Seven Buddhist Wonders

On July 7, the New Seven Wonders of the World will be announced in Lisbon, Portugal. Only one of the ancient wonders of the world (pyramids of Giza) still survives, so history lovers are being invited to choose a new list of seven.

But what about a list of the Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World? What would you nominate? If you want to make a suggestion click on the "Comments" below the posting. Here are seven choices in no particular order:

1. Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet, China
This was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama. The 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India after a failed uprising in 1959. Today the Potala Palace is a state museum of China. It is a popular tourist attraction, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Lumbini's Garden, Rupandehi District, Lumbini Zone of Nepal
The birthplace of the Gautama Buddha, Lumbini, is the Mecca of every Buddhist, being one of the four holy places of Buddhism. Lumbini is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The holy site of Lumbini has ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, an ancient bathing pond, the Asokan pillar and the Mayadevi temple, where the precise place of birth of Buddha is located.

From early morning to early evening, pilgrims from various countries perform chanting and meditation at the site. It is said in the Parinibbana Sutta that Buddha himself identified four places of future pilgrimage: the sites of his birth, enlightenment, first discourse, and death. All of these events happened outside in nature under trees. While there is not any particular significance in this, other than it perhaps explains why Buddhists have always respected the environment and natural law.

3. Bamyan Buddhas, on the Silk Road in Afghanistan
In March 2001, the Taliban destroyed the largest examples of standing Buddha carvings in the world. The statues were embedded in a mountain on the famous Silk Road. They claimed that they were false idols contrary to their Islamic beliefs.

In the summer of 2006, Afghan officials were deciding the timetable for the re-construction of the statues. While they wait for the Afghan government and international community decide whether to rebuild them, a $1.3 million UNESCO-funded project is sorting out the chunks of clay and plaster, ranging from boulders weighing several tons to fragments the size of tennis balls.

The government has also approved the proposal of the Japanese artist Hiro Yamagata to mount a $64 million sound-and-laser show starting in 2009 that would project Buddha images at Bamiyan, powered by hundreds of windmills that would also supply electricity to surrounding residents.

Bamyan was the site of several Buddhist and Hindu monasteries, and a thriving center for religion, philosophy, and Greco-Buddhist art. It was a Buddhist religious site from the second century up to the time of the Islamic invasion in the ninth century.

The site was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site along with surrounding cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamyan Valley.
Read BBC Report, "Artist to recreate Afghan Buddhas...

4. Borobudur Temple, near Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia
In 1814, the British Lieutenant Governor of Java sent a survey team to verify reports of an impressive monument located at the center of the island of Java. For six weeks, a crew of 200 men labored to clear away the soil, volcanic ash and vegetation that buried the said sanctuary, unearthing what turned out to be one of the greatest archaeological finds of the modern era.

The largest Buddhist temple in the world comprises six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues.

Evidence suggests Borobudur was abandoned following the fourteenth century decline of Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms in Java, and the Javanese conversion to Islam. It was rediscovered in 1814 by Sir Thomas Raffles, the British ruler of Java.

The monument is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Borobudur is still used for pilgrimage, where once a year Buddhist in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, and Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction.

5. Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan
Among 20 locations short listed for the worldwide vote for the new Seven Wonders is the the Kiyomizu Temple.

Although Kiyomizudera was founded in 780 AD, the present buildings date from 1633. Kiyomizudera's architecture has been imitated by lesser temples all over Japan and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

The expression "to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu" is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression "to take the plunge." This refers to an Edo period tradition that held that, if one were to survive jumping from the terrace, one's wish would be granted. This does appear plausible: the lush vegetation below the platform might cushion the 13-meter fall of a lucky pilgrim, though the practice is now prohibited. 234 jumps were recorded in the Edo period and of those, 85.4% survived.

6. Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion Temple), Kyoto, Japan
Acutally covered in gold, this Zen temple was formally known as Rokuonji. In 1397, construction started on the Golden Pavilion as part of a new residence for the retired shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Kinkakuji was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimitsu's death in 1408.

The Golden Pavilion functions as shariden, housing sacred relics of the Buddha and is covered in gold leaf. The present building dates from 1955 as the pavilion was burnt by a fanatic monk in 1950.

7. The Giant Buddha of Leshan, China
The tallest stone Buddha statue in the world was carved out of a cliff face by an 8th-century monk in southern Szechuan province, near the city of Leshan. The Giant Buddha lies at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers. It faces the sacred Mount Emei (with which it shares its World Heritage status), with the rivers flowing below his feet.

Construction on the Giant Buddha began in 713 AD. It was the idea of a Chinese monk named Haitong, who hoped that the Buddha would calm the turbulent waters that plagued the shipping vessels travelling down the river.

The construction resulted in so much stone being removed from the cliff face and deposited into the river below that the currents were altered by the statue, making the waters safe for passing ships as the monk had hoped. There are still some vicious currents where the three rivers meet - but none that threaten the tourist ferries.

It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
sources:,, Sacred Destinations Travel Guide