We crossed by boat, then climbed to the top of the cliff behind the Big Buddha. Passing the first display we had seen dedicated to Chairman Mao, Mr. Cai confided to me that he was a Red Guard leader while in middle school, during the Cultural Revolution. "It was a lot more fun than studying!" He added later that a whole generation had been lost to the movement, with many talented people failing to get the educations they needed to succeed in careers.
This was the biggest Buddha in the world until a businessman build a bigger one in Japan in modern times. It was badly corroded, perhaps from air pollution. The scaffolding had been erected for restoration purposes.