Dazu Rock Carvings
Highlights of Dazu Rock Carvings
Introduction to Dazu Rock Carvings
The Dazu carvings are considered to be master works of art because they are great in quantity, excellent in creative execution, and splendid in subject matter. The site contains 5 sections that contain 75 protected areas with approximately 50,000 statues and epigraphs and engravings composed of more than 100,000 Chinese characters.
The first of the rock art comes from 650 CE. The highest point of artistic achievement was from the 800s to 1200s. Following this period, the creation of rock art in China largely came to a close. The multitude of rock engravings and etchings show the religious and imaginative growth of the time, as well as the artistic, scientific and historic standards that do no occur in rock art compositions from previous eras. They also exhibit a harmonious combination of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian sculpture as well as showing scenes of domestic and spiritual life. In fact, the Dazu carvings are the most exceptional examples of rock art in China from this period.
Dazu Rock Carvings Gallery
Guide to Dazu Rock Carvings
Beishan, formerly called Longgangshan in antiquity, is situated approximately 1.5 kilometers from the town of Longgang at the chair of the county of Dazu. The dimensions of the cliff with the carvings is approximately 545 meters above sea-level, 300 meters in length, and 7 to 10 meters in height. Its northern part has 100 sets of engravings and the southern part houses 190. Of the 10,000 carvings in Beishan, there are 264 recesses containing statues, one with an intaglio painting, and 8 engraved pillars. A prominent theme among the carvings is of Tantric Buddhism. Another depicts the precepts of the Trinity and Sukhavati. These were prevalent ideas at the time of their creation from 897 to 1162. There is a significant group of 539 sculptures of the Amitabha Sutra in niche 254. A majority of the carvings within Beishan come from the Five Dynasties Period of the 900s. The style of engraving from this era consists of petite, lovely forms, diverse poses, relaxed countenances, and fine decorations of attire. There are also 21 themes of figures dating from the Song Dynasty of the latter 900s to the middle 1100s.
The site of Baodingshan occupies an area of 15 kilometers at the northeast of the town of Longgang. It is situated on a horseshoe-shaped gorge at about 500 meters above sea level. This position provides a natural protection for the rock carvings. The engravings were organized under the observation of Zhao Zhifeng into a sequence. Xiaofowan is the first grouping that is smaller than the other. It is situated at the peak of the mountain and occupies 1.6 ha of land. It was constructed during the same period as the other group but was wrecked by fire and then reconstructed at the time of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The second of the two groups is called Daifowan and occupies a region of approximately 500 meters and is 8 to 25 meters in height. It is situated to the monastery’s west. There are numerous subjects of these 31 bands of statues including the Buddhist Wheel of Life, Ageing, Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara, Death, Sickness, the 9 Dragons Bathing, the Sakyamuni Buddha Entering Nirvana, and the 3 Saints of the Huayan School. Other depictions include pastoral scenes such as grazing buffalo and stumbling drunkards.
At Nanshan, the engravings spread over 86 meters in length. Their themes are mostly Taoist in nature and considered to be in an unparalleled state of conservation among the other 5 principal clusters of Taoist carvings.
The carvings at Shizhuanshan date from the 1000s and cover an area of more than 130 meters. These engravings are an atypical sample of a tripartite organization of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian depictions.
The engravings of Shimenshan date from the early years of the 1100s and occupy an area of more than 72 meters. Within the Goddess of Mount Tai, or Taishan, and the Cave of the Gods, are 92 statues that show the significant position of the Taishan Family amid the divinities of Taoism from the 900s to 1200s.
Video of Dazu Rock Carvings
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History of Dazu Rock Carvings
Tantric Buddhism, also known as Vajrayana, came to China from India but was diminishing in influence. However, the inscriptions at Dazu show that it grew in influence at about the 800s.
The oldest carvings in the county of Dazu were created in 650 CE at the time of the Tang Dynasty. The high point of the rock art at Dazu commenced in the latter years of the 800s. The Prefect of Changzhou, Wei Junjing, was the first to develop the Beishan carvings in 892. After the fall of the Tang Dynasty, other county and prefects, nuns and monks, local gentry and commoners continued the tradition during the Period of Five Dynasties and Ten States from 907 to 965.
At the time of the beginning of the Song Dynasty, no new carvings were created. With the rule of Emperor Yuan Feng of the Northern Song Dynasty in 1078, the creation of art at Beishan started and pressed on until 1146. At this time, the cluster of art at Shimenshan and Nanshan were made. Zhao Zhifeng, a monk, made the only substantial ritual site for Tantric Buddhism at Baodingshan from 1174 to 1252. This project drew highly skilled artisans from all around China.
The State Council of the People’s Republic of China put the engravings at Baodingshan and Beishan under the protection of the terms of Article 4 of the Law on the Protection of Relics in 1961 as part of the initial batch of cultural properties. Upon the announcement of the 4th batch in 1966, Shizhuanshan, Nanshan and Shimenshan were included.
Getting to Dazu Rock Carvings
It is recommended to reserve a day to see the rock carvings. Hours of operation are from 8:00 to 18:00. Combination or single tickets are available for purchase at both Treasured Summit Hill and Beishan.
The City of Dazu is approximately 2 hours to the west of Chongqing City and about 4 hours to the east of Chengdu. There are bus stations at both cities with buses heading to Dazu. The primary bus station in Dazu from which long-distance buses depart is on Nanhuan Road. For the local area, services operate out of the bus station on Longzhong Road. From here visitors can take the bus to the Dazu Rock Carvings. Once inside Dazu, it is possible to hire pedal-taxis, motorcycle taxis and traditional taxis. Also available are sanlunche, which are taxis with 3 wheels. A number of travel agencies operate out of Dazu, Chengdu and Chongqing for a smoother, more organized trip to the carvings.
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