The Construction of the Big Buddha, Lantau Island – further information
HF: The Po Lin Monastery website provides additional information to that provided in the paper published in The Structural Engineer, Vol 73, No. 17, 5th September 1995 sent by IDJ and linked below.
The PLM article is divided into a number of sections. I have extracted initial paragraphs and images of particular interest:
Genesis – background Buddhist information
Design of the Buddha statue:
The design of the statue was based on the 32 laksanas, that is, “physical marks” of the Buddha as described in the sutras. The face was modeled after the Buddha Vairocana of the Longmen Caves for its fullness and serene beauty. The clothes and headgear had their inspiration from the soft and smooth flowing lines of the Buddha Sakyamuni image in Cave 360 of the Dunhuang Grottoes. The statue was therefore a culmination of the characteristics of sculptural art of the Sui and Tang Dynasties when Buddhism was at its prime, skillfully mastered and conceptualised by the artist to shape the perfect design of the Buddha statue that we see today.
The plaster model of the statue was fashioned by Ms Hou Jinhui of the Guangzhou Institute of Fine Arts. She started work in April 1982. The 1:5 scale plaster model was completed in February 1984, the draft of which had been revisited eight times, following discussions and consultations with the artist responsible for the conceptual design of the statue…
Casting and Assembly Process
The original idea was to use reinforced concrete for the building of the Buddha statue. However, due to artistic requirements, structural problems, as well as the anticipated difficulties in quality and cost control, bronze was finally chosen as the building material.
The actual casting, finishing and assembly of the Buddha statue were principally carried out in the Nanjing Chengguang Machinery Plant of the China Astronautics Science and Technology Consultant Corporation. The project was divided into six stages. Design, Enlargement, Casting, Trial Assembly, Transportation and On Site Assembly.
In the stage of overall project design, over 5,000 drawings and 300 technical documents were produced within less than three months. The daily and monthly work progress for the subsequent three years was mapped out and prepared by system analysis.
The 1:5 scale (about 5 meters high) plaster model of the statue was shipped to Nanjing from Guangzhou on 26 September 1986.
The enlargement was carried out through a special “survey-controlled box enlargement method”. That is, the technical staff used stereoscopic photography to find out the position of the statue in space and over 3,900 coordinate points were established. Then the computer was used to calculate the enlargement. At the same time, a traditional method of using boxes which were stacked up in layers was used to form the inner frame of the statue. Then plaster was applied to the outer surface. A 1:1 scale model was thus made…
The body of the statue was to be cast in bronze pieces supported by an inner framework and fixed by connecting bolts. The main framework was made of steel and auxiliary supports were used to connect the bronze pieces to the main frame.
After careful studies and surveying, the whole statue was divided into 202 bronze pieces, the thickness of which ranged from 10 mm to 13 mm. Precision moulds were prepared according to the different shapes of the pieces. The error margin of each piece thus cast was less than 3 mm…
The trial assembly was carried out in the plant rehearsing for the on site assembly. Any problems that might occur on site were detected and solved in the plant.
The Buddha statue was trial assembled separately in three sections, the upper, the middle and the lower sections. Various necessary adjustments and trimmings were made to the bronze pieces. Initial mechanical finishing was also carried out…
The bronze pieces were transported to Hong Kong by sea in April 1989. As the face of the statue was very large and the roads on Lantau Island were winding and narrow, there were acute technical problems in transporting the face piece up to Mount Muk Yue.
With the help of the Transport Department and with careful arrangements, the face piece and two other large bronze pieces were at last safely transported to the site. A large lorry and two large cranes, sandwiching the lorry in the middle, were used in the whole journey for this arduous work…
The assembly and welding of the statue were carried out from bottom upwards in eight layers. The length of weld was over 5 kilometers. As all the work had to be carried out in open air, one could well imagine how arduous the task was.
To ensure that the Buddha statue would not be damaged by strong winds, the specialists had conducted calculations on the wind pressure, imposed load and material strength of the various parts of the statue by computer. The Beijing Institute of Aerodynamics had specially created a testing model, utilizing the wind tunnel employed for satellites and rockets to conduct wind tests on the statue as a whole, on the various parts, unidirectional as well as multidirectional…
The inaugural ceremony of the Big Buddha was held on 29 December 1993.
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