The Leshan Buddha has suffered from hundreds of years of erosion by atmospheric moisture and water infiltrating from the mountain. Water detained at the stomach of the Buddha has lowered the strength of the rock, and as a result, plants and fungi have sprung up from the upper part of the body. Because of acid rain, the Buddha's nose has turned black and the face has become speckled.
What looks like tear stains can be found at the corner of the Buddha's eyes, and part of the body surface has begun to peel off. According to historical records, the past dynasties all did something to maintain the Leshan Buddha. In modern times, the Buddha has experienced six periods of large-scale maintenance, but all these projects failed to solve the problems for one reason or another.
Though it was designed to withstand harsh weather conditions, over the past 1,000 years, erosion did become a major threat to the statue. Strong winds, heavy rains, acid rain and visitors have left their mark. The stone coils of hair on the head of the statue have fallen down, the nose has turned black and the face has become speckled.
Also, plants and fungi have begun to grow from the upper part of the body, while litter has been thrown over his face, neck, shoulders, breast and feet. Not least, water from the three rivers that converge before the stone statue have eroded the lotus foundation underneath the Buddha’s giant feet. Today, over 30 holes have been discovered in the foundations.
The protection and maintenance of this ancient treasure have proved to be a concern down the ages. It is clear that many repairs have been made over the years but mostly on a small scale and probably by individuals. Since the foundation of the PRC there has been a schedule for repair work on a ten year cycle. Nevertheless, it has not been possible to completely resolve the problems caused by erosion.
The protection of the Leshan Buddha has drawn global attention. Experts have been dispatched by the UNESCO to investigate and oversee the protection work and the World Bank has offered US$ 8 million in interest-free loans for the work.
The municipal government of Leshan also promulgated a series of measures to maintain the Buddha. These include improving the macro-environment of the scenic area by controlling pollution and setting a time scale for the removal of industrial enterprises. The reduction of pollution of the Minjiang River and the investment of a large amount of money in the construction of a highway passing through the area is part of the program. Through the combined efforts of all those concerned in this enterprise important work upon the mountain, water, roads and gardens in the area has been completed. Consequently, the environment has been greatly improved.
On March 24, 2001, a large scale repair was launched by the government. It was the first maintenance since the Buddha had been added to the World Heritage List. The first stage concentrated on the treatment of the Buddha’s head, shoulders, chest, and stomach. The repairs lasted for 36 days and cost over one million Yuan. The technicians mended the Buddha’s coiled bun of hair, cleaned the face, cleared away trash and weeds from the body, removed an inappropriate cement coating, and repaired the damage with traditional materials. The second phase commenced on November 7, 2001, and is planned to be finished in August 2002. The second stage is focused on the improvement of the drainage system of the Buddha’s body, protection against water concussion on the feet, and weatherproofing the whole statue.
As the mayor of Leshan City has said, “The Buddha statue, which represents the high sculpturing skill and standard of ancient China, will stand forever in Leshan City through concerted protective efforts from all Chinese people”. While, we know, what Leshan Giant Buddha needs is not only the attention of all Chinese people, but also that of people from all over the world.
Taking the Giant Buddha as a base the attractions in the area also include the Lingyun Monastery, the Great Buddha Temple, the Dongpo Tower, Green Water Tower, Linbao Pagoda, Cave of Master Haitong, Jiuqu Plank Way, etc.