china · sights

Touching the Buddha’s Head

I traveled to the Shanxi province of China to meet with another friend from college. They lived in the provincial capital of Taiyuan which, unfortunately or fortunately, was having entrance exams the week I arrived. The only hotel that was not full was one found in the red-light district. That is a story for another time, however. For now, I am talking about the Buddha, one of the largest in the world.

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This Buddha was, like many others found throughout China, carved into the side of the mountain. At the base of the climb, dozens of miles down, there are a number of eateries of which I partook. I played my typical game, pointing to a name at random, and was rewarded with these two dishes.

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One is a simple tofu dish while the other is a simple potato-chip dish. Both were rather disappointing, though their being edible was rather fortunate.

My stomach full, I begin up the mountain. As it was ten miles to the base, I take one of the shuttles, not caring for the walk along the side of the road.

It was very lively at the base of the climb and along the road to it. I believe it was a dollar to be driven, and considering what would happen once I began towards the Buddha, I am glad I decided to be lazy and conserve my energy.

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I am no stranger to mountains. This was not a hike. It was a stroll along a mountainous stretch. I had to remind myself I was not here for a hike, but rather Buddha, otherwise I would have been disappointed.

I continue along the path, ignoring the picnickers and youths huddled around springs and rivers. I am rather upset I did not take photos of these sights, but the path was largely developed. China has a very nasty habit of taking beautiful sceneries and then building cement walkways through them for tourists. It looks as awful as it sounds.

In any case, I begin up a flight of stairs which could not have felt anymore out of place. They were of chipped white marble, not of the cement construction that was elsewhere, but still they felt foreign amongst the trees and mountains.

Unfortunately, reaching the top I find an empty clearing. I was set to turn around, convinced I had made a wrong turn (which I had), when I noticed a small, dried-up canal running through the clearing. My interest perked, I continued towards it and found that it led to an overgrown path leading farther up the mountain.

I am of a mountainous brood, so there was not even a question of whether or not I should follow this path, clearly unused and neglected by those tourists who flocked to this Buddha in drones.

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The above picture is from when I got tired, turned around, and spent a moment gawking at the view. It was still another ten/twenty minutes to reach the end of the path.

It led to a thin stretch of road, not of the cement found below, that led alllll around the mountain. In particular, the path came up behind one of the world’s largest Buddhas. You must remember that this Buddha had been carved into the side of the mountain.

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I was a little disappointed, and a little nervous, to find that there was no secret treasure found behind his head, no skeletal remains that would come to life and reward the adventurer who had found them. I only made the one trip, so I cannot be sure if the lights found above were trained on the Buddha come nightfall.

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Just another picture. I was rather nervous about falling over when I took this. I would die, assuredly. I was not so worried about tourists seeing me and calling the police. From the Buddha’s head, those below were but black dots. I am rather frustrated I did not take a picture to illustrate.

After touching Buddha’s head, and either fortune or disease to my family for the next hundred generations, I circled around the mountain so that I could take a picture of all of the Buddha. My only regret about this trip was that once I had descended the mountain and returned to the proper trail, I was too tired to make the trip to the base of the statue.

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