When the smog cleared after a couple of very hazy days at this year’s Asia-Pacific Amateur in Longku City, China, I was finally able to see on a nearby mountain top the biggest sitting Buddha statue in the world. It was only a couple of miles from the site of this year’s championship, and I had an hour to kill between story deadlines and player interviews. So, I jumped in a car for a quick visit. To check out the Buddha, and maybe even get a little enlightenment in the process.
I parked in a massive lot, and then caught an open-sided shuttle to the bottom of the Buddha’s base. From there, it was a matter of climbing 360 very steep steps to where the huge bronze figure sat on a vast lotus blossom made of the same metal. Looking quite serene and rising 120 feet high, the 380-ton sage held out his right hand, his eyes never seeming to leave those who stood before him, no matter where they walked.
Incense burned, the scents wafting in the midday wind, and string music played softly over outdoor speakers. Occasionally a gong sounded, and I watched pilgrims pray from saffron yellow pillows as robed monks sauntered by. I ambled inside a hall for a glance at the 10,000 small Buddhas arrayed there, with tiny lamps made of glass lotus blossoms interspersed among them. Then, I walked back outside, standing for a while by the giant Buddha and gazing in the same direction he always did, across rugged, wooded hills and a distant plain that ran all the way to the Bohai Sea.
I let the calm he so noticeably projected wash over me for a while. Then I headed back to work.