Leshan & Emeishan – Atop Two Very Cool, Very Tall Mountains

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Leshan and Emeishan. Two-fer-one, as in two sites in one weekend. My thighs. Oh, my thighs. The stairs were many.

Leshan (乐山), can be translated as Happy Mountain (乐 from 快乐, or “happy”),is the site of the Leshan Giant Buddha. Yeah, this hunk of rock is gigantic. It’s built on the convergence of three rivers, and took three generations to build. Our guide, Green, confirmed that the Buddha was meant to protect the local people from bad stuff (usually the violent storms). You may see in the photos above that this particular Buddha is sitting differently than you might have seen before. Usually, Buddhas are portrayed sitting cross-legged, or in a lotus position. This Buddha, obviously, is not. This Buddha is all kinds of fierce. And I mean that with all the sincerity in the world–he was supposed to look more intimidating to ward off a lot of evil.

Emeishan, or Emei Mountain (峨眉山), is the site for Buddhists in China. Originally (allegedly) the birthplace of both Daoism and Buddhism, it is now just a Buddhist gathering place. The Daoist temples were destroyed long ago, although some sites still retain Daoist names. One of the three biggest Buddhist monasteries on the mountain is one dedicated to nuns. We visited it. We had to climb a fun amount of stairs (my thighs) to get there, mist billowing into our faces. Leshan had been somewhat warm. Emeishan was freezing. People rented big, bright red jackets. Green said that the monkeys acted aggressively towards the color red. I had to re-wear my clothes from the day before because all I had left to wear was a bright red shirt. Funnily enough, three other people had to find other outfits to wear as well. To her credit, a monkey did bare its frighteningly sharp teeth. The others mostly stole water bottles and food and jumped on Grant’s head. Thankfully, no one got bitten. That would have been a long trip to a hospital.

There’s supposedly a statue on the top of Emeishan. It’s made out of a lot of gold, and it’s heavy, and it’s tall. That’s all I really could hear. Couldn’t see it, mostly. There was a brief moment when the wind blew enough fog (actual, honest to god fog) away that we could see the top of the statue. Everyone let out a loud, excited cry. Perfect timing, because I’m pretty sure a little boy in adorable (stately?) monks robes was getting ordained there, or however you call that. Good omens unto you, Little Monk!

I refrained from going to the 5:30AM Buddhist prayer sesh. Couldn’t do it. I know, I know, opportunity of a lifetime! I totally don’t regret sleeping in to 7AM. I’m sure it was spiritual and arresting and such (the ones I had the opportunity to observe in Tibet were absolutely fascinating, if a bit…dreary). One of the girls who went said she daydreamed during most of it.

It was tough not being able to drink as much as I’d have liked to–I didn’t want to guzzle like I usually do, because I wasn’t sure how many bathrooms I’d find. On the other hand, dehydration. We went to enough, luckily, but I absolutely dislike most of the public restrooms here. Gross. Gross. Gross. I can flush un-flushed feces down the squatty potty, alright? But the smell reeks something awful, urine and human feces.

ON ANOTHER NOTE I am so glad to have visited and seen these places. I studied them both in my Chinese Art History class a few semesters ago, and have been wanting to see them ever since. Success! I can now smirk and say “I went there.” Too cool for school, man.

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