Growing up in amongst giant bananas, guitars, cows and even clams one learns to appreciate things done on scale. Though long before the fibreglass model memories of my childhood, the Chinese were building them bigger, better and Buddha than ours.
As such, this post is dedicated to The Great Wall of China, The Terracotta Army and the grand sitting Buddha known as Dafo.
With rain falling, fog so thick we often couldn’t see much further than 15 metres ahead of us and with the stones beneath our feet scheming sliding incidents, we hiked the Jinshanling to Simatai section of the Great Wall.
History buffs can read about the section we hiked , but in short – what a feat of human engineering! The steep cliff-like hills the wall traverses and the sheer effort required to accomplish such an undertaking is truly staggering. Restored in some sections, you can appreciate what the wall looked like in its heyday, but it is the un-restored sections and the fact they have fared the 2,300 or so years since construction so well that is the truly remarkable thing. Our walk past 30 watchtowers and eight kilometres of the wall took roughly two hours. To walk the entire length of the 6,400 km wall would probably take around 320 days, assuming you cover 20km a day but our trip clearly didn’t allow for that kind of undertaking – next time maybe…
Forget an open casket or ashes being scattered across the ocean, how about going out in the style of China’s first emperor Qing Shi Huang, with a few thousand individual soldiers to order around in the after-life.
The site, discovered in 1976 by a farmer digging a well, is astounding in its scale with more than 6,000 figures in the largest pit alone.
For the last 20 years all further excavation of the site has been halted while conservation technology can catch up to deliver better methods for the preservation of the artefacts. When first uncovered the figures were resplendently painted in bright colours though the air quickly oxidized the paint rendering the warriors the dull grey colour they are today.
Armed with new technology archaeologists are due now to recommence digs. Let’s hope they are successful.
Grand Buddha Dafo
The Grand Buddha of Leshan (known as ‘Dafo’) in Sichuan province is one of those historic sites where imagination is not really required. Upon entering the Dafo Temple grounds you can immediately feel his presence. Not surprising really given he takes up the whole side of a cliff and that even his fingernails are bigger than a standing human.
At 71 metres high (and he is seated) Dafo is the largest surviving Buddha in the world. A Buddhist Monk named Haitong began the massive undertaking of carving him around 713 AD, in the hope that the Buddha’s presence would calm the rough waters in front caused by three converging rivers. Well it worked. The rivers today converge in a relatively calm fashion; the surplus rock from the carving did the trick, though I like to think Dafo plays some part.
With panda images and video still up our sleeve, expect post soon, we are headed tonight by night train to Yunnan province and the town of Lijiang. As of today we have one month until we arrive back in Sydney. So we better make sure we make the most of it and get out there!
All of our China images can be seen here.