The Leshan Giant Buddha, in Sichuan, China, is the largest Buddha in the world. The statue is carved directly into the mountainside and measures 71 meters (233 feet) tall. The Leshan Giant Buddha is one of the most visible symbols of weathering caused by pollution. Nearby industrial development and a stream of tourists arriving by bus have caused chemicals in the air to corrode, or wear away, the delicate stone of the carving.

Photograph by Patrick Yuen, MyShot
  • Images of the Buddha, like this giant carving in Leshan, China, almost always depict him with unusually long earlobes. This is not a stylistic choice by the artist, but a powerful symbol in Buddhist art.

    Siddartha Gautama was a wealthy prince, born in what is today northern India in about 563 BCE. As a prince, Siddartha was surrounded by luxury: servants, palaces, silken robes, and jewelry made of gold, silver, and precious stones. The metal-and-jewel earrings were very heavy and stretched his earlobes.

    When he was 29, Siddartha abandoned his privileged life to become a monk. This included no longer wearing heavy, jeweled earrings. Although he was no longer weighed down by material possessions, Siddartha's ears were permanently elongated. Siddartha Gautama went on to become the Buddha, or "enlightened one."

    To Buddhists, Buddha's long earlobes symbolize a conscious rejection of the material world in favor of spiritual enlightenment.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    abandon Verb

    to desert or leave entirely.

    Buddha Noun

    (c. 563-483 BCE) Indian prince, spiritual leader, and founder of the Buddhist religion. Also called Prince Siddhartha and Gautama Buddha.

    conscious Adjective

    aware of.

    depict Verb

    to represent or draw.

    jewel Noun

    valuable stone.

    luxury Noun

    expensive item.

    privilege Noun

    benefit or special right.

    symbol Noun

    something used to represent something else.

    symbolize Verb

    to represent an object, idea, organization, or geographical region.