From the Great Pyramid of Giza to the Statue of Liberty, statues have played a pivotal role in our society since ancient times. They have taken numerous roles, acting as emblems for world leaders and Biblical figures, or commemorating significant moments in history. Many, such as Rio’s Christ the Redeemer, are iconic markers of place, while others have stirred up huge amounts of controversy, particularly in recent years, provoking vandalism and destruction. Of them all, these are, at the time of writing, the five tallest statues to be found anywhere in the world, each with its own story to tell.
1. Statue of Unity, India (597 feet high)
India’s Statue of Unity is widely understood to be the tallest statue in the world, measuring 597 feet high. Set in the Narmada District of Gujarat, the statue was built to commemorate Indian statesman and independence activist Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of independent India. Completed in 2018, the statue was unveiled to the public on the 143rd anniversary of Patel’s birth.
2. Spring Temple Buddha, China (420 feet high)
Completed in 2008, the Spring Temple Buddha in Lushan, Henan in China is an impressive height – coming in at 420 feet, this makes it easily the second tallest statue in the world. The colossal monument depicts the Vairocana Buddha in glistening copper and gold which catches the light, making it visible from far and wide across China.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the statue was an expensive venture, costing around $55 million at the time of completion. But it holds a historically significant place in Chinese history, as it was built following the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban. The statue is situated in the middle of a lotus shaped pedestal that holds a monastery inside, making it both a place of worship and a striking monument. Despite being set off the beaten track, many tourists flock to the Spring Temple Buddha Scenic Spot every year to marvel at this impressive feat of engineering.
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3. Laykyun Sekkya, Myanmar (380 feet high)
Myanmar’s Laykyun Sekkya is 380 feet tall, and thus the third tallest statue in the world. Located in Khatakan Taun, near Monywa in the Sagaing Division of Myanmar, the colossal statue took 12 years to complete, from 1996 to 2008. The exterior of the building portrays a standing Gautama Buddha, accompanied by a reclining Gautama Buddha, along with a replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda called Aung Sekkya Pagoda and a whole series of smaller Buddha sculptures.
The entire site is dedicated to the state of Mahaparinirvana (the attainment of eternal bliss). Inside, there are 32 floors, and an internal staircase for visitors to climb up and enjoy breathtaking views from the top. Each of the 32 floors depicts the different stages of hell within a Buddha life, before they reach nirvana at the summit.
4. Statue of Belief, Vishwas Swaroopam, India (348 feet high)
Also known by locals as the Statue of Belief, Vishwas Swaroopam in India measures 348 feet high, making it a close contender with Laykyun Sekkya. Situated in Nathdwara, Rajasthan, the statue was completed in 2020, and is the largest monument in the world devoted to the Hindu Lord Shiva. Made in a distinctive shade of red copper the monument is designed to stand out from a distance. Meanwhile, the interior contains an exhibition hall and a series of viewing galleries, while the grounds are filled with picturesque gardens and tourist attractions.
5. Ushiku Daibutsu, Japan (330 feet high)
Japan’s impressive Ushiku Daibutsu is 330 feet tall, making it a hot contender in any list of the world’s tallest statues. Completed in 1993, this giant Buddha is located in Ushiku, in the Ibaraki Prefecture of Japan. The statue depicts Amitabha Buddha and was created to commemorate the birth of Shinran (1173-1263), one of Japan’s most influential spiritual leaders, who founded Buddhism’s True Pure Land School and the Jodo Shinshu sect of Japanese Buddhism.
Inside are a series of educational exhibition rooms which are dedicated to the Buddhist School, and a viewing platform at the Buddha’s chest level, which offers stunning views across Japan, as far as Tokyo’s Skytree. A popular tourist haunt, more than 600,000 visitors flock to marvel at the statue’s scale every year.
By Rosie LessoMA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine ArtRosie is a contributing writer and artist based in Scotland. She has produced writing for a wide range of arts organizations including Tate Modern, The National Galleries of Scotland, Art Monthly, and Scottish Art News, with a focus on modern and contemporary art. She holds an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Fine Art from Edinburgh College of Art. Previously she has worked in both curatorial and educational roles, discovering how stories and history can really enrich our experience of art.