Travelling around Chengdu: Leshan and Mt. Emei

Authors: Katherine Kocen & Helen Loaiza

2019-04-26

Our university program offered us the opportunity to take a field trip to Leshan City and Mt. Emei. We were able to enjoy the breathtaking scenery, delicious food and new experiences while visiting these two areas.
Leshan City
Giant Buddha
Arriving in Leshan, visitors can head down towards the river and catch a boat to see the largest sitting Buddha in the world. The Leshan Giant Buddha was carved into a cliff, which was made of sandstone. Additionally, the Buddha is a UNESCO World Heritage site as of 1996, and has been protected and preserved.
Once we got our tickets we boarded the two level boat heading towards the Buddha. The lower level has a nice seating area where you can relax while the boat makes its way to the landmark, and the second level of the boat is open so you can enjoy the views of the river and see the full Buddha. The boat made two passes by the Giant Buddha.
The first being a bit quicker to get a glimpse of the Buddha, but in the second pass the boat slowed down so all of the visitors could take photos of and with the Buddha. During our visit to Leshan in March, the Buddha was under construction to preserve the stone, but luckily the majority of the Buddha was visible. The Buddha is expected to be fully visible now, since the construction ended the first week of April.
Mt. Emei
Morning hike
Many visitors are attracted to Mt. Emei due to its beautiful scenery and Buddhist temples. Before heading up the mountain visitors can stop at Baoguo Temple, located at the foot of Mt. Emei. This temple includes a hall of 518 arhats. The arhats are all designed in unique styles, with some designed with long arms, props, and unique facial expressions.
Visitors can hike 40 minutes up the mountain to Wannian Temple and will run into small villages that offer local snacks and souvenirs. During one of our stops at a village we walked through, I bought a bamboo stick to assist me in walking up the mountain. While hiking up, we were able to see Leshan's buildings and beautiful scenery below us.
When I first heard that we would be hiking in China, I was immediately excited. I came to realize that hiking in China is not exactly the same experience as hiking in other countries. My experience with hiking in the past was following a dirt trail up a mountain. In China, travelers take flights of stairs already built into the side of the mountain to hike up.
For those who are not interested in hiking the entirety of the mountain, a cable car can take you to Wannian Temple. The cable car is a great alternative to hiking the first part of the mountain, since it offers amazing views of the area as you are carried above the trees.
Wannian Temple includes a golden statue of Samanthabhadra riding a white elephant. For those interested in Buddhism or those who practice Buddhism, this temple is truly worth a visit.
Lunch
We had lunch at Qingyin Pavillion, where we had a short hike to get to the restaurant. While on the mountain we were able to enjoy many Sichuan classic dishes including kungpao chicken, twice cooked pork, and tomato and egg, in addition to many others.
Monkeys
The highlight of this trip for many of our students was being able to see monkeys up close and personal. We hiked for another hour from the lunch site at Qingyin Pavilion to the location where the monkeys roam free. The path to this site differs from the other trails. This path was built with bamboo and swinging bridges.
These Macaque monkeys are allowed to coexist with travelers in the same space. Travelers can buy snacks (usually peanuts) from local vendors and feed them to the monkeys. The monkeys tend to be elusive, possibly because they are weary of the groups of humans that gather to watch. We were able to see a few newborn monkeys being carried by the older monkeys and young monkeys hanging from trees.
I would advise visitors to keep a respectful distance from the newborns as the mothers and pack leaders tend to be protective of the young. The pack leaders can also be aggressive when threatened, so try to keep a distance. We were warned to avoid wearing bright colored-clothes, carrying plastic bags, or carrying food, as the monkeys are attracted to these items.
Overall, we enjoyed our experience in Leshan. The scenery is beautiful and all of our experiences are positive. It was fun to be able to explore other areas around Sichuan and still be able to come back to our beautiful city!
Authors: Katherine Kocen and Helen Loaiza, American students at the Southwest Minzu University, Chengdu

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