What started as routine renovation work on a hydropower gate in a reservoir soon turned into unveiling a treasure: a 600 year-old Buddha.
According to China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, the statue’s head was first sighted a month ago in east China’s Jiangxi Province by a local villager when the water levels fell by more than 10 meters (32 feet) during the renovation.
The Buddha, which stands roughly 12.5 feet (3.8 meters) and carved into a cliff, is an archeological dream. Experts said that the regal statue could date back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
“A preliminary study of the statue suggests it was probably built during early Ming Dynasty, maybe even earlier as the Yuan Dynasty,” Xu Changqing, director of the Research Institute of Archaeology of Jiangxi province, told CNN via phone interview.
The Buddha is not only a wonder for archaeologists; tourists and villagers alike have flocked to marvel at the site, believing the statue to be a good omen.
Mr. Xu commented that being submerged in the water could have helped preserve the Buddha, which he explained has surprisingly intricate carvings. “If the statue wasn’t preserved in the water, it could have suffered weathering, oxidation or other risks, we reckon,” he said. An underwater archaeology team is investigating and coming up with a preservation plan, Mr. Xu added.
This incredible Buddha was covered by water in 1960 when the Hongmen reservoir was built. Local authorities at the time were unaware of what ‘heritage protection’ is, Mr. Xu told CNN.
Local Jiangxi Province officer told Xinhua News that the Buddha was carved into the cliff by ancient people “as a spiritual protector to calm the rapid-flowing current where two rivers converge”.