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Dazu Rock Carvings

Dazu Rock Carvings

World Heritage Site: Dazu Rock Carvings in Chongqing (1999)

Comment from the World Heritage Committee

The steep hillsides of the Dazu area contain an exceptional series of rock carvings dating back to the 9th to the 13th century. They are spectacular for their aesthetic quality, their diversity, both secular and religious, and the light that they shed on everyday life in China during this period. They provide outstanding evidence of the harmonious synthesis of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

Introduction

The Dazu Rock Carvings are situated in Dazu County west of the urban area of Chongqing. Dazu County has long been hailed as the hometown of rock carvings. It was excavated during the Yonghui Period of the early Tang Dynasty (649 AD) where they experienced a flourishing period during the Northern and Southern Song dynasties (960-1278 AD) with new carvings added during the Ming and Qing dynasties (14th to 19th century) creating the largest carving collection available today. They are considered as the best of all stone carvings in China and known as representative of Chinese carving art, said to rival that of Yungang, Longmen and Mogao Grottoes.

The Dazu Rock Carvings are made up of 75 sites containing approximately 100,000 statues, which are mainly found in Mount Baoshan, Mount Baoding, Mount Nanshan, Mount Shizhuan and Mount Shimen.

Dazu Rock Carvings

Located 2 kilometers northwest of Dazu County, the rock carvings on Mount Beishan were excavated in the 1st year of the Jingfu Period of the Tang Dynasty (892 AD) and the construction was completed during the Shaoxing Period of the Southern Song Dynasty (1162 AD). There, nearly 100,000 statues are found on the cliffs, most of which were carved by followers of Buddhism. They distinguish themselves from those excavated in an earlier period because they derive from secularized Buddhism. They are known worldwide for their exquisiteness, superb carving techniques and elegance, as they represent the change in Buddhist beliefs and carving styles between the 8th to the 14th century.

Located 15 kilometers to the northeast of Dazu County, the rock carvings on Mount Baoding were originally excavated in the 6th year of the Chunxi Period of the Southern Song Dynasty (1179 AD) and its construction was completed in the 9th year of the Chunyou Period of the Southern Song Dynasty (1249 AD). The carvings here center Shengshou Temple, including 13 sites of Buddhist statues such as the Giant Buddha Bay and the Small Buddha Bay. They contain nearly 10,000 statues carved out from the cliffs, with the themes of Buddhist figures. The complex is seen as a Buddhist attraction that show carving art styles from the Song Dynasty (960-1278 AD).

Located to the southeast of Dazu County, the rock carvings on Mount Nanshan were initially excavated in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1278 AD) with new carvings being added in the Ming and Qing dynasties. They are composed of 15 sites that contain a large number of Taoist statues that have superb sculpting techniques, with most of them color-painted. Mount Nanshan concentrate the largest number of statues that reflect the deity system in China.

Located 15 kilometers to the southwest of Dazu County, the rock carvings on Mount Shizhuan were originally excavated in the 5th year of the Yuanfeng Period of the Northern Song Dynasty (1082 AD) and its construction was completed in the 3rd year of the Shaoyuan Period of the Northern Song Dynasty (1096 AD). The cliffs housing statues extend some 130 meters, with the height ranging from 3 to 8 meters. They consist of 10 sites of statues, which are known as representative works that combine Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

Dazu Rock Carvings

Located 20 kilometers to the east of Dazu County, the rock carvings on Mount Shimen were originally excavated in the 1st year of the Shaoyuan Period of the Northern Song Dynasty (1094 AD) and its construction was completed in the 21st year of the Shaoxing Period of the Southern Song Dynasty (1151 AD). The cliffs housing the statues extend some 72 meters, with the height ranging from 3 to 5 meters. They consist of 16 sites of statues that feature Buddhist and Taoist figures. Also, they also contain epigraphs, steles and stone inscriptions. The carvings on Mount Shimen are known to be the largest site that contains statues that demonstrate a fusion of Buddhism and Taoism. Among all the statues, the Taoist statues are best known for their unique artistic style. The statues are both exquisite and lifelike, standing out among all the stone carvings in China for the perfect combination of exquisiteness and super sculpting techniques.

The Dazu Rock Carvings are known worldwide for their large size, exquisite sculpting technique and diversity. They crystallize the quintessence of the sculpting arts of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, and have been hailed as a bright pearl among all the rock carvings in China for they are the localized products of these religions. The large amount of statues and steles show the change in religious beliefs and the carving style between the 9th to the 13th century from different angles. As a splendid touch to the rock carving art in China, they contribute enormously to the development and innovation of China’s rock carvings, said to be rich in historic, artistic and scientific value.