Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Stone Carvings of Flying Peak

On the way to the Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, China, we walked through the lush area known as Flying Peak. On its limestone cliffs, one could view a beautiful collection of Buddhist grottos and stone carvings, formed during the Five Dynasties and Yuan Dynasty. It would have taken quite some time and detective work to find all the 470 carvings and 153 shrines. Considering the age (many are over 1,000 years old) and common defacement during the Cultural Revolution, the state of preservation was quite remarkable. 

The most famous relief carving is the Maitreya Buddha with a Rucksack, nicknamed the Laughing Buddha. A masterpiece of the Song Dynasty, it was carved in 1,000 AD. The largest of the shrines within the Flying Peak area, it is 9.9 meters (32.5 ft) long and 3.6 meters (11.8 ft) high. Along with the rotund jolly Buddha, it also shows the 18 Arhats which surround him in a protective formation.

While a number of the carvings were visible just by walking along the stream, others required more climbing or entering cave enclosures. Vines and other vegetation partially obscured others.

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