The Giant Buddha of Leshan (aka Dafo) is the tallest stone Buddha statue in the world. It was carved directly out of a cliff face by an 8th-century monk in southern Szechuan province. The Giant Buddha overlooks the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers and faces the sacred Mount Emei. Construction on the Giant Buddha began in 713 AD and was the brain child of a Chinese monk named Haitong, who wished that the Buddha would calm the wild waters that beset the shipping vessels travelling down the river. As it turned out his plans were not just mystical - the massive amount of rubble carved away from the cliff face would be deposited in the river, and this had the effect of altering the currents and calming the waters.
When government funding for the project was threatened, the monk is said to have gouged out his own eyes to show his piety and sincerity. The construction project was continued by his disciples and finally completed by the local governor in 803AD.
Today, there are still some strong currents where the three rivers meet - but they do not threaten the tourist ferries. Standing 71 meters (233 feet) tall, Dafo is the tallest Buddha statue in the world. His shoulders are 28 meters (92 feet) wide and his smallest toenail can accommodate a seated person. Each eyebrow is 18 feet long. According to a local saying, "The mountain is a Buddha and the Buddha is a mountain."
The "Mount Emei Scenic Area with Leshan Giant Buddha" was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.