A 600-year-old Buddha statue has emerged from the waters of a reservoir in Jiangxi Province in China after the water levels here dropped during renovation work.
Buddha Statue Resurfaces
The Buddha statue, which measures around 3.8 meters (12.5 feet) tall and carved into a cliff, has long been submerged in the waters of the Hongmen Reservoir. A local villager first noticed the statue's head emerging last month after the water level dropped by more than 10 meters (32.8 feet) during work on a hydropower gate. It has since attracted the attention of tourists and locals who see it as an auspicious sign.
Archaeologists said that the Buddha statue, which appears to be gazing over the body of water, may have dated back to the early Ming Dynasty between 1368 and 1644 as suggested by the style of its carving. It is also possible that it has already existed earlier, during the Yuan dynasty.
Built To Serve As Spiritual Protector
Records suggest that the reservoir was located on the ruins of the ancient town known as Xiaoshi. A local official said that the statue was built by the ancient people as a spiritual protector to calm the current where two rivers meet. Boats easily overturned at the intersection of the two rivers because of the rapid flow of water.
Being Submerged In The Water Protected The Buddha Statue
The Buddha statue, which features detailed carving, was submerged in the 1960s when the Hongmen reservoir was built. Authorities at the time were not aware of heritage protection.
Being submerged in the water though has somehow protected the statue. Many cultural relics were destroyed in the 1960s during a period of cultural revolution in China when people were told to get rid of things that were old, feudalistic and superstitious.
Director of the Research Institute of Archaeology of Jiangxi province Xu Changqing said that being submerged in the water may have also preserved the Buddha statue from harmful elements. He said that the statue would have suffered weather, oxidation and other risks if it had not been preserved in the water.
Trove Of Archeological Treasures
The statue is possibly just the tip of an untapped trove of archeological treasures. A base of a temple hall was also found under the water. Researchers said that an underwater archeology team is conducting an investigation of both the ancient town and the statue. It is also working on a preservation plan.
"The ruins of Xiaoshi town were not exposed by the lowered water levels, but the underwater team also explored the town," said Jin Huilin, curator of the museum of Nancheng County.
Brought Back Memories To Old Villagers
The re-emergence of the statue brought back some memories to the elders of the village who had seen the statue when they were younger. Huang Keping, an 82-year-old local blacksmith who first saw the Buddha statue in 1952, said that it was gilded at the time.
China has numerous Buddhist cliff and cave carvings. The famed Leshan Giant Buddha is the world's tallest stone Buddha statue.