According to an ancient Chinese legend, two monks, master Haineng and his apprentice Haitong, were traveling in Guiyang when the Shalao River flooded and submerged the nearby villages and farmlands, causing the locals to lose their homes. At the same time, the confluence of the three rivers near Leshan, where their home temple was located, also experienced heavy floods. Following these tragic events, the two monks decided to build a Buddha statue in each place to suppress the evil spirits in the rivers from causing further destruction.
Haineng was old and not fit to travel a long distance, so it was decided that his young apprentice would take care of the construction of the Buddha statue at Leshan, while the elderly master would stay to manage the construction of the second statue at Xiashui.
The work soon began, but Haineng’s body was failing. He died prior to the completion of the statue in Xiashui, leaving it hidden deep in the forest without the world knowing its existence for hundreds of years.
In the beginning of this century, as trees around the site were being cut down, a colossal Buddha statue carved into the cliffs of a hillside was revealed. Once uncovered, the buried sculpture was determined to be 165 feet tall with the head measuring over 50 feet in height. The Buddha faces westward in a solemn and majestic pose.
The stone Buddha is naturally carved out of the hillside. It is neither sitting nor standing, but instead is an upper-body portrait. The head is carved from one single stone, while the body is assembled from stacks of slates.
Translated by Cecilia.