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The 71m statue of Buddha in Leshan in the Chinese province of Sichuan is the largest stone Buddha and the tallest pre-modern sculpture in the world.

Not only does it attracts millions of visitors from all over the globe every year, it also serves another, very practical purpose: it exerts a calming influence on the waters of three rivers which converge at its feet.

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Work on the statue was begun in 713 AD, when it was hoped that carving a gargantuan Buddha into the cliff face would calm the turmoil caused by the confluence of the rivers Dadu, Minjiang and Qingyi.

This turbulence had been responsible for many a shipwreck in what was an important trading route at the time, so a local monk named Haitong took it upon himself to begin the project.

Construction stalled due to a lack of funds, causing Haitong to gouge his own eyes out as a sacrifice, but it was not until well after his death that the statue was finally completed in 813 AD by his followers.

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Much of the debris from the creation of the idol fell into the river, which many skeptical observers have pinpointed as the real reason for the tranquility of the waters today. Whatever the truth, it can’t be denied that the monumental Buddha is directly or indirectly responsible for calming the waters.

Next time you’re in the neighbourhood, check out the statue for yourself – its sheer scale has to be seen to be believed.
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