Explore Your Inner Buddhist: Beautiful Buddha Statues Around the Globe

Whether or not you’re religious or know anything about Buddhism, there can be something awe-inspiring about standing in front of a massive, ancient, or impeccably-made statue of the Buddha.

From a Buddha head within a tree in Thailand, to a massive statue carved out of a cliff face in China or a 120-metre high creation with its own observation deck in Japan, the depiction of Buddha around the world is diverse and fascinating. If you’d love to tour some of the world’s biggest and best Buddha statues, read on for five places you can add to your bucket list in 2014.

Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong

When searching for a unique experience to enjoy in Hong Kong, a visit to the Tian Tan Buddha is a great option. Located on Lantau Island and known locally as the Big Buddha, this impressive bronze statue was completed in 1993 and brought attention to the Po Lin Monastery where it is housed. The formerly remote location, surrounded by lush mountain scenery, is one of the most important Buddhist sanctuaries in Hong Kong and has dubbed by some as the “Buddhist World in the South”.

The Tian Tan Buddha is the main feature of the Monastery these days, and it symbolizes harmony between man, nature and religion. With a height of 34 metres, and featuring a massive 268 steps, the Buddha took 12 years to complete. It was named after Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, and presents the Buddha figure in a posture of serenity. His left hand rests on his knee to represent happiness, while his right hand is raised in blessing. The Tian Tan statue sits on a lotus throne on top of a three-tiered altar and it faces north to look over the lands and the Chinese people. Visitors can climb the steps to take a closer look at the Buddha as well as enjoy stunning mountain and sea views.

Leshan Giant Buddha in China

Head to western China to take in the sight of the Giant Buddha of Leshan, a massive statue carved out of a cliff face in Sichuan. Representing the figure of Maitreya — a Bodhisattva traditionally represented as a stout figure in a seated pose — the Buddha was first started in the year 713 (during the Tang Dynasty) and worked on by thousands of sculptors and labourers before being finished in the year 803.

Said to be the largest carved stone Buddha on Earth, the Leshan stands at over 70 metres tall and features exquisite detail, including over 1,000 sculpted, embedded buns in its coiled hair. The Buddha statue has historical and architectural significance and is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site.

Wat Mahathat Buddha Head in Thailand

The city of Ayutthaya in Thailand is home to one of the more unusual Buddhist statures around the globe. Set within the ruins of Wat Mahathat (The Temple of the Great Relic) is a Buddha head, the only remains of a sandstone statue whose body has been lost to time. The head peers out from the climbing roots and vines of an ancient tree and has been delighting visitors to the region for years.

Around the Buddha head also lays other statues of the Ayutthaya period that have survived much destruction in the area over the past 600 years. This historical site is a popular tourist destination and an easy day trip from Bangkok.

Gal Vihara in Sri Lanka

A breathtaking representation of the Buddha — known as the Gal Vihara — sits in the northern monastery of Parakramabahu in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. A massive rock temple that showcases the high point of Sinhalese rock carving, the Gal Vihara was constructed by Parakramabahu the Great in the 12th century and features four separate Buddha images, all of which are cut from one huge slab of granite. One of the large stone figures is a reclining statue of the Buddha that measure 14 metres in length; while a large standing depiction is a tall seven metres in height.

Ushiku Daibutsu in Japan

Another one of the world’s tallest statues is located in the city of Ushiku in Japan, only about an hour away from Tokyo. Standing at 120 metres high, including a 10-metre base and 10-metre lotus platform, is the Ushiku Daibutsu, a huge bronze Buddha statue that was completed in 1995. Travellers wanting a lovely view can enter the base of the figure (which depicts the Amitabha Buddha) and take an elevator to an observation platform that is 85 metres off the ground.

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