Carved out of a cliff face, the Leshan Giant Buddha is a statue with slightly opened eyes that benevolently overlooks the confluence of several rivers. But occasionally the Buddha has been seen crying, amazingly with its eyes closed!
It is a sculpture of Maitreya, and construction took 90 years to complete. It was placed there in the hope passing ships would make it safely through the turbulent waters.
Mao’s great famine
The first time the statue was seen crying was at night in 1962. A photo of the close-eyed Buddha can still be seen at the Leshan Exhibition Hall. It was just after the Great Chinese Famine from 1959 to 1961 during the rule of Mao Zedong. Of the 35 million people who perished, at least 7 million were in Sichuan. With no strength to dig graves, people simply wrapped corpses up in a mat and threw them into the rivers. The Buddha closed his eyes for the first time as thousands of dead bodies flowed down from upstream to the confluence.
The Chinese Communist Party sent a team of scientists to investigate. Naturally, they came up with no answer, and no report was ever released. The Buddha was then “restored” with open eyes again.
The Cultural Revolution
The second time it happened was the following year in 1963, which marked the start of the insane Chinese Cultural Revolution. Again, the Party ordered that the statue be fixed.
Strangely enough despite spending almost $6.5 million on the renovation work, the tear marks couldn’t be removed!
In July 1976, the eyes closed for a third time. It was after the 7.8 magnitude Tangshan earthquake in Hebei Province in which about 650,000 people died due to lack of warnings, and the regime’s refusal of international aid. This was the largest number of deaths from any earthquake in the 20th century.
As well as crying with closed eyes, the Buddha also had an angry look.
Tears turn to smiles
On June 7, 1994, the Buddha was again seen grieving. Both tourists by the statue and on passing cruise boats reported seeing the phenomenon, and that the Buddha’s face, jaw, and body appeared to be shaking.
However, when a particular cruise boat docked, people saw that the Buddha started to smile, even though the tears were still on its face.
A very special master and some of his disciples had traveled on that boat to witness the spectacle. When one of his disciples asked why the Buddha was crying, the master answered: “The Buddha told me that people today have no respect for the Buddhas. He is worried about them.”
The Buddha apparently smiled because he saw hope was on the way.
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