Friday, January 18, 2008
The Big Buddha of Baguashan, Changhua
From the top of Baguashan八卦山, about 30 minutes south of Taichung台中, a huge statue of the Buddha watches over Changhua City彰化巿. The black statue, visible above the many downtown high rise buildings, is truly magnificent.
I first saw it about five years ago, soon after first arriving in Taiwan, and the sight gave me a real thrill. Part of the reason was that magnificence, but it was also because the statue seemed so symbolic, not just of Taiwan, but of the entire Far East. The Buddha is a uniquely Asian figure. More than that though, the juxtaposition of the sprawling, fast-paced city, together with a wholly spiritual image, is very characteristic of the region. In recent years Asian countries have experienced rapid economic growth, and yet they maintain their religious traditions. What better example of this phenomenon than Changhua City’s skyline? Finally, the statue has a grandeur mixed with an unmistakable sense of serenity that cannot fail to impress you.
The exact dimensions of the Buddha are hard to pin down; depending on which guidebook you read it’s either 23 or 30 meters high. Either way, that’s very big, so big in fact that you can actually walk around inside the monument. The interior is separated into various different floors, each one containing a series of life-size statues that tell the story of the Buddha.
The giant statue is seated on top of a huge lotus flower. Interestingly enough, the year after the site was completed Taiwan had the largest levels of rainfall it had known in many years. Locals said that the gods were sending the all the rain to provide enough water for the huge flower.
The Buddha is situated towards the front of a grassy courtyard. In front, steps lead down to two large guardian lions, and in front of them is a semi-circular walkway and vantage point. This is a great place to stand, on one side you have the great statue, and on the other you have an excellent panorama of Changhua City. At he back of the courtyard is a large and rather ornate temple.
After enjoying all this, it’ll be time to take a look at the surrounding area. Baguashan, or Mount Bagua is a actually a series of hills that run almost 30km from Changhua in the north, to Ershueiニ水 in the south. To the rear of the statue is a sort of road-side park. There’s a great variety of people here, from athletically minded seniors getting a bit of exercise, to hand-in-hand romantic couples out for a stroll, to young families just enjoying the day. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed, and it’s a great compliment to the much busier statue area.
The whole site makes for a great afternoon, and it’s one place I will make a point of going back to again and again.