Human history has been, in part, demonstrated through the statues that humans have built to personify emotions, stories, and experiences.
While Italy's David, France's The Thinker, America's Statue of Liberty, and China's Terracotta Warriors dominate the field when it comes to famous statues, there are many lesser-known statues that are just as impressive and hold their own important place in the human imagination. Here are ten of those incredible statues that you've probably never heard of.
10 Man Hanging Out, Czech Republic
This statue, relatively simple in its design, is really more incredible because of its location, as it hangs high above a historic street in Prague. The statue depicts Sigmund Freud, and it looks so lifelike that more than one tourist has found themselves genuinely fearing for his life.
The artist, David Černý, has works all over the city, but this is generally considered the most provocative, making a statement about intellectualism in the 20th century. When viewed up close, the statue of Freud shows him very nonchalant, even resting one hand in his pocket as he looks at the passersby below.
9 Przejście (Passage), Poland
The name of this sculpture, which includes statues of 14 people, is known in English as the Monument of the Anonymous Passersby. The human statues sink into the concrete of the sidewalk, slowly disappearing on one side of the street, only to reemerge on the opposite side.
The artist Jerzy Kalina created the statue to represent the period of martial law in Poland when many citizens were forced to go underground to avoid being arrested or taken from their homes in the middle of the night. The visual power of the statue is striking, and knowing its history makes it even more impactful for all those who view it.
8 The Awakening, USA
This statue, created by J. Seward Johnson, Jr., shows a giant struggling to free himself and emerge from the sands of a harbor in Maryland, USA. The face of the giant with the mouth open in a silent scream, as well as his flailing limbs, are visually dramatic, demonstrating the desperation that he must feel during his incredible struggle.
The sheer size of the giant is itself impressive: it is over 70 feet (21 meters) long and has a hand reaching 17 feet (5 meters) into the air.
7 The Little Mermaid, Denmark
This bronze statue, based on the fairy tale of a mermaid who becomes a human in order to be with the prince she loves, is one of the most famous on this list. The history of the statue is equally as impressive as the figure itself. Built over a hundred years ago, the story goes that Carl Jacobsen commissioned a sculptor to create the statue after falling in love with the character of the Little Mermaid during a ballet performance of the tale.
Unfortunately, the statue has suffered a series of attacks of vandalism over the years, twice losing her head and once losing an arm. However, each time she has been repaired and returned to her place on a rock in the ocean, looking longingly at the beach as she waits for her prince to appear.
6 Colossal Statue of Shapur I, Iran
Found hidden in a cave in the Zagros Mountains of southern Iran, this statue depicts Shapur I, a Sassanian ruler from the 3rd century AD. The statue shows him walking through the cave, his athletic body well-worn from the years in its dark home. This statue is often recognized as one of the most incredible sculptures created by the Sassanians, and it is quite miraculous that so much of it has survived for visitors to view today.
In photos, it's difficult to see just how large the statue is, as it appears to be a more-or-less normal-sized human. In reality, the statue stands about 22 feet (6.7 meters) tall.
5 Five-Buddha Statue at Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, Thailand
This incredible statue, as part of the Wat Pha Sorn Kaew temple, does not have its own name but is known among tourists as the Five-Buddha statue. It depicts five porcelain-white Buddhas, lined up and growing bigger and bigger until they reach the largest, most impressive Buddha. Some have compared the statue to a set of Russian matryoshka dolls, as it imitates the idea of each segment getting smaller and smaller.
The whole site is set on a mountaintop, about 2625 feet (800 meters) above sea level, and the surrounding landscape adds a sublime background this already amazing statue.
4 Dying Lion of Lucerne, Switzerland
This statue, carved into a sandstone wall in Switzerland, pays homage to the mercenary soldiers who died during the French Revolution. The statue shows a huge lion—measuring 20 feet (6 meters) by 33 feet (10 meters)—resting its head on its paw as it dies. The other paw hands limply over the water below.
An inscription above the lion's head reads (in English), "To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss." The statue is at once sad, moving, and inspiring, and all those who look upon it will feel the loss of the Swiss soldiers.
3 Apennine Colossus, Italy
The Apennine Colossus, about 35 feet (10.5 meters) and found just outside of Florence, Italy, shows a human figure caught between a transition from a mountain to a man (or perhaps the other way around). The statue demonstrates a deep connection to the Apennine mountains and suggests a blurred boundary between humans and the nature they inhabit.
The giant man-mountain appears as an old man, with a beard made of stalagmites, and his left hand presses on the head of what appears to be a large cat (maybe a tiger or lion), which shoots water from its mouth and into a pond below. It is an incredible work of art that no visitor to Florence should miss.
2 Decebalus, Romania
As the tallest rock relief statue in Europe, this statue is a must-see. Standing 141 feet (42.9 meters) tall, the statue shows the head of Decebalus, the last king of Dacia (found in modern-day Romania), who fought to preserve his country's independence.
While the statue appears somewhat ancient, it is actually quite new, having been recently completed in 2004 after ten years of work. The head of Decebalus looks solemnly over a river in the Kazan Gorge. To see it up close, visitors will have to take a short boat ride, but it is possible to view the statue from a nearby parking lot, although the view won't be nearly as good.
1 Leshan Giant Buddha, China
As the largest statue on this list (and the largest Buddha statue in the world), the Leshan Giant Buddha is a truly incredible sight. The statue depicts Maitreya (actually an ancient monk) and was carved into the red stone of a cliff more than 1000 years ago. The statue is found at a location where three rivers connect, adding a deep awareness of nature to the design.
The statue is about 233 feet (71 meters) tall. To put it into perspective, one of the statue's shoulders could hold a basketball court, and one finger is longer than 5 to 6 normal humans are tall. It's a massive, breathtaking statue and a must-visit for all those traveling to China.