According to tradition, in the 1920s a Chinese warlord sent a roughly 900-year-old statue of Buddha to America, where it sat unclaimed for many years in a New York City warehouse. In 1936, two friends of E. A. ("Ned") McIlhenny purchased the statue and sent it to him by rail as a surprise. Ned responded by designing an Asian-influenced garden setting for the sacred statue. He constructed a long forest pool, an arched stone bridge, and glass-enclosed temple. He built up seven "hills of knowledge" that surround the Buddha and covered them with azaleas, sasanqua, camellias, and bamboos.

Today the Buddha statue serves as a centerpiece of Jungle Gardens and greets thousands of visitors annually, including many Buddhists who offer prayers and gifts to the statue.

Buddah Speaks
Peacefully I rest
Upon this lagoon’s bank
As pale green bamboo’s
Sway above my throne.
Clouds of blossoms
Soften the sifted light
Falling golden and misty
through the boughs above.
Long days of travel
Brought me from my home,
Yet I have known no hour of calmer rest
My thoughts are like
The swaying bamboos’ crest
waved to and fro
Above the rippling stream
Clear and blue
As from a glorious dream