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Pandas and The Worlds Largest Buddha, in Chengdu China

Chengdu China is famous for the Panda Breeding and Research center .

Yes we went there and enjoyed those rolly-polly cuties.

But Chendgu is alsos the closest city to the worlds largest Buddha.

Worlds largest Buddha

Now, if you research this, you will find references to the largest standing Buddha, the world’s largest sleeping Buddha, the world’s largest jade Buddha and so on. But all of them include this Buddha, carved from stone, next to a river.

In all my travels I have seen more Buddhas than 95% of the Buddhists in the world. Included in that accomplishment is the world’s smallest Buddha,in Sri Lanka.

smallest buddha

You must view this Buddha through the magnifying glass on the glass vial. Trust me, he is very detailed.

We drove over two hours from Chengdu because, well, when you have seen the smallest, when you have seen the world’s largest sleeping Buddha, the world’s largest jade buddha and on and on, you just have to see the world’s largest. It was a wonderful drive. China has excellent roads and the countryside reminded me of maybe Vermont. I do not know what I expected, but I was surprised by what I saw.

Normally, when you get there you take a boat, across the river, to the feet of this big guy. But we got there after almost a week of heavy rain, and the river was full of floating trees, which endangered the boats, So I had to settle for the long distance photo above.

big buddha

I was hoping to walk at his feet and see if I could reach his toenails. Altogether his is over 70 meters tall. Because this is a full service blog, I stole this photo from somewhere else so you could see why I wanted to go there, and why I was so disappointed when we could not.

So we went back to Chengdu and got all excited about our visit in the morning to see the Pandas.

In the hotel room, I found this.

Chinese gas mask

I have neglected to say anything about the air quality in China, but I will now. It was horrible, and this was the best season. I should have made my wife use this mask (which is intended for use in case of a fire in the hotel), more on that a bit later.

Most tourists come to Chengdu, see the Pandas and leave. I would have come for the Buddha, but definitely the Pandas could not be missed.

Panda research center

This is the entrance to the research center. You can notice that my wife is not looking her best, but the Pandas were waiting for us so we moved on.

This is the world’s preeminent panda center, (if not the only one). Almost every panda in zoos around the world was born here, or born of parents born here. The center keeps some of the pandas away from humans because they eventually want to set them free into the wilds. Many however are tourist attractions. This tourist trade generates a large portion of the operating budget.

pandas eating

Here are group of these cuties enjoying their favorite meal, bambu. Not just any bambu. Only one of the 1500 or so types of bambu. The center sponsors farmers in the mountains who grow acres of this and bring it into Chengdu by the truckload, daily. An adult Panda will eat 40 kg a day of this, and the center has 128 of them. That is a lot of bambu, you do the math.

The center is happy if the the pandas reproduce naturally, and they also artificially inseminate them when they do not. They have a video you can watch which includes collecting panda semen. Yes, you need a degree for that job.

Giant Panda

This guy was either finished with his part in the breeding program, or just bored by all the tourists.

Just because they are so cute I will treat you to a few more Panda shots. No comments needed

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All the pandas have names and they all have personalities. The only way to tell them apart is by certain facial features.

We went out for lunch at a wonderful Hot Pot restaurant. Hot Pot is the best way to eat in China, chopsticks down. Now I admit I am not the most observant person in the world, but I should have noticed that my wife, who was not only ignoring the food, was just about passed out in her rice bowl. Our guide, Kevin, from China Highlights Tours took over and insisted that Mary Ann see a doctor. He knew of an excellent western style clinic. Her doctor was from Massachusetts.

Sick in Chinese clinic

The doctor took tests, took xrays and then called me into the consult room. Due to breathing the air for the last week, she had developed pneumonia. This is how she spent the rest of the day. I should have made her wear that mask.


I asked one our guides if he had ever seen a blue sky. He said he could not remember, or remember seeing the stars. I asked one guide if the people ever protested about the air quality. The response was when it is really bad most people will wear the surgical masks you see pictures of. I responded “that isn’t an act of protest, it is survival.”  I seriously doubt you can get an environmental science degree from a Chinese University. As far as I know, China has never acted to restrain capitalism with anything as drastic as a clean air or water initiative. This is what happens with unbridled capitalism, take that Republicans! I risked imprisonment when I told a guide “It does not matter how rich you are if you cannot breathe the air.”

We were supposed to go to Shanghai and then take the bullet train back to Beijing, but our trip to China was now over. We spent three days in our nice 5 star hotel room while Mary Ann recuperated.

Actually, we had one more thing to do. With plenty of time after our checkout, the guide asked us how we wanted to spend the time. We both said “the Apple store.” Chengdu is where IPADs are manufactured. Going to the factory was of course out of the question, so went to the mall where a brand new Apple store was open. It was not the adult Disneyland that the Apple store in NYC is, but they did have all the latest toys, and the experts to demo them.

Apple store in Chengdu

A brand new fairly large outlet in Chengdu’s newest mall.

I got the IOS on my IPAD updated by a young Chinese nerd who laughed at the version I was running like it was ancient history.

I do not think Nerd is a derogatory term. This guy was smart and he brought my IPAD out of the Ding Dong Dynasty to today.

I do not think Nerd is a derogatory term. This guy was smart and he brought my IPAD out of the Ding Dong Dynasty to today.

The upgrade took forever, and during the wait, Mary Ann bought a new IPAD mini.

Mini Ipad purchase in Chengdu

She had nothing else to do, so she spent as much on a Mini IPAD as she would have in NYC. No, there is no factory outlet store here. In fact the salesman told her to buy it in Hong Kong because it would be cheaper there. But it felt like an adoption and we knew it was not dropped in shipment. We were mere miles from the factory.

Chengdu Housing

Chengdu, like many Chinese cities is seeing a mass influx of people from the country into the cities. Everywhere you look you see this style of apartment building, and many more being built. I mean there are thousands of them. I had the feeling I was in the movie Blade Runner filmed in Lego Land.

My next post will be a foodie special. The food was really good everywhere we went. I’ll include some comments and photos about the beer of course which was more than good.

Please, I hope you enjoyed this enough to share it on FB, and maybe even honor me with a comment.




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2 Responses so far.

  1. Great post, Forrest. Your posts are always great. Remember the smog in downtown LA in the late 1970s? Is it worse than that it China now.

  2. Dorreene says:

    Sorry you had poor weather. Last October we had blue sky for all but 2 days out of 2 weeks.

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