Buddhist statues submerged for 36 years reveal their faces again

By Chen Xi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/16 18:29:15

Photo: Sina Weibo

A batch of ancient Buddhist statues that remained submerged in a reservoir in Beijing for 36 years resurfaced recently after the reservoir's water levels dropped 16 meters, the local cultural relics authority said on Monday.

The statues are located in the Baihebu Reservoir in Beijing's Yanqing district. Built in 1983, the reservoir can hold more than 60 million cubic meters.

In October, water from the reservoir was diverted and water storage dropped to 8 million cubic meters. This led the surface of the water to drop by 16 meters and allowed the stone Buddha statues to enjoy the light of the sun again, according to a report from Beijing Youth Daily. 

Three statues of roughly the same shape and size "sit" on a single rock. Each is about 1.7 meters high and 0.8 meters wide. The stone statue on the right is the best preserved of the three, while the features of the one on the left can barely be seen.

Lu Bingyu, an employee who has worked at the reservoir for 20 years, said he had often heard locals talk about a "Buddha Bay," but this was the first time he had seen this group of stone statues in person.

The rock where the stone statues are located was once a section of the imperial road during the Liao, Jin and Yuan dynasties (916-1368) and was near an imperial fort during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Many stone carvings of Buddha statues were built on both sides of the imperial road during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). 

"Judging by their shape, it is very likely that this group of stone statues came from the Yuan Dynasty," Yu Haikuan, deputy director of the Cultural Management Office of the Yanqing district, told the Global Times on Monday.

Based on the faces of the stone statues, Yu said they may have been vandalized at one point. He also explained that the flow of water may have eroded their features somewhat, although the impact is probably less than deterioration caused by wind. 

He noted that the reservoir is expected to maintain its current water levels for about a year. During this time, they will invite experts to further determine the age of the statues and draw up protection measures to keep them safe.

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