and health, and accomplishments in all walks of life. Visitors can go through any bridge they like to have Buddha bless them with an improvement in one aspect of learning. Across the bridges lies the Lingshan Wonderland Archway combining the styles of both the royal buildings of northern China and the lively architecture of Tibet. The archway leads visitors to enter the following holy realm of Buddhism.
Altar of Buddha’s Footprints
Go through the archway, and you will see the altar with two baptisteries on the sides. Go first to the ablution pool to clear your mind and then visit the altar. There is a pair of huge footprints in the center of the altar, each of which is 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) long and 0.6 meter (1.9 feet) wide. The footprints are replicas of those left by Sakyamuni in India.
To the northwest of the altar is the Five Wisdoms Gate, a stone archway with delicate handmade engravings. Go through the gate, and you will be on the broad Bodhi Avenue leading to a highlight of the Mt. Lingshan Scenic Area – the square with the music fountain of Nine Dragons Bathing Sakyamuni.
Nine Dragons Bathing Sakyamuni
According to the Buddhist sutras, Sakyamuni was born with the ability to speak and walk. A lotus grew and bloomed on every step he made when he walked seven steps in the four directions. He said ‘I’m the honored master of the world’ with one hand pointing to heaven and the other pointing to the earth. At that time, nine dragons appeared in the sky to bathe the Buddha with water.
Follow the seven lotuses pattern decorated on the axis of Bodhi Avenue, and you will see the music fountain reproducing the miraculous scene of the birth of Sakyamuni. There is a round pool with a giant bronze lotus with its six pedals closed. When the music ‘Birth of Buddha’ plays, the lotus gently blooms, with a 7.2-meter (23.6-feet) gilded statue of Sakyamuni rising from the center. The nine dragons around the pool spout water to give Sakyamuni a bath, and the statue revolves 360 degrees. The lotus closes when the music fades out, and then pure water comes out from the mouths of the eight phoenixes around the pool. It is said that you and your family will be blessed if you drink the water.
Time of the Music Fountain: It plays five times a day at 10:00, 11:30, 13:00, 14:45 and 16:45.
Buddha’s Hand Square
To the northwest of the pillar is another square with a large Hand of Buddha on one side and a 100 Children Playing with Maitreya on the other side. The 11.7-meter (38.4 feet) high and 5.5-meter (18 feet) wide statue of the hand is a 1:1 replica of the right hand of the Grand Buddha of Lingshan. You can imagine the greatness of the whole Buddha. This hand represents comfort and security for human beings. Touch the hand, worries will disappear, and you will be blessed with luck and longevity. The bronze statue of the reclining and smiling Maitreya stretches 7.8 meters (25.6 feet), with 100 naughty children playing on his huge body to test the his patience. Maitreya always smiles in spite of any pranks or trickery.
It is said that when the famous monk Xuanzang traveled here, he saw that the mountain in the background resembled Lingjiu Mountain in India where he traveled to study Buddhism, and thus he named the mountain the Small Lingshan. Later, the temple was built and Xuzang’s first disciple became the first abbot. For over 1,000 years, it has always been prosperous with many hierarchs and has attracted millions of pilgrims.
In front of the temple, there are three bridges – Pudu Bridge, Dajue Bridge and Ci’en Bridge – standing for self-conscious cultivation, apprehension, and repayment of obligations. The Hall of Heavenly Kings is just at the entrance. Maitreya is worshiped inside and the statues of four heaven kings by the two sides symbolize the timely wind and rain, and peace of the people and the state. Behind the hall, there are a bell tower and a drum tower. The largest bell in south China is kept here. Each New Year’s Eve and Spring Festival’s Eve, a bell-ringing ceremony is held. According to the Buddhist scriptures, the tolling of the bells dispels worries and helps one gain wisdom. There is also a Buddha statue with a height of 8 meters (26 feet), which is the model of the 88-meters’ (289-feet) Grand Buddha. The Mahavira Hall just behind is the grandest building in the temple, holding the sculptures of Sakyamuni, his followers and 16 arhats.
Ancient Ginkgo Square
The square at the back of the temple has an ancient ginkgo tree that is more than 1,400 years old. Legend has it that a sacred green snake inside the trunk blesses the Xiangfu Temple. At night on Mid-Autumn Day, the snake patrols the temple grounds. It shakes the tree so ripe ginkgo nuts fall off for the monks in the temple.
The Wujinyi Pavilion next to the temple is set as a memorial for Zhao Puchu, the former leader of the China Buddhism Association and a famous community leader. Some precious Buddhist documents and souvenirs are exhibited.
To approach the Grand Buddha, you need first to climb the ‘Ascending Cloud Avenue’ with 216 stairs standing for 108 troubles and 108 wishes. The stairs are set on seven rising platforms, which correspond to the levels of the seven-storied stupa. An ancient Hexagonal Well lies on the way. Once the water supply for the monks of Xiangfu Temple, now it is regarded as one of the ten famous springs of south China.
When you finish ascending the long stairs, you will know true majesty and greatness at the foot of the Grand Buddha. The 88-meter (289 feet) high statue has as a background Small Lingshan Mountain, with Green Dragon Mountain on the left and White Tiger Mountain on the right. As the world’s largest bronze statue of Sakyamuni, it stands proudly with the four other giant Buddha statues located in the Yungang Caves of Datong, the Longmen Caves in Luoyang, at Leshan in Sichuan, and at the Temple of Heaven in Hong Kong.
The right hand of Buddha, which points up to heaven, is in the ‘Fearless Mudra’ enabling people to be brave and peaceful in mind. The right hand pointing down to the earth shows the ‘Benefaction Mudra’, blessing all flesh with safety and happiness. Looking at the statue, one will find that the eyes of the Buddha always follow you whether you are far from or near the statue. How miraculous it is! This interesting phenomenon is actually due to the exceptional skills of the sculptors.
Across a greenbelt to the southeast of the Grand Buddha lies the Brahma Palace, another landmark of the scenic area. With 70,000 sq. meters (83,719 sq. yards) on its three floors, the majestic palace shows a classic expo on the profound Buddhist culture and brilliant traditional art in China.
With a symmetrical layout, the palace is built of stone with grand halls, high porch pillars, wide girders and towering domes. The white jade elephant in the lobby is a sacred symbol in Buddhism. The huge oil paintings on the wall along the corridor show the spread, communication and development of Buddhism. The corridor and the inside tower hall are delicately decorated with exquisite Dongyang woodcarvings made from precious Nanmu wood. All the girders and columns are carved with auspicious patterns or Buddhist stories. There is an amazing huge mural painting called ‘Celestial View’ on the vault of the tower hall. The Golden Wheel Buddha sits in the center of the painting, surrounded by the sun, moon and seven major planets, plus the zodiac. Twenty-eight ancient Chinese constellations are scattered among the circles. The whole painting, done in the Tang Dynasty style, shows an unearthly scene of heaven and exemplifies Buddhism’s unique religious art. In addition, refined relief, first-class lacquer ware, cloisonné and porcelains are collected in the Brahma Palace. The most eye-catching is the treasure of the palace – a grand colored glaze craft work entitled ‘Worlds in the Lotus’.
A round multi-functional theatre is on the second floor. The theatre can hold 1,500 people. The drama ‘Ode to Auspice’ is performed here.
Schedule of the ‘Ode to Auspice’: Mon. – Fri.: 10:35, 11:30, 14:00, 16:00;
Sat., Sun.: 10:35, 11:30, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00
Flying Dragon Tower
To the southeast of the Brahma Palace lies the Flying Dragon Tower, a superb example of the architecture of Southern Buddhism. A major tower and eight small towers sit on a round pedestal. The multilayer white towers are decorated with artistic sculptures and niches.
Five Mudra Mandala
Walk further south and you will see the six-storied Five Mudra Mandala on an island in Fragrance Lake. With a golden roof and colorful sutra streamers around, this solemn and resplendent building follows the unique architectural style of Tibetan Buddhism. Five different statues of Buddha standing for the five directions are worshiped inside. Various Buddhist artworks like paintings, frescoes, woodcarvings and Tangkas are displayed. Also, visitors can take part in some interesting Tibetan folk activities here.