Guanyin of Nanshan

Although now China is considered a secular country, there has been Buddhism here for many years. Back in October, we were lucky enough to visit the Mogao Grottos in Gansu. While in Sanya, we saw a more modern monument celebrating this 2500 year old religion: The Nanshan Temple.

The Mogao grottos were incredible. You can read about our trip to see them here

The area is also known as the Nanshan Buddhism Cultural Zone, and contains Tang dynasty relics, temples in and pagodas, and the 12th largest statue in the world: The Guanyin of Nanshan.

This Buddha is taller than the statue of Liberty, which is actually only the 48th tallest statue in the world.

Towering at 78 meters (108 Meters if you include the pedestal and building at the base), this Buddha is even taller than the Leshan Buddha we saw this summer, when we were in Sichuan!

Although only 71 meters tall, I would still argue that the Leshan Buddha is more incredible than the modern one in Sanya. After all, this stone beauty is more than 1300 years old! You can read more about it here

The park was quite far from Dadong Hai, where we were staying, so a good part of our day was spent traveling to and from the park. There are plenty of ways to get there, including Didi (China’s Uber), but we decided to do public transportation instead. It cost 1/10th of what a Didi would, and I kinda like taking buses because I always see more of the city that way.

Still, we are in a pandemic, so we geared up for the transit ride there. Everyone is required to wear masks when taking public transportation like buses, trains or airplanes. I’m fully on board with that rule.

We stopped for a fabulous lunch at the entrance of the park and paid our entrance fees into the park. It costs about 130rmb per person (roughly $25 Canadian), which was a bit steep in my opinion, given what we quickly realized upon entering the park…

My delicious plate of Jiaozi (Chinese dumplings). The restaurant we went to outside the park was reasonably priced and very tasty! We get the feeling that most people who come to Sanya can’t speak much Chinese though, because they always seem very surprised when we know what things are called.

The park is kept very clean and well maintained. There wasn’t any garbage laying around and everything is still quite new. What disappointed us though, was that the whole area felt more like a shopping mall than a religious or cultural site. Everywhere you look, there is jewelery, golden Buddhas, trinkets and souvenirs for sale. To get to the little road that leads to the Guanyin’s statue, you need to pass through a strategically designed maze of shops. Your way back takes you through yet another maze.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s worth going. The statue itself is very impressive. It has 3 ‘faces’, and took 6 years to construct. Its whiteness makes it appear to glow against the ocean background. Although it wasn’t sunny when we visited, it was still a beautiful site to see.

I found it pretty ironic that no photography is allowed once you’re in the base of the Buddha, given how commercial the area is, but still, we respected the rules and kept our cameras in our bags. There are several beautiful carvings and startues within the buildings, and the walls are lined with small Buddha statues that show donor’s names engraved on little plaques. There are still plenty of empty cases, so it appears you can still donate towards the building’s maintenance. Once more, this felt a little too commercial for my liking. Still, we were impressed by the art that surrounded us.

Once inside, you can climb up to the base of the statue as well, and see all 3 of Guanyin’s faces. It’s about 7 floors up, but there are some breaks as you walk around corridors so it isn’t too bad

Once more, I’ve borrowed from the internet. You can actually see the tiny print standing on top of the golden section of the statue. That’s how tall this statue is!

There’s a gorgeous breeze up there. You can walk around the base and see all 3 facets of the statue. 2 face the ocean and only one can be fully viewed from the land, so it’s definitely worth the 7 flights of stairs. Buddhists pray at the Guanyin’s feet, and tourists are allowed to take photos once more.

There is actually more to see in this Cultural Zone, but we got there a bit late and didn’t have time to visit the pagoda or temples. The grounds we did see were lovely though.

I’m glad we visited the Nanshan Buddhism Cultural Zone. The grounds were beautiful and it’s quite amazing to see the monument. Don’t be expecting a whole lot of culture there, but if you’re in the market for a gold Buddha or some jewelry, this’ll be the place for you!!

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