The Leshan Giant Buddha (simplified Chinese: 乐山大佛; traditional Chinese: 樂山大佛; pinyin: Lèshān Dàfó) was built during the Tang Dynasty (618–907AD). It is carved out of a cliff face that lies at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers in the southern part of Sichuan province in China, near the city of Leshan. The stone sculpture faces Mount Emei, with the rivers flowing below his feet. It is the largest carved stone Buddha in the world and at the time of its construction was the tallest statue in the world.
The Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. It was not damaged by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Construction was started in 713, led by a Chinese monk named Haithong. He hoped that the Buddha would calm the turbulent waters that plagued the shipping vessels traveling down the river. When funding for the project was threatened, he is said to have gouged out his own eyes to show his piety and sincerity. After his death, however, the construction was stuck due to insufficient funding. About 70 years later, a jiedushi decided to sponsor the project and the construction was completed by Haitong's disciples in 803.
Apparently the massive construction resulted in so much stone being removed from the cliff face and deposited into the river below that the currents were indeed altered by the statue, making the waters safe for passing ships.
The Leshan Buddha has fallen victim to the pollution emanating from the unbridled development in the region. According to Xinhua news agency: "The Leshan Buddha and many Chinese natural and cultural heritage sites have succumbed to weathering, air pollution, inadequate protection and negative influences brought by swarms of tourists." The local government has shut factories and power plants close to the statue. However, the statue is already suffering a "blackened nose" and smears of dirt across the face. The government has promised to give restoration to the site.