Werner Ulrich's Home Page:  Picture of the Month

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August 2004

   Picture of the month











The Swiss Mountain Buddha an Olympic story  In August 2003, my wife and I visited Mount Titlis near Engelberg, one hour south of Lucerne in Central Switzerland. Looking out from the peak on 3'238 meters (10'623 feet) above sea level, we made an extraordinary discovery. In this rugged landscape of rocks, ice and eternal snow, we saw a natural statue of Buddha, sitting perhaps two kilometers away in a snowfield among a group of smaller rocks that looked like worshippers!

We were not the first to discover the Buddha of the Alps, to be sure. As we learned on this day, a Swiss-Chinese Olympic champion in artistic gymnastics had first discovered it a few years earlier, during his training for the Olympic Summer Games of 1996. What we actually discovered on Mount Titlis was a beautiful story of love, perseverance, faith, and Olympic victory.

In this month of the Olympic Summer Games of 2004, which take place from 13th to 29th August in Athens, Greece, I want to share this story with you.


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For a hyperlinked overview of all issues of "Ulrich's Bimonthly" and the previous "Picture of the Month" series, see the site map


A Chinese-Swiss love story  On June 19, 1988, a twenty-year old Chinese sportsman was pushing his bike across the famous Tian-An-Men (Heavenly Peace) Square in Beijing, host city for the Olympic Summer Games of 2008, when a young tourist asked him the way. She was Esperanza Friedli, a young Swiss woman visiting Beijing. He was Donghua Li, then Chinese champion on the pommel horse. They fell in love and married half a year later.



A story of perseverance  After the wedding, the Chinese authorities excluded Donghua Li from the National gymnastics team. Already before that, during his training for the Olympic Summer Games of 1988, he had suffered a serious injury of two cervical vertebrae. In March 1989, the young couple moved to Switzerland. Like any other foreign spouse of a Swiss citizen, he had to wait for five years before being able to acquire the Swiss nationality; during that time, he could not officially compete in Swiss championships. But Donghua Li was not prepared to give up his dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. He took up his training once again. Conditions were difficult, as he was not part of a National team and received no financial support. To finance his training, he worked in a garage. In 1994, now a Swiss citizen, Donghua Li became Swiss champion on the pommel horse as well as Swiss all-round gymnastics champion.  In 1995, he became world champion on the pommel horse in Sabae, Japan. He was on his way for the Olympic Summer Games of 1996 in Atlanta !



A story of faith  On January 6, 1996, Donghua Li visited Mount Titlis and was looking out to the east, when on a neighboring mountain crest he suddenly discovered a rock formation that resembled a giant Buddha statue. The more he watched it, the more it reminded him of those familiar representations of Buddha as a stout monk, sitting with his legs crossed on a pedestal. It also reminded him of his parents, who in their worship of Buddha always included well-wishes for their son far away from home. At this moment, he so strongly felt their good wishes for his participation in the Olympic Games that he promised himself to become Olympic champion.



A story of Olympic victory  At the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta, Donghua Li's dream came true. He won the Olympic gold medal on the pommel horse. In the same year, he also was European champion in the same discipline. He is to date the only sportsman who in any discipline has been Chinese champion, Swiss champion, European champion, World champion and Olympic champion.




Discover the Buddha  When you first look at this month's picture below, be careful not to roll your mouse pointer over the picture. Can you see the Buddha? If you cannot see it, roll your mouse anywhere over the picture. A magnifying glass will show you where to find the Buddha. (But of course, as I am sure you have understood through the story of Donghua Li, the Buddha is in you.)

If ever you have a chance to visit Mount Titlis, don't forget to search for the Buddha. May it bring good luck and happiness to you, too!



Technical data  Photograph taken on 25 August 2003 with a conventional small-picture camera, ISO 200 negative film, focal length 35 mm, shutter speed 1/250 second, aperture f/5.6, scanned from a 10 x 15 cm color print with 1056 x 727 pixel; current resolution 726 x 500 pixel, compressed to 78 KB.


August, 2004

August 2004 - Swiss Mountain Buddha

                    Swiss Mountain Buddha: Mount Titlis, Switzerland   roll over to see the Buddha

Suddenly sunlight pierced through a thick cloud. The Buddha was shrouded in a mysterious glory, as if just descending into the world. I was stunned to be faced with this sight. Who could tell how many years this Buddha statue had towered aloft among the mountains to be left unknown?

Donghua Li, Swiss-Chinese Olympic champion, 1996

Source of quote: "A Natural Statue of Buddha found on Mount Titlis," Web site of Mount Titlis, July 2004
Note: The quote has meanwhile been removed from the web site of Mount Titlis.
[16 Feb 2010, W. Ulrich]

(Personal web site of Donghua Li: http://www.donghua-li.com/en/10_news/00_news.htm)


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Last updated 12 Nov 2023 (layout, text, and links; first published 30 July 2004)


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