The Dazu rock carvings date back to the 7th century and are a series of sculptures depicting the Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist doctrines.
The soft stone landscape contains 75 rock carving sites containing over 50,000 statues, but the best is considered to be at Baoding Hill.
The Baodingshan sculptures line the inside of a 125m horseshoe shaped valley, and range in height from a few centimetres to the 31m long, 5m high reclining Buddha.
Zhao Zhifeng, a Tantric Buddhist who dedicated 70 years of his life to the project, started the work here. His work continued over the next few hundred years, expanding the carvings to what is now the pinnacle of Chinese rock sculpture work.
The carvings were listed as a World Heritage Site in 1999, citing “…their aesthetic quality, their rich diversity of subject matter, 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.”
For many years, Baodingshan was closed to visitors but finally opened to Chinese tourists in 1961, then foreign visitors in 1980. This isolation saved the carvings from destruction during the Cultural Revolution.
The detail and colours on the rocks are amazing. Overall it doesn’t have the instant wow factor of somewhere like the Maijishan Grottoes, but the immense artistry and fine detail grows on you as you follow the path round the U-shaped valley. As the only other foreign tourist there was overheard to say, “boy, it sure is purdey”.
Dazu Caves Baodingshan Visitor Tips
Baodingshan is about 60km from Chongqing. We seemed to come in from the wrong side, so had a slightly long walk through the nearby village that supports the tourist site.
If you come in on the correct side you’ll be in a large car/coach park, from which it’s a short walk past a lot of souvenir stalls to the main entrance.
At 130RMB, the entrance fee is quite high for China, but that’s common throughout Sichuan. The site closes at 5pm so don’t get there too late.
One and a half, to two hours is enough to see Baodingshan. If you have more time there’s also the Nanshan, Shizhuanshan and Shimensan rock carving sites within a few kilometres.
UPDATE: A second set of photos of the Baodingshan site can be found here
The Plaza Hotel in Dazu
The Plaza Hotel we stayed in at Dazu was thoroughly annoying. H went in and got a room, whilst I helped unpack the car. As soon as I came into the lobby the desk clerk announced that all the rooms were gone and foreigners could only stay if we paid to upgrade to a suite.
Our friends then came in and were given a standard room without any issues.
More positively, there is an amazing Beef Hot Pot restaurant a short walk down the road. Check out the last picture on the recent Mala Tang post.