Amazing is an inadequate world to describe the world famous rock carvings on the steep hillsides of the Dazu area 60 km west of Chonqing city. The carvings found at 75 sites not only depict Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist religious figures but throws light on the everyday life in China during the period in which the sculptures were executed. Over 50,000 vividly coloured well executed statues of religious figures in various poses and incarnations have been sculpted on a grand scale in addition to over 100,000 Chinese characters found in inscriptions and epigraphs. The most extensive pieces of work are found on Mount Baoding and Mount Beishan.
Although begun in the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty the most prolific work was done in the 9th century when the prefect of Changzou authorized the work on Mount Beishan. Thereafter members of the nobility, the general public, priests and nuns carried out the work from 907 to 965. The outcome of this labour of love is two groups of sculptures 7 to 10 meter high stretching for 300 meters on the cliff face. In the 12th century the Tantric Buddhist monk Zhao Zhifeng gave impetus to the work done on the U shaped gorge on Mount Baoding and near the Holy Longevity Monastery. The project was disturbed by unrest in the area and the thirteen groups of carvings with about 10,000 figures in them were executed over several centuries ending in the 19th century. 12th century Taoist carvings in Nanshan extending over a length of 86 meters are found to the south east of Dazu. Vividly painted sculptures with Buddhist, Taoist and Confusion themes extending 130 meters in Sizhuanshan south west of Dazu is part of the collection as are the Shimenshan Buddhist and Taoist themed carvings extending 72 meters, found to the east of Dazu. Inscriptions at the sites give insights into religious beliefs and history of the period helping to date the work and to identify historical figures.
Formal access to the sculptures was allowed only in 1961. It is believed that the difficulty of getting there helped preserve the works.
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