Dazu Rock Carvings
The Dazu Rock Carvings (Chinese: 大足石刻; pinyin: Dàzú Shíkè) are a series of Chinese religious sculptures and carvings, dating back as far as the 7th century AD, depicting and influenced by Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist beliefs. Listed as a World Heritage Site, the Dazu Rock Carvings are made up of 75 protected sites containing some 50,000 statues, with over 100,000 Chinese characters forming inscriptions and epigraphs. The sites are located in Chongqing Municipality within the steep hillsides throughout Dazu County, located about 60 kilometers west of the urban area of Chongqing. The highlights of the rock grotto are found on Mount Baoding and Mount Beishan.
Dazu scenic area highlights an exceptional series of rock carvings on steep hillsides dating back from the 9th to the 13th century. Besides, Rock carvings in Dazu represent the harmonious synthesis of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. They are remarkable for their aesthetic quality, their rich diversity of subject matter, both secular and religious, and the light that they shed on everyday life in China of that time.
The Dazu Rock Carvings are a general term referring to all the grotto statues in Dazu County, Chongqing Municipality. Within the scenic area, more than 50,000 statues and over 100,000 carved Chinese characters can be found in at least 100 separate locations. They are celebrated for their large scale, exquisite carving, rich diversity of subject matters and contents, and excellent state of preservation.
These rock carvings give priority to Buddhist subject matter, although they also involve aspects of Confucianism and Taoism. They break through some religious restrictions and thus appear more human. They display not only numerous characters drawn from all walks of life but also scenes representing everyday social activities, being the finest examples we have in this regard. Of the total, the rock carvings on the North Hill and Baoding Hill are of the largest scale and are considered the masterpiece of China’s grotto art after the late Tang Dynasty.
The rock carvings on the North Hill are 1.5 kilometers north of the Daze County seat, Chongqing Municipality, and extend some 300 meters long. Their construction lasted over 200 years, from 892 or the first year of the Jingfu reign of the late Tang Dynasty to 1162 of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). There are at least 50 kinds of subject matters, centered on the popular Buddhist stories of that time. The extant 4,600-plus statues form what has been referred to as a “Rock Carving Art Museum from the Late Tang Dynasty to the Song Dynasty”.
Located 15 kilometers northeast of the Dazu County seat, the carvings on Baoding Hill, totaling some 10,000 statues, established a correct and characteristic environment in which the Tantrists (members of a sect of Buddhism) could perform their rites. Of the total, the statues at Dafo Gully are the best preserved and represent the peak of Chinese rock carving art of the later period. The largest statue in the world of the Thousand-Hand Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and a half-length reclining Buddha can both be found here.
The rock carvings on the South Hill take Taoist statuary as their principal subject matters, and form the most concentrated rock carving complex with the most statues and fullest system in the whole of China.
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