At 71 meters high, the Leshan Buddha takes the prize for largest Buddha statue in the world. Carved into a cliff overlooking the Min and Dadu Rivers in central Sichuan, the Buddha is said to offer protection to river travelers. Construction on the statue began in 730 AD under the guidance of the monk Haitong, and when the funding for the giant Buddha dried up, Haitong is said to have "gouged out his own eyes to show his piety and sincerity." The project was finally completed in 803 by Haitong's disciples, long after his death.
Boat tours give onlookers a chance to see the Buddha from a manageable distance, but many people choose to take a closer look. A narrow stairway is bolted to the cliff next to the statue, and from there visitors can appreciate the massive scale of the Leshan Buddha as they descend.
Unfortunately, the Buddha has suffered from weathering, and extensive pollution and currently suffers from a black nose and dirty face. The Chinese government has shut down nearby power plants and promised to restore the UNESCO World Heritage Site.