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Sunday, 6 May, 2001, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
China enters biggest Buddhist statue race

China has announced plans to build the world's largest statue - a towering 509ft Buddhist statue which promises to be 9ft taller than its nearest rival.


It will be the largest statue of a Bodhisattva in the world.

Xinhua
The statue of a Bodhisattva, which Xinhua news agency said was the God of Wisdom, is to be built at Jiuhua Mountain in central China.

Jiuhua is one of the four major Buddhist shrines in China.

"It will be the largest statue of a Bodhisattva in the world when completed," Xinhua reported.

The announcement is likely to dismay Indian and British planners, who have begun work on a project to build a 500ft Maitreya Buddha, originally reported to be in the running for the title of the world's largest statue.

Man prays at Buddhist temple
Buddhism continues to be practised across China
The Maitreya project in the northern Indian province of Bihar is expected to be completed in 2005.

So far it seems, however, that the Indian Buddha is fated to cross the finishing line in second place.

The Chinese appear to be planning to outdo their Indian competitors by over a year, with a projected finish date of 2004.

Wang Jiaxiang, deputy head of the Jiuhua construction project, said building work will begin in September and take three years to complete.

The Chinese statue will consist of 1,100 pieces of copper cast and will weigh around 1,000 tonnes, the agency said.


Bodhisattvas, having attained enlightenment, renounce nirvana in order to help humanity.

Inspiration

The entire project is estimated to cost around $55m, with $18m being spent on the statue itself.

Xinhua said inspiration for the Bodhisattva statue has been taken from an ancient Korean prince-turned-monk who resided on Jiuhua Mountain.

Kim Kiao-kak, from the Korean Peninsula's Silla kingdom, is recorded as having retired to the mountain to become a monk in 719AD and spent 75 years there until his death at the age of 99.

Bamiyan Buddha statue
The tallest Bamiyan statue stood at 125 feet
According to Buddhist tradition, Bodhisattvas, having attained enlightenment, renounce nirvana in order to help humanity on its pilgrimage.

The plans for the statues have been announced in the wake of the blowing up of the Bamiyan Buddhas by Afghanistan's Taleban movement.

China had condemned the destruction of Afghanistan's Buddhist heritage.

Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

04 May 01 | South Asia
India's 1,000 year Buddha underway
21 Mar 00 | South Asia
Brits to build biggest Buddha
02 Apr 01 | Media reports
China's giant Buddha gets makeover
11 Mar 01 | South Asia
Bamiyan: Wonder of the ancient world
25 Mar 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka to 'build' Bamiyan Buddhas
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