8. Buddha

Stop #8 Buddha Please take a walk through the Torii Gate and visit our Buddha… In 1936, a year after Jungle Gardens opened to the public, two of McIlhenny’s friends, Robert M. Youngs and Ernest B. Tracy of New York City, presented him with a magnificent Buddha statue that they hoped would find a suitable home amidst the Asian flora that was steadily accumulating in his gardens. The men had found the statue in a Manhattan warehouse, where it had apparently been stored for some time. How the statue had come to rest there was not clear. Theories about its origins included stories of rogue Chinese warlords and the twelfth-century emperor and artist Hui-tsung. When the Buddha finally arrived on Avery Island, McIlhenny wrote to Youngs and Tracy, thanking them and saying that he hoped to find a worthy and permanent place in his garden for the statue. McIlhenny decided on a location and set about building a garden for the Buddha. He dug a lagoon, and at one end erected a rocky mound upon which he constructed a small temple with a bamboo motif for the supporting columns. He made the roof the little temple of blue tile, the color of the sky. Inside he placed a lotus blossom pedestal constructed of wood and copper for the Buddha statue to rest upon. He landscaped the surrounding area using many of the more beautiful and rare Asian plants in his collection. He planted Chinese juniper along the mound. Tall Chinese bamboos were planted throughout the old live oaks in the Buddha’s garden. McIlhenny made seven “hills” of about ten feet in height to complement the temple, planting each with a single color of Chinese azalea. Finally, he built an arched stone bridge over the lagoon and lined the banks with Chinese iris, making a placid reflecting pool for the temple. The Buddha quickly became a focal point for visitors to Jungle Gardens.