Sichuan's Ancient Buddha Is Sitting Pretty

Illustration for TIME by Harry Harrison

Before Afghanistan's religious zealots destroyed their famous sculptures in Bamiyan, did you know the location of the world's tallest standing Buddha? The folks living in remote, mountainous Sichuan certainly did. Locals there have spent years tallying the centimeters of every giant Buddha on the planet—and comparing them with their own. So while the rest of the world united in indignation when the Taliban blasted Afghanistan's two 1,500-year-old carved Buddhas to rubble, residents of Leshan city took a more practical view: they called it good for business. "Now our Buddha is even more valuable," says one local.

He's talking...

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