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Dazu Rock Carvings

Dazu Rock Carvings Travel Guide

Brief Introduction
Located 163 kilometers away from Chongqing, the general term of "Dazu Grottoes " refers to all the cliffs and rocks carvings in Dazu County. Put under conservation and protection are 75 spots of cliff carvings and grottoes composed of more than 60000 statues and over 100000 Chinese characters of inscriptions and epigraphs.

The work of Dazu grottoes and carvings began in 650 A.D of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D), and had continued until Ming (1368-1644 A.D) and Qing (1644-1911 A.D) dynasties. It enjoys equal popularity with Dunhuang frescoes and forms the trilogy with Yungang and Longmen Grottoes. In 1999, UNESCO listed Dazu Stone Carvings as a world cultural heritage site.

There are 75 spots of cliffside carvings composed of more than 50000 statues and over 100000 Chinese characters of inscriptions and epigraphs under the protection. The two major sites are North Hill (Beishan) and Baoding Hill (Baodingshan).

An important constituent part of the rock art of China

The Dazu carvings form an important constituent part of the rock art of China. The five sites nominated are made up of 75 protected sites containing some 50,000 statues and over 100,000 Chinese characters forming inscriptions and epigraphs. Extensive in scale, high in artistic achievement, and rich in content, they constitute a masterpiece of art.
Most outstanding manifestations of the latest period in Chinese rock arts

They are the most outstanding manifestations of the latest period in Chinese rock art. The earliest date from around AD 650, but the main artistic flowering was between the 9th and 13th centuries; after this, Chinese rock art virtually came to an end. The Dazu carvings differ from earlier examples in that they provide a synthesis of the sculptural art of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, at the same time presenting a vivid display of spiritual and domestic life.

The wealth of carvings and inscriptions reflect the artistic and religious developments in the period concerned, and they also express historic, artistic, and scientific values not to be found in earlier-rock art groups. The Dazu carvings demonstrate that Tantric Buddhism (Vajrayana), which had originated in India and was in decline in China around the 9th century, experienced a revival. This branch of Buddhism is characterized by the transition from speculative thought to the application of Buddhist ideals in daily life.

The Dazu carvings introduce a spectacular new page into Chinese spiritual history, reflecting the beliefs of the common people and their unsophisticated way of life. They developed a style of their own, raising the representation of life in this medium to an unprecedentedly high level. In both the selection of subjects and their representation, they seek to come as closely as possible to everyday life and to the common aesthetic taste of the people at large. The scenes at Baodingshan in particular constitute a gallery of the folklore of the Song Dynasty (12th-13th centuries). Whether they are princes, officials, or common people, the characters come vividly to life, depicting Chinese society from different angles and in miniature.

A significant contribution to artistic expression in China

The Dazu rock carvings have made a significant contribution to artistic expression in China, taking into account a new realism and exaggeration in depicting the contrasts between good and evil, beauty and ugliness. In their contents the carved scenes reflect the moral and rationalistic call for the punishment of evildoers, while encouraging people to do good, to control their desires, and the regulate their behaviour. Their layouts demonstrate an ingenious integration of art, religion, science, and nature. Aesthetically they are mysterious, natural, and elegant, fully reflecting traditional Chinese culture, which emphasizes learning from the past.

Represent the major change of beliefs

In spiritual terms the Dazu carvings represent the major change that took place in China between the 10th and 13th centuries, marked by belief in a single god instead of a diversity of beliefs. They show how the three main religions, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, came together and found forms of artistic expression that coincided in such a way as to make it difficult to identify clear boundaries between them. The gods originating from Indian Buddhism and the immortals of Taoism were integrated with the deities of the common people of China at the time. These major changes in the religious beliefs of the Chinese laid the basis for those of later generations and profoundly influenced them.

DCT Tips:

Dazu Rock Cavings is about 1.5 hours driving from downtown Chongqing, there are two main spots, they are Baodingshan/Baoding Mountain and Beishan/Beishan Hill. Most of the guests will visit Baodingshan, it is more popular.

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