An Amazing Chinese Buddha (in China!)
October 2, 2012

Again, I found myself in China this year.  Another bike race, another team I am working for (massage) and another great way to see more of this amazing country.  The race was the Tour of Qinghai Lake, which takes part in Qinghai region, in the north west (between Mongolia and Tibet regions, with visible influences from both). 

We had two nights in a town called Zhangye, in the Gansu province.  And I noticed some spectacular scenery from my hotel window, one ancient looking sect of buildings in particular.  I was stoked to get the time to go and investigate.  What was it? The ‘Giant Buddha Temple’, an ancient temple housing an enormous reclining Buddha.  I was told it is the largest of its kind (wooden) in all of Asia, true or false, I don’t know, I think it depends who you talk to (Bangkok’s Reclining Budda seems to win that one, but having seen both.. I’d go with the Chinese one, thought the Thai one seems a longer version)  But what I do know is it is the largest reclining Buddha in all of China and it is tryly amazing – especially as it was constructed in 1098 (during the Western Xia period of 1038-1227)!! (Coming from New Zealand, say what?!?! 1098?)

The entrance is off a side street and the fee to go inside is minimal, like the number of other tourists the day I went as well, sweet!  What’s inside is the Giant Buddha Hall, the Buddhist Classics Hall and a Clay Pagoda.

The Giant Buddha is housed in the Giant Buddha Hall, and is 34.5m long, 7.5m wide (between the shoulders) with huge feet of 4m and big 2m ears! It is gold plated and painted, but it’s also so old, that it doesn’t quite have a ‘gleaming with gold’ lookThe Buddhist Classics Hall holds over 6000 tomes of lectures, with some even written in gold and silver – making them both very rare and very precious.  (I did go pretty quickly through that hall, not realising the importance of what I was looking at at the time! – but that’s me and museums)

It is said, that this Great Buddha Temple was the birth place of Kublai Khan, and that his mother – a Beiji Queen of the Yuan Dynasty, once lived inside.  Wow!  What a setting!

It’s cheap to enter at 41CNY, and though they say to allow an hour to enjoy it, I went through quicker than that, but the Great Buddha did slow me down!  No photos allowed inside, but anyway I’m not sure how much justice you could do via a camera – the colours are faded, the lighting dull.. but its still majestic and magnificent. 

The temple is housed in a reasonably sized ‘square’, and the outside walls need to be seen as well, a true Chinese delight, the sort of images I’d associate with China from what I’ve seen in books and movies – small shop fronts, with double doors, both open, old push bikes, leaning up against the support posts, little dogs, relaxed locals, calligraphy, ceramics, koi fish (alive! And for sale) …

This was truly one of those ‘highlight finds’ that come out of the blue and unexpected in your travels and make an unforgettable memory!