Dazu Rock Carvings, located in Dazu County, Chongqing, is a general term for the cliff carving and grotto art in Dazu County. The Dazu Rock Carvings, equally famous with the Mogao Caves, Yungang Grottoes, Longmen Grottoes and Maijishan Grottoes, is remarkable for its aesthetic quality, diversity of subject matter, both secular and religious, and the light that it sheds on everyday life in China during that period. It provides outstanding evidence of the harmonious synthesis of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
Dazu County, reputed as “the county of rock carving”, is located about 167 kilometers from Chongqing on its east and 271 kilometers from Chengdu on its west. With a history of over 1,300 years, Dazu Rock Carvings were begun in 650 during the early Tang Dynasty, expanded the periods of late Tang Dynasty and Five Dynasties, in vogue in Southern and Northern Song Dynasties and continued to the Ming and Qing dynasties. There are up to 75 protected sites containing some 50,000 statues, accompanied by over 100,000 Chinese characters of inscriptions and epigraphs. The Buddhist statues dominate in this rock carving group, and the Taoist and the Confucian stone figures can also be seen, showing the significant development and change in China’s grotto style and religious belief from 9th century to the middle 13th century.
Located in the hinterland hills of the county, Dazu Rock Carvings were fortunately immune from various damages due to the poor transportation conditions in the past. The cliff statues on Baoding Mountain, Beishan Mountain, Nanshan Mountain, Shimen Mountain and Shizhuan Mountain are representatives. Of them, the Baoding Mountain Cliff Carvings and Beishan Cliff Statues are the jewels on the crown.
The Baoding Mountain Cliff Carvings, 15 kilometers northeast of Dazu County, is made of 13 groups of stone carving figures, totaling nearly 10,000 cliff-side figures. In this part, magnificent rock figures in different shapes compose a story.
Dafowan, the most impressive group of carvings on Baoding Mountain, is located in a U-shaped valley surrounded by cliffs on three sides. A religious art gallery with a length of about 500 meters was carved on the cliff. The commodious Yuanjue Cave, carved out of a whole rock, lies on the top of the summit. There are three principle Buddhas, in front of whom kneels a Bodhisattva piously putting palms together. On either side of the three Buddhas are 6 seated Pratyeka-Buddhas. They are carved out of the wall and in different postures. Other carvings such as pavilions, towers, people and animal figures, plants and natural scenes are quite realistic and they together form the essence of Dafowan carving. Of over 30 huge carvings, the reputed ones are: Picture of Transmigration in the Six Ways, Pavilion of Extensive Treasures, Three Sages, Thousand-armed Guanyin, Nirvana of Sakyamuni, Nine Dragons Bathing the Prince, and Story of the Scripture on Parental Love. Taking Buddhist scriptures as the main plot, these carvings are also illustrated by literal explanations like odes and written scriptures beside them. Thus, Dazu Rock Carvings distinguishes itself from other carvings or grottoes by displaying a series of pictures and words.
Situated 2 kilometers northwest of Dazu County, the Beishan Cliff boasts almost 10,000 Buddha statues, spanning a distance of over 500 meters in 290 caves. Figures in this part are like an “Assembly of Oriental Beauty”, since it enjoys good preservation and elaborate craftsmanship.
Fowan carving, the most concentrated part on the Beishan Mountain, can be divided into two parts: the south part containing largely works of the late Tang Dynasty and the Five Dynasties and the north part containing those of the Northern and Southern Song Dynasties. On the cliff which is around 300 meters long and 7 metes high, there are 6 tablets, 55 calligraphic inscriptions and statues, 8 scriptures, 1 inscribed picture of Manjusri Bodhisattva and 264 niches. A major attraction is Cave 136 (or called Xinshenche Cave), where you can see the graceful statue of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, crowned as the “Oriental Venus”.
The Dazu Stone Carvings is the representative of late grotto art in China and samples of combination of traditional Chinese culture and foreign Buddhist culture. In 1999, Dazu Rock Carvings was included in the World Cultural Heritage List.
You can take bus at Chongqing West Bus Station to Dazu County, then transfer a minibus or taxi.