Have you ever Heard of the Spring Temple Buddha???
If you haven’t you are not alone. It is a hidden little secret buried deep in rural China and despite it’s lack of reputation, The Spring Temple Buddha is indeed the World’s largest statue! Resting in the Henan Province of central China, it is so far off the beaten path that most people living in Henan haven’t even made the treck … you also won’t find it mentioned in Lonely Planet’s “China” guide.
So, first thing is first: The Spring Temple Buddha is absolutely Massive! It rests on a podium (7 stories tall) and all together, the statue stands at an astounding 502 ft (153 meters) – As a reference point, the Statue of Liberty is 93 meters.
If you are afraid of a bit of adventure (or climbing stairs) then this is probably not the sightseeing tour for you … if you are up for it though, The Spring Temple Buddha is awesome and I would highly recommend it; but there are 2 challenges that you will encounter along the way:
1. Getting There!
For the average backpacker, traveler, or adventurer in China; getting to the Spring Temple Buddha is far from straight forward. Most travelers don’t speak Chinese, rely heavily on organized transportation (trains, buses, taxis, etc), and aren’t usually willing to spend large amounts of money to see one thing in the middle of nowhere. As English teachers, Jess and I were lucky because we lived within a few hours of the statue. In the 9 months we have lived in Henan Province, we have familiarized ourselves with traveling in rural China, picked up a little Mandarin and we were lucky enough to have our Chinese friend (Cheng) along with us. All that said though … Jess, Cheng and I still had a difficult and rather expensive time getting there!
If you are determined to make it to the Spring Temple Buddha,
then this is what you should know before your journey:
– Click maps to make them bigger –
Step 1: Take a train to Pingdingshan, Henan Provence.
I would not recommend going to Pingdingshan “West” station (it will place you closer to the statue itself, but you will have a much more difficult time finding a taxi … or for that matter, anything of comfort at all). The West Station is a very small train station and nowhere near the city of Pingdingshan itself, ironically. Here is a comical and informative article about getting to the Spring Temple Buddha and why you shouldn’t go to the Pingdingshan West station.
Getting to the Spring Temple Buddha from Pingdingshan will take an entire day. I would recommend staying at theInternational Hotel in Pingdingshan, get up early to see the Buddha and then spend a 2nd night in Pingdingshan, before heading on your way.
Step 2: Get from Pingdingshan to the Spring Temple Buddha.
Option A: Take a bus AND a Taxi: Once in Pingdingshan there are a few ways to get to the statue. You can work your way to the Pingdingshan Bus Station and ask for a bus ticket to the city of Lushan, in Lushan County. Once to Lushan you may approach any taxi driver and ask them to take you to the Spring Temple Buddha. Take a Picture of the Buddha before you leave and show the driver the picture. Also, write down all cities and destinations in Chinese before you go … this is rural China, they will not speak English.
Option B: Taxi only (recommended): I would highly recommend taking a taxi all the way from Pingdingshan (about 2 1/2 – 3 hours). It will cost a lot (especially if you are a foreigner and don’t speak Chinese), but the convenience and likelihood of actually making it to your destination will be much higher. Bus schedules and stops are unpredictable in rural China and the apparent randomness in which bus companies function is almost laughable, at least from the foreigner’s perspective. I would just spend the extra money, show a picture to the taxi driver, and ask how much it is. You can barter & haggle a bit depending on your ability to speak Chinese or use hand motions, but here is an estimate of how much you can expect to pay:
(Taxi) Pingdingshan – Spring Temple Buddha: 300 RMB (one-way):
Have the driver wait at the Statue while you look at it and then he can take you back for another 300 RMB. This is the price that my friend paid and he was with Chinese people traveling from Pingdingshan. If you are a foreigner it is likely you will have to pay a bit extra, but I would not pay any more than 400 RMB (300 RMB is about $50 USD).
(Taxi) Lushan – Spring Temple Buddha: 100-150 RMB (one-way):
If you decide to take a bus from Pingdingshan – Lushan, the taxi to the Spring Temple Buddha will be about 100-150 RMB. Again, this is one way and you should have the driver wait for you and then take you back to Lushan afterwords. (I paid 100 RMB each way (200 RMB total) after Cheng (my Chinese friend) bartered with the driver).
The Road to the Spring Temple Buddha
2. At the Spring Temple Buddha!
About half-way through your climb to the top, there is a large concrete area with a huge circular pedestal-like cut-out, and places to buy drinks, noodles, and stupid souvenirs if you want – I would save your money and buy the exact same souvenir anywhere else in China. Merchants will charge 3 times as much because they have to pack everything up there in order to sell it to you.
If you want, you can walk up into the huge circular pedestal-like area at the half way point, but it dead-ends and I have no idea what the point of it is … there appears to be nothing of significance other than requiring you to climb about 10 extra stairs that you won’t want to climb at that point. I’d recommend skipping the “circle experience;” go around it to get to the most challenging and last set of stairs.
The Spring Temple Buddha is located in the small mountain township of Zhaocun. Once you make it to the site everything is fairly self-explanatory. You will see the Buddha well in advance of driving up to the front entrance … it is impossible to miss and stands proudly in contrast to the mountains around it. The entrance fee is 60 RMB (for foreigners) and 120 RMB (for Chinese) … I know, that’s odd.
Once you are inside just start walking and climbing! There is no shortage of stairs and your legs will be talking to you the following day. The stairs are certainly not impossible, but they will be enough to get your heart rate up … if you have pre-existing medical (heart or lung) conditions, it is worth considering before trekking all the way out to see the statue. (There were golf carts driving people to the top, but I’m not sure how to arrange them, if they’re available to everyone, or what they cost).
Once you have huffed your way up to the top of the stairs you will be at the base of a 7 story pedestal that the Buddha stands on. The sheer size of the statue will be inspiringly apparent at this point, but you can spend another 50 RMB (per person) and take the elevator to the Buddha’s feet! If you’ve made it this far, I’d say a picture next to Buddha’s toe is worth the extra 50 RMB. Once on top, take advantage of the view and pat yourself on the back … you are standing next to the big toe of the Tallest Statue in the World!